International Women's Day Special: Women in Communications
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, Telum asked female comms leaders across Southeast Asia to answer two important questions - How does being a woman influence how they lead their team and what are some of the greatest challenges they have faced as a woman climbing the career ladder?
Aisya Hanem, Founder, Ariff Group (Malaysia)
I lead my team with compassion, kindness and being their biggest cheerleader. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to understand your teammates unconditionally and in order for you to do so, you need a strong and healthy emotional intelligence (EQ).
Healthy EQ is having the ability to understand your teammates, effective communication, empathize with one another and defuse conflict as a team. I believe having a strong EQ gives me that edge as a woman and team leader.
I am blessed to be in an environment where women are not being sidelined for our gender. I would say my challenges were small as I was very focused on my goals in growing my PR company for the last five years. When we stay focused on our goals, we tend to not care about the challenges that are against us. I embrace challenges and always make something good out of them. This mentality has made me a stronger person and my company a successful one.
In any career path, you must always be surrounded by high EQ people and learn to declutter toxic situations and people who don't share the same mantra as you. Enhancing our IQ is something that can be learned but disregarding your EQ may make it harder for you and people around you to co-exist.
Jennifer Stewart, Communications Director, Accela Communications (Singapore)
I work to create an environment where the team can learn and grow while supporting one another with empathy and understanding. I promote mutual respect and a shared vision and goals for the business. I am lucky to have some incredible female role models in my life and work hard to share and grow my team with the same encouragement and values that have been instilled in me throughout my career.
I have been fortunate throughout my career so far to have been surrounded by many passionate and strong women who have helped pave the way for the next generation and promote and reward based on merit versus gender. While I feel I have not faced any direct challenges, I do appreciate that this is not always the case for many women who are striving for the same opportunities and recognition as their male counterparts. I hope that we can continue to make strides to be a more inclusive place for women in the workforce.
Niken Widi Hapsari, Managing Director, SEQARA Communications (Indonesia)
In SEQARA Communications, I am implementing positional leadership. For me, being a woman leader is totally different from becoming a lady boss. A woman leader uses her intuition and empathy to lead. It is not always about being in front or does not have to always be right. A woman leader should be firm and assertive to show the way and provide the detailed direction for the team to achieve the goal, should be able to stand in the centre of the team to learn each member’s strengths and weaknesses and at the same time need to use her motherly heart to stand from the back, aim to encourage and empower the whole team. I also enforce my principle to “try to find the solution with no drama” in every situation. In my humble opinion, it is quite important in agency life to build a happy and harmonious culture at work.
Women are always faced with stereotypes to be a good mom and wife no matter how successful they are in work. I personally faced the challenge during my first years in the professional world, where I had to manage my performance at work and learned to be a good mom for my first kid at the same time. I have to admit that it was a chaotic situation for me. I learned to have a priority scale and developed a reliable support system to deal with the situation.
Yla Alcantara, Head of Corporate Communications, Ayala Corporation (Philippines)
Being results-oriented, I am drawn to colleagues who share the same passion for excellence. Simultaneously, I am an advocate for work integrity. As a seasoned communications professional, I strive to emulate these values while respecting that goal drivers vary from one individual to another. Throughout my career, I have been blessed with genuine and supportive mentors both men and women alike. They have coached me through life’s transitions and celebