COVER STORY - The 2017 Women of Influence Award Winners


Front row, from left: Randy Lai, Vivien Chan, Vivian Jiang (on behalf of Deloitte), Eni Lestari
Back row, from left: Haley Meng, Dorothy Chan, Shonee Mirchandani, Brian Henderson, Arti Mirchandani, Wing-sie Yip

Champion for the Advancement of Women
Brian Henderson, Chief Operating Officer, Baker McKenzie

Brian Henderson is a strong supporter of gender equality, diversity and inclusion and a key driver of numerous initiatives to cultivate female leadership as a member of his firm’s management committee. He is a leader by example and a champion “with sensitivity and persistence, always emphasizing the business case for gender diversity.

“Gender diversity was never on the agenda back then, but it is now. People are starting to figure out how to address the issues more effectively,” Henderson says. “Leading companies are starting to facilitate open dialogues between men and women with a view to increasing understanding and changing behaviors.

“Gender equality is becoming everyone’s issue, not just a women’s issue. But many men still don’t understand how privileged they are and see the focus on women as a threat to men,” he stresses. “It’s not a zero-sum game; men benefit at work, at home and in society when women are able to fulfil their full potential. “As a business leader, I can see that advancing all of our talent drives better outcomes for our people, our clients and our business. All the research supports the business case for diversity, but the evidence is too often ignored or discounted.”

Many companies have unconscious bias training, flexible working and parental leave policies and mentoring programs; however, not many “dig into the data” to understand where and why women are falling behind, Henderson points out. “When men are permitted to ignore diversity issues, women don’t feel safe articulating the challenges they face, and research shows that their careers suffer if they do.”

More importantly, gender equality is only possible if men and women come together to resolve the issues that continue to hold women back, he believes. “Men can help in many simple ways: acknowledging their contributions, calling other men out for talking over women or ‘stealing’ their ideas, mentoring and sponsoring women proactively, and introducing them to their networks.

“We also need to insist on gender diverse interview and assessment panels, show zero tolerance for casual sexism, not penalize women who take maternity leave or need a flexible working arrangement, not hold key meetings early in the morning or late in the evening, etc.,” he adds. “Being an ally is a series of everyday, intentional actions, not a badge.”

Advocates of gender diversity, particularly men, feel strongly about the issue because they are inspired by others in their lives. In Henderson’s case, it is his family: his wife who is 100 percent committed to her goals; his daughter who is a fearless millennial focused on improving the environment as an architect; and his mother who worked fearlessly in “the hardest part of troubled Belfast.”

Henderson also has male role models: his father who taught him respect for women and zero tolerance for anything else; and his son who is the embodiment of a gentle, kind, loving millennial man. But what sparked his engagement with gender diversity was a discussion with Su-Mei Thompson, then-CEO of The Women’s Foundation and “a classmate from university days.

“Su-Mei encouraged me to work with her to establish the ‘Male Allies’ and mentored me through that process for which I am very grateful. Getting more than 40 senior male executives to join the initiative is something I am very proud of,” he says.

“These men are driving change in their organizations; many of them are also advocates of change in the wider community. The support and safe environment we provide to each other in sharing our challenges is invaluable.”

Entrepreneur(s) of the Year
Shonee & Arti Mirchandani, Owners, Bookazine Limited

Shonee and Arti Mirchandani are sisters having grown up around books. Not only their parents but also their family in New York, Singapore and India all work in the business of bookstores. Their family gatherings are always about bestsellers and publishers, and they spent their summer holidays working in the shops where they had access to all the new books even before they were released. “Our vision is to be Hong Kong’s most customer-focused retailer, where customers can find and discover new, fun and innovative products from all around the world,” Shonee points out. “And we see it as our responsibility to champion local writers and artists.”

Bookazine is a chain of retail stores with dedicated space and resources to promoting local talent through displays and events, social media marketing as well as distribution to other bookstores and retail outlets in Hong Kong. Importantly, they are one of the few platforms and often the first place to take a chance on new products.

“As a business run by two women, we also make it a point to support women entrepreneurs – many of whom are mums starting their own companies. We are proud that many women entrepreneurs, ranging from artists merchandising their paintings to stationery & gifts brands and chocolatiers, have launched their businesses with us.”

