Kimberly Cole, Head of Sales Specialists, Asia, Thomson Reuters

By Leon Lee

Through her 25-year career with Thomson Reuters, Kimberley Cole has moved eight times, working in three continents. With each move came opportunities and challenges.

Cole has held several roles in marketing, product management and sales in the organization such as Global Head of Marketing Operations and Head of Marketing Asia. She has risen to become one of the company’s most senior female executives and part of its Asia Pacific executive team. As Head of Specialist Sales for Asia Pacific, she oversees a team of over 150 sales specialists for the company’s financial and risk business, worth US$6.5 billion.

One of the keys to her success was taking advantage of opportunity she was offered. She believes that people should take the risk and jump at any opportunity even if they’re not sure they have skills, in order to find out. Another is to be clear about what you’re willing to do.

“The example I give here is I had already been overseas, having worked in the UK. So when I moved back to Australia for a few years, people had assumed there is no way that I would take another overseas assignment since I’d been away, I’d returned home, and I had children,” Cole says.

“I didn’t realize that the assumption was being made until I stated the fact to the managers that I would definitely be willing to go overseas again. Then suddenly, all of these opportunities were presented that I wasn’t aware of.”

Assumptions and bias like those are commonly made, consciously or unconsciously, by men and women. But over the last 25 years, she has seen a lot more focus on gender balance. At the beginning of her career, the issue had less of an impact.

“I think in my 20s and 30s, I didn’t really see there was an issue. I didn’t believe that I couldn’t reach the very top. But, as you then move into your 30s to 40s and you see there are very few women at the top, I think your views of what needs to happen change a lot.”

“Now, when I’m getting closer to my 50s, I think I am a supporter of quotas because it hasn’t changed enough in my 25 years and I can’t say, without quotas, that it will change,” Cole says.

She points out that Norway and other Scandinavian countries have 40 percent of women on boards because they set a target.

As an advocate for change, Cole is on the advisory council for women on boards at the Women’s Foundation. In 2009, she co-founded and chaired Women in Finance in Asia, a forum for women in financial services with over 1,700 members.

At Thomson Reuters, she is Asia’s regional head of the Thomson Reuters Inclusion Council. She has supported initiatives to increase the number of female candidates and interviewers for promotions. She is part of the [email protected] Thomson Reuters, coaching and mentoring employees, and has introduced the Impact & Inspiration webinar series which showcases female talent.

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“I think we have incredible role models, internally. We’ve got amazing journalists, terrific marketing people, amazing global business directors, strong female professionals in finance, lawyers and scientists, etc. We’ve got so many amazing people and women, and I want to make sure we have an equal voice of women – both written on our internal internet as well as spoken.”

In June of this year, she co-founded the first Trust Forum Asia, a conference the company runs in London that tackles the issue of human trafficking and modern day slavery. She and a team of volunteers spent over six months organizing one in Asia where more than 200 business, government, legal, academic and NGO leaders attended.

“When you look at the split of where slavery exists, almost 70 percent of the slaves in the world are in Asia. We think it is brilliant that we do this in London, but the problem is here, so let’s create the sister event in Asia,” Cole explains.

“There still is a lack of a way. It’s not clear for people how they create action. We want it to be around action and driving action. We’ve partnered with NGOs; we also have some business solutions using data which is core to our DNA. We want to make sure that we help the NGOs and the business community in general use data to stop this pretty horrific problem.”

With the success of the inaugural conference in Asia, they’ll be holding the conference again next year in Singapore.

Despite all her success and accomplishments, Cole still gets taken aback with recognition.

“It’s always staggering when something like this happens just to see how many people there are supporting you and cheering for you. It’s always just terrific to sort of feel that maybe what you’re doing is helping more people than you realize.”