In his new book entitled Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky: Success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women, Anthony A Rose, a 23-year veteran in corporate affairs and marketing expert, shares an unprecedented collection of personal stories of 43 highly successful women leaders in business and NGOs based on first-hand interviews for an easy-to-understand account of practical tips on career success.
By Kenny Lau
biz.hk: Would you first tell us about moving from Walmart to forming your own business?
Rose: It was a huge leap of faith. I have been working on the corporate side with large companies like Walmart, P&G and GSK for nearly 24 years, and I was increasingly leading larger teams and delivering great results. But, I missed the speed and urgency of doing something of my own.
While at Walmart I started writing in my spare time in the evenings and on weekends. Very soon the writing became obsessively engaging. Then, in July 2014, I was at a crossroads for my career – either move to the US with Walmart or return home to Singapore and start up my own business. It was a tough call but circumstances helped, and one thing led to another.
As of September last year, I was no longer Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Walmart Asia. My business card now reads Chairman and CEO, House of Rose Professional. I am now the CEO of my business and the CEO of my life, focusing on three key areas in terms of our professional services. They are “Public Relations, Publishing and People.”
biz.hk: How did your personal upbringing lead to your book?
Rose: The book has been inspired by my parents – my father Charles Albert Rose for the total gentleman he was and the respect he showed all women, and by my mother Leonie Rose who was a woman of substance, intellect and integrity. My parents were the two best mentors I have ever had. From them I learned integrity, resilience, work ethic, and how to lead and make the most of what life offers you.
Then in 2001, concurrent to the passing of my father, I got the idea of writing a book in his honor – “Daddy’s Logic: Live a Life of No Limits, No Excuses, No Regrets.” It was a best seller and was even translated into Chinese, and my royalties went to Habitant For Humanity. At one of the launch events in 2012, a professor in the audience put up his hand and asked if my mom was also an inspiration to me, and, if so, why I wasn’t writing a book in her honor.
That set me thinking, and exactly two years later – in July 2014 – we launched “Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky: Success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women.” As we speak, I have just donated SGD20,000 from my royalties from this book to the organization “Save The Children” in my mother’s honor. Giving back inspires and motivates me to keep writing despite the severe challenges of a new startup business.
biz.hk: What was your mother like?
Rose: My mother was an amazing lady. She passed away in December 2012. Along with my father, she brought up three boys in the most gentle but assertive way. No half measures, no short cuts. I learned more on leadership from her than from any other woman. She taught me quality, resilience, commitment, integrity, and the power of communication. She taught me how to survive in harsh conditions and with very few resources.
Though financially constrained, she was the most generous woman in the neighborhood. Every child, poor person or needy friend had a seat at our table, a place at our home. Such was her amazing personality and joy for life. She taught me to give back to the community, hence the charity work I am doing with my books.
biz.hk: What are your reasons for writing a book on women leaders?
Rose: The primary reason for me writing this book is my mother. She ran a kindergarten for over 35 years to help support our family. From her I learned as much about work ethic and leadership as I did from any leader. This book is my tribute to her memory.
The second reason is because women have always inspired me. All but two of my bosses over the last 24 years have been female. The third reason is to help the many young women leaders amidst all the challenges they currently face.
I was also inspired by stories of several global women leaders through their books on leadership. These books, however, shared thought leadership in a singular way and did not cut across cultures or nationalities. I wanted to give women a one-stop account of success habits of the most inspirational women across the world in one book, hence the idea of 43 different heroines, each of whom has a unique perspective and story.
biz.hk: How would you describe the disadvantage women experience today?
Rose: The challenges women face globally are indeed tremendous. Research shows that women perform in 60 percent of the world’s working hours but receive only 10 percent of the world’s income. Only 4 percent of the world’s largest companies are led by women. The social challenges facing women are even more daunting.
In India, pre-natal sex selection and infanticide accounted for the termination and death of about half a million girls per year over the last 20 years, according to a UN study on violence against women. In a study in Egypt a few years ago, it was ascertained that 47 percent of female victims of rape were killed because of the associated dishonor brought to the family.
We live in a world that isn’t fair or equal. So, we can focus on the ills and what we can’t fix. Or, we can focus on what we can do to help and to bring positive change by leveraging our influence and power. That is my mission – to make a difference.
For each of my books, I pick a different cause to support in a new country. The royalties I earn from this book are going to Save the Children and to fund 25,000 medical tests for maternal anemia for the poorest of the poor in Bihar, India.
biz.hk: What are your personal beliefs in terms of gender diversity/equality?
Rose: I believe in being gender neutral. Men and women are equally capable, and both genders must be leveraged to get the best out of a given situation.
I am strongly opposed to any form of gender discrimination. Women have powerful contributions to make to the world, just like they have been doing for centuries. The World Economic Forum Gender gap report estimates that companies with more women board directors outperform those with the least women on their boards by 66 percent in terms of ROI, 54 percent in ROEs, and 42 percent in return on sales.
The McKinsey “Women Matter” 2013 report shows an approaching shortage of highly skilled worker by 2013 of 40 million. An equal employment rate for women would close almost the entire gap. Both men and women are equally critical to delivering success over the long term.
biz.hk: What is the ceiling? And, what is the sky?
Rose: The ceiling is a conceptual one – all the prejudices or artificial barriers put in front of women to hamper their progress, all the injustices against them in society and all the preconceived notions of what they can or cannot do. These are all glass ceilings that need to be broken, and women all over the world are doing exactly that.
The sky is every woman’s aspiration
or dream – whatever it may be. It could be a goal to succeed in their professional life or to be a great homemaker. It is all subjective and dependent on the specific person concerned.
biz.hk: What is the essence of your book?
Rose: I write about the 14 Success Habits of 43 of the world’s most inspirational women picked from the most influential institutions on the planet. Based on personal interviews with these inspirational women and hundreds of conversations I had over two years, it is a critical aid for every woman professional seeking to accelerate her career success.
It is packed with easy-tounderstand and easy-to-use practical tips to negotiate the challenges every woman faces in the professional world. This book will help every woman professional to do exactly what the title promises – Break the ceiling, Touch the sky and achieve success like never before. And for men, it provides unique insight into the success habits of women that will enable far better collaboration between genders at work.
biz.hk: How would you reflect on the experience of writing about so many successful women?
Rose: It was an amazing, challenging and humbling experience. All of the women have made it big in the corporate world or the social sector, and more importantly, they are all touching and changing lives. Because I do all the research, interviews and writing without any research assistants for my books, I did manage to get to know some of them really well.
It was tremendously exciting to meet many of the women, speak to all of them, and learn about their unique stories that you don’t get from the local media outlets. All of these women are extremely busy managing huge and complex organizations or operating in severely challenging conditions as heads of global NGOs; so, it was a huge task just to get their time and engagement. But, once onboard, they have been amazing ambassadors for the book.
It was an honor to build deep and lasting relationships with these women and learn from them. Even today – months after the book is out – many of them are in touch and even helping me as I start up my own business. Most importantly, many of them are now more closely involved in social causes. It is a virtuous cycle.
biz.hk: Who is your target audience? Where is the book available?
Rose: Any woman who wants to be more successful and any man who wants to understand how successful women think and lead. The book is available in Hong Kong directly from a distribution base – all you need is email us at [email protected] The book is also available currently in Kinokuniya stores in Singapore and in Kitab Khana stores in Mumbai, India.