Prior to joining the family business, Arti was a graphic designer at Hong Kong Tatler before becoming an assistant teacher at The Peak School. “I was really passionate about painting; my plan was to study art and get a teaching degree as I found teaching so rewarding. But I only got halfway.”

Upon returning to Hong Kong, after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and before applying for a teaching certificate, she decided to join her father in the family business. Sadly, Mr. Mirchandani passed away a year and a half after both Arti and Shonee joined him, and Arti never thought about teaching again. Shonee worked for multiple firms, including White & Case, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Credit Suisse, as a paralegal overseas. She later took a Legal Practice Course to qualify as a solicitor. Having been away from Hong Kong for a while and looking to spend some quality time with her family, she decided to take a timeout to help with the family business. Some 15 years later, she is still committed to growing the business.

Bookazine is more than just a business – it supports a variety of community initiatives, including those designed to encourage kids to read and write. Among them are the “Golden Dragon Books Awards,” “Kids4Kids” initiatives, “HK Young Writers Awards,” “Mind Over Matter” interschool quiz, “The Standard Story Writers Competition” as well as in-store programs such as the “Summer Reading Challenge & Bookmark Competition.”

The Children’s Bookfest was also launched two years ago to bring the community together for a fun family day of story time, arts and crafts, treasure hunt, costume parade where the children dress up as their favorite book character. Parents and their kids can choose to spend time in an outdoor library sitting under the sun and reading a book in the beautiful surroundings of The Repulse Bay. Best of all, everything is free.

“Apart from the fact that studies prove that early reading significantly improves a child’s academic success, reading has such a wealth of benefits,” Shonee explains. “It can improve a child’s self-esteem, build independence and confidence, provide exposure to the world and increase cultural awareness. It enhances a child’s imagination and it’s so much fun to read.”

Leading Woman on Boards
Dorothy Chan, Independent Non-Executive Director, MTR

Dorothy Chan graduated from the University of Hong Kong – where she also earned a master’s degree and a PhD – and subsequently joined the Hong Kong government as a civil servant at a time when Hong Kong’s public transport system looked nothing like what it is today.

When she retired as Deputy Commissioner for Transport in 2002, Hong Kong became a model city with a world-class rail system, a comprehensive network of bus services, and a vibrant, mobile logistics sector. “I didn’t get into a career in transport by choice as I was assigned to the Transport Department in my first posting, and I stayed in the department ever since,” Chan says. “Most graduates in the 1970s would not choose to work in transport, but I was fortunate to gain a head start in a field where there was a lack of talents.

“My passion for transport grew when I was posted to work briefly for three months in the United Kingdom. I met many professionals and witnessed the advanced London rail system when Hong Kong had none,” she says. “I became interested in the subject, and as the first batch of local breed transport professionals we learned through trial and error.”

During a 40-year career of devising public policy in a male-dominated field, it was never an easy task to persuade industry stakeholders – among them are minibus, taxi, bus and truck drivers who often struggle to make a living. “They need to feel that you are part of them, and it is the feeling of inadequacy that motivates me to always try to excel through learning.”

Over the years, many of them have emerged as successful operators – and some have eventually become owners of large fleets of vehicles and even a listed company. “The reward is immeasurable when you get to meet their family and children and learn of their achievement,” Chan says. “The willingness to listen, work together and learn through mistakes is very important.”

Today, Chan is an independent non-executive director of MTR and of AMS Public Transport Limited. She is also Deputy Director of HKU SPACE and an adjunct professor at Polytechnic University, in addition to a variety of other community services ranging from social welfare and environmental protection to technology, research and development.

“My mother took part in numerous charitable activities while looking after her family. In some ways, my commitment to learning and serving others is inherited from my mother,” she says. “It broadens my horizon when I get to meet people from different fields, and it gives me the impetus to serve further.”

As the first Asian female International President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in 2013, Chan founded “Women in Logistics and Transport” (WiLAT), a women chapter of CILT in 18 countries with 1,600 members. “Our vision is to be the most sought after for advocacy, professionalism and empowerment of women in supply chain, logistics and transport.

“During my visit to Lagos, Nigeria in 2014, WiLAT Uganda brought up a problem on transport for women in most African countries,” she says. “That is, bicycles which are their main form of transportation were largely a monopoly for men. Since then, we’ve helped women acquire bicycles and introduced bicycle repair training through which women can also earn an income.

“Our capability should be duly recognized,” Chan believes. “For women who are just starting their careers, they should be guided by their interest, be prepared to make tough decisions between family and career, but they should also stand up for their rights to work.”

Lifetime Achievement
Vivien Chan, Founding Senior Partner, Vivien Chan & Co., Hong Kong

Vivien Chan is the eldest of four siblings and comes from a very traditional Chinese family. “There were a lot of gender disparity issues, and it was accepted as the norm during my formative years in the 1960s and 1970s,” she recalls. “I did not think, all that time, it was right, and I knew even then it had to change some day.

“Gender equality is a human right of the most basic category,” Chan believes. “However, we shouldn’t promote female gender opportunities to the detriment of the other gender. Being overt about creating specific opportunities for a particular gender isn’t necessarily helpful. Instead, we should create a level playing field for all genders. “In many ways, it is more challenging for young women now than in my days,” she says. “While they may have more opportunities, more is also expected of them. My advice is simple: take it in your stride. There is no reason to feel pressured to succeed by a certain age or to achieve more than your peers. Put in your best in everything you do and enjoy the journey.”

At the age of 16, Chan was sent to a boarding school in England; she later earned an LLB from Reading University and a Master’s Degree in Law (LLM) from King’s College London. Today, she is qualified as a solicitor in England, Wales, Hong Kong, NSW (Australia) and Singapore. She is also a China Notarial Attesting Officer, a CEITAC Arbitrator and a SHIAC Arbitrator.

“Upon returning home, I joined an international law firm – which in the early 1980s was quite a novel thing to do. I trained and practiced as a corporate lawyer for many years, going into China long before it was vogue to do so. Then came marriage and my first child, Annamae. The long hours meant Annamae thought I was the adopted friend and her nanny was the mum. “This was not what I thought motherhood should be, and I started a law firm in 1985 to have more flexible hours,” Chan explains. “Family is always of first and foremost. One can have many careers, but your own wellbeing and your family are all you need most at the end of the day, and most precious.”

Because of her drive for achievement, Chan also started a property investment and development business some years later. “I enjoyed the challenges the business put me through as to my vision and business acumen, the latter I think I inadvertently cultivated during my many years of running the law practice.

“Success in the real estate business is geared on good timing. It is of immense satisfaction when one gets the timing right,” she points out. “The rewarding aspect is the recognition of the common denominator of what it takes to run a successful business, despite how dissimilar the two businesses are in nature and audience.”

As Chair of the Estate Agents Authority between 2008 and 2014, a statutory governing body, Chan focused on getting the trade into good shape and mandated the use of the saleable area instead of gross area for secondary residential sales. “What I’m most proud of is my participation in the drafting and subsequent new firsthand residential sales legislation.”

Chan is a believer in giving back to society and an advocate for the welfare of children and mothers. As founder of Hong Kong Adventure Corps, a youth training charity, she has provided for thousands of teenagers; as vice chairman of HK UNICEF, she has for years promoted breast-feeding at hospitals and public places and lobbied to protect children.

Master of the Arts
Wing-sie Yip, Music Director, Hong Kong Sinfonietta

Born into a family of musicians, Wing-sie Yip is a “highly respected and influential figure in Asia’s orchestral music scene.” Her father is a composer, conductor and an educator; her mother was a piano teacher before she retired. Yip graduated from the Royal College of Music in London and obtained her Master’s Degree from Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana, USA. “Music influence was definitely very strong at home,” Yip recalls. She started piano lessons taught by her mother at the age of four, and picked up the violin when she was ten. When her father founded the Hong Kong Children’s Choir in 1969, she naturally became part of it – and had learned a great deal through all the rehearsals, performances and overseas tours for eight years before leaving for college in the United Kingdom and the United States.

“As a violinist I had always enjoyed playing in an orchestra, but I was also captivated by what a conductor could do.” Yip says. “The many different kinds of sound and timbre are so fascinating that I wanted to be the one standing on the podium to orchestrate those sounds. My dream was to be a conductor.

“That’s why I took up conducting as a minor subject when I was studying violin performance and later obtained my master’s degree in violin performance and orchestral conducting,” she explains. “I was also able to further my orchestral conducting studies at the Tanglewood Music Center in Boston and had the opportunity to learn from great maestros like Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa and Gustav Meier.”

In 1985, Yip won the 35th Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors. Subsequently, she returned to the city as Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s resident conductor (1986-2000). Since 2002, Yip has been Music Director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta following her earlier role as Principal Conductor and Music Director of Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra.

“Ever since I became a conductor, my dream has been to direct my own orchestra and curate the musical programs as I have envisioned,” she says. “My dream is also to bring good music to everyone in Hong Kong. Looking ahead, I’d like to create more opportunity for our next generation of performers in Hong Kong to show their artistry.

“That’s because I believe classical music as an abstract art allows people room for imagination and to express themselves,” she explains. “It provides people a channel to look for beauty and harmony and to experience tension and emotion. Simply put, it enriches our lives.”

The orchestral scene in Hong Kong has made tremendous progress over the past 30 years, Yip says, noting the growing influence of the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra and Sinfonietta since 1974 and 1999, respectively. “Classical music lovers are blessed with more choices today than ever. I hope this will also inspire more young people to pursue a career in playing for an orchestra.

“More importantly, Hong Kong has given me a lot of opportunity to grow as a conductor after my studies abroad,” she adds. “In fact, I learned the art of conducting an orchestra in a professional setting through the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and I’ve been able to contribute more at the Hong Kong Sinfonietta through my training of the ensemble and design of programs.

“Although some classical musicians can earn a decent living by teaching, it is by no means easy for performers. The key to building a successful career in the world of arts is to make sure you are genuinely passionate about the arts. If you love and enjoy every moment of the challenge, you are in the right business.”

Non-Profit Leader of the Year
Eni Lestari Andayani Adi, Chair, International Migrants Alliance

Growing up in East Java of Indonesia, Eni Lestari Andayani Adi had always dreamed of becoming a social worker and helping the poor in her home country where people “are very productive but lack access to resources and higher education. Often, their abilities are not recognized because of their low social status.

“My parents who were small vendors in a wet market selling vegetables tried their best to bring their children to school because they believed in education,” she says. “My mother is my role model that women must be independent and self-reliant. When I was young, I organized informal tutorial sessions for poor children in my neighborhood and tried to help them in whatever ways I could with their studies.”

However, because of the worsening economic crisis in Indonesia, Eni was unable to continue her studies at university. In 1999 when her family business went bankrupt and became heavily indebted, she decided to leave the country to be a migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong.

“Underprivileged women like myself are unable to pursue education because of economic incapacity. Many women end up being drop-outs, unemployed, migrant workers, or housewives,” she notes. “But, reflecting from my own experience and those of others, I witnessed how talented, brave, enthusiastic, creative and innovative marginalized women are.”

The migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are very productive and innovative, she points out. “They can create arts, design costumes, compose songs, make videos, enroll them in courses and classes, do different sports, and many others. The only thing lacking is an opportunity due to the very fact that they are poor, and in Hong Kong, they are restricted.”

As a grassroot migrant who endured exploitation during her first arrival in Hong Kong, Eni founded the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (ATKI-HK) to share her valuable experiences with other Indonesian workers. “I want all migrants to be able to protect their own rights so that they don’t need to get abused.

“And I want to tell my fellow women migrants to go beyond their financial limitations, overcome their feeling of disempowerment, and continue to develop their knowledge and skills. What’s more important is the unity and solidarity among ourselves; helping others means helping ourselves too.”

Poverty and lack of proper employment are the most serious hardships facing Indonesian migrant workers back in their home country. Many have no choice but to stay abroad to make a living. While in Hong Kong, they face problems of violation by employment agencies, harsh working condition from long working hours, improper accommodation, and even lack of food.

As chair of International Migrants Alliance, Eni is here to make sure migrant domestic workers know their basic rights and be able to bargain with their employers; she is here to connect them with well-meaning and experienced service providers; she is here to garner support from regional and international institutions, including the United Nations.

“So far, I can see many achievements, such as more attention to our problems, especially when the case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian domestic worker who was tortured by employer, occurred in 2014. People now understand modern day slavery still exists, and more Hong Kong people are involved in combating such practice.

“We want to be recognized as human beings with dignity and equality by employers, communities and governments,” she emphasizes. “We wish to be seen and heard, not marginalized and excluded. That’s the reason why we work to empower and organize our community in Hong Kong and around the world to make our voices heard.”

Professional of the Year
Randy Lai, CEO, McDonald’s Hong Kong

As CEO of McDonald’s Hong Kong, Randy Lai is responsible for some 240 restaurants, 15,000 employees and more than one million customers in the city every day. A native of Hong Kong, Lai has had a career and “grown together with” one of most well-known global brands since 1998, taking up various managerial roles across the region and even serving as a frontline employee for a year.

“Not only did I gain deep insights into the day-to-day operation of our restaurants, I was also able to understand the challenges our frontline workforce encountered daily,” Lai says. “We rely on our employees to deliver the best McDonald’s experience to our customers. The key to success is to make sure our employees feel fully engaged and recognized, and that their good work is being valued.

“Our founder Ray Kroc once said, ‘We’re not just a hamburger company serving people; we’re a people company serving hamburgers,’” she adds. “Throughout my career, I’ve learned the importance of retaining talents and treating them well. We are keen on investing in our people and learning about what they need in an open and transparent way. They are indeed the company’s most valuable assets.”

Today, in Hong Kong, female employees make up over 60 percent of both McDonald’s frontline workforce and its senior leadership team. “We are proud to play a critical role not only in driving inclusiveness with initiatives to help women at our workplace, but also providing career opportunities to a diversity of talents, including the young generation, career builders and mature workforce,” Lai says.

McDonald’s Hong Kong is a workplace where women and men receive the same amount of opportunities to develop their careers, and many women have been empowered to reach their career goals and fulfil their potentials. In 2010, for instance, “Women’s Leadership Network” was established to promote the concept of “women supporting women” within the company.

The series of initiatives has resulted in numerous awards and accolades over the years recognizing the company’s efforts in supporting female employees and nurturing female leaders. In 2011, McDonald’s Hong Kong won “Best Company for Women” at AmCham’s WOI Awards; by 2017, it has been named “Best Employer” six times by HR consultancy firm Aon Hewitt, in addition to the title of “Best Employer for Women” in 2013.

A good balance between work and family is one of the greatest career challenges for women, Lai points out. “As much as we’d like to excel in our careers, we do want to fulfil our family responsibilities at the same time. Considering the dual roles that many women are expected to fulfil, it’s important for employers to be compassionate and show genuine care for women.”

As such, new moms in the restaurant management team of McDonald’s Hong Kong are given eight extra weeks of full-paid maternity leave on top of Hong Kong’s statutory requirements. For customers, the company supports the government’s “Breastfeeding Friendly Restaurant” initiative with the installation of “Priority Seats” and “Baby Care” rooms – complete with changing mat, sofa chair, anti-bacterial liquid soap and sink – at selected locations.

“Personally, I am always thankful for having an excellent and supportive team at McDonald’s Hong Kong. The respect and trust we have among colleagues propel everyone to continue moving forward on our career paths,” Lai says. “Therefore, do try to build mutual support with your co-workers and let teamwork give you strength on your road to success.

“More importantly, never underestimate your ability – you can always do better than you think. Be imaginative, bold and courageous. Success will be just around the corner.”

Young Achiever of the Year
Haley Meng, Business Development Manager, PwC

Chinese-American born in Boston to entrepreneurial, self-made parents, Haley Meng is strongly shaped by their experiences during the Cultural Revolution. “I think because they grew up with so little opportunity, they were always trying to give me all the opportunity to try different things. I became mediocre/decent at a lot of sports, but I grew up always trying.

“My parents always worked hard. My dad after immigrating to the U.S., not knowing English, opened a successful discotheque in New York, and went on to start his own PC business in the 1980s,” Meng says. “He still has a newspaper clipping of an interview when he had made his first US$1 million. I think this go-getter attitude was a big part of my upbringing.”

Coming to Hong Kong, however, was never a part of her plan. “Being Chinese and growing up in a mostly white, privileged town for me was at times confusing – I wanted to fit in, but I still ate chicken feet at home,” she explains. “It wasn’t until college that I embraced that part of my heritage when my Mandarin teacher came along – she invested in me in ways that enabled me to do much more than I thought I could and got me hooked on China.

“Without her, I don’t think I would be in Hong Kong today. And Hong Kong is the perfect breeding ground for people who have a passion to keep improving and learning. It’s a place where ideas and contacts constantly clash, click and bounce off each other. I think that’s why it’s such a dynamic city – and people tend to be generous in sharing experiences and knowledge.”

In the United States, Meng is considered a “double minority” – being a Chinese and a woman. “I think as a woman in most places there are people who will discount your opinion and diminish your voice because of their gender biases and stereotypes,” she says. “It can be hard if you’re outnumbered – but we have to stay strong and make our voices heard.

“And if you can’t change your environment, then find the one that will support your voice. We don’t have to change everyone’s mind to make an impact,” she adds. “But I’ve learned the importance of relationships in getting anything done. Things can move very slowly or very fast given the right impetus, timing and luck.”

In early 2015, Meng founded a social platform focused on cross-cultural communication through weekly events ranging from food excursions and panel talks to workshops and city adventures. “At WE Club, which stands for West meets East Club (and ‘us’), we help people engage with Hong Kong, connect across cultures, and grow personally.

“The West part of ‘WE’ relates to my personal being, and the East part reflects my co-founder, Candy, who is from Guangzhou,” she describes. “Candy and I started WE Club to connect people across cultures. Today, we’re known as one of the most active communities bringing new experiences, inspirational speakers and opportunities to learn to our members.”

Meng’s advice for young women looking to build a successful career: don’t be afraid to just go and get it, ask for that promotion, look for people who will support you, keep building relationships, and believe in your own future. “It’s just a big journey. We’re all learning, and people are always changing, learning, and growing.

“Since moving to Hong Kong, I’ve become more extroverted and found new things I’m passionate about and new ways to feed my passion. I want to forever keep this optimist’s and explorer’s mindset.”

Best Company for Women
Deloitte (Represented by Vivian Jiang, Deputy CEO, Deloitte China)

With a workforce of more than 50 percent women, Deloitte is committed to cultivating women leaders who can serve as empathetic role models for fellow female employees. “Gender equality is important because it is a universal value – one that enables us to connect and understand different kinds of needs as leaders and as aspiring leaders-to-be,” notes Vivian Jiang, Deputy CEO, Deloitte China.

“Upholding women leadership is a key priority for us to attract and retain talents who share our values of equality, diversity and inclusion,” she says. “We help our female colleagues balance their needs both at the workplace and at home, and we ensure that their careers are not compromised by these challenges.”

When employees are required to travel for extended periods of time or work at remote client sites for weeks or months on an assignment, finding a balance between work and family is never easy, especially among mothers of young children. “It is difficult to do both well at the same time, let alone doing so without experiencing exhaustion or feeling burned out,” Jiang points out.

“While Hong Kong is a place that prizes gender equality, women are sometimes passed over for a certain job type or promotion for reasons of pregnancy or extended leave,” she says. “We’re very aware of the pressure. That’s why we’ve introduced ‘Flexitime’ to allow mothers to leave work early, built designated nursing facilities across all 21 Deloitte China offices, and launched a joint mentoring program for women with HSBC and Walmart.”

The Network of Executive Women (NEW) is a platform for female employees to share their experiences, voice out thoughts and support each other on a one-on-one coaching basis. It is “a space for Deloitte women of different generations to empower and feel empowered by one another through discussions on female leadership, impact, ambitions and strengths,” Jiang says.

“The impact of these initiatives is evident in the way our female employees carry themselves with confidence and commitment at work. It is also reflected in the fact that women make up almost half of our managerial and above posts at Deloitte Hong Kong, and a lower attrition rate among women than among men by five percent within our organization.”

On a macro level, Deloitte China adopts a diversity and inclusion principle underlying a corporate culture of inclusiveness of people regardless of gender, race or background. “We evaluate individuals based on their ability, strengths and values, as well as the contribution to the firm and the impact for our clients,” Jiang stresses. “Their professional capability is not determined by gender.”

Moreover, women can voice out their concerns relating to childcare, personal and family issues through a 24/7 hotline, sessions of face-to-face consultation and collaborative workshops of the Employee Assistant Program (EAP). The “Pass the Torch,” a student mentorship program launched in 2009, allows for a better perspective of the challenges facing women from a young age.

“For women starting out on their career journey, we encourage them to find mentors and friends in both the professional and personal spheres of their lives,” Jiang advises. “Professionally, they should feel free to seek female role models who have gone through similar challenges and are willing and able to provide sound advice.

“Employees can no doubt strengthen their confidence in the workplace from a mentor-mentee relationship, and they can share their concerns and thoughts with fellow female colleagues,” she believes. “Forging bonds and lending an empathetic ear with each other would allow women to see that they are not alone in the sundry challenges they face at work.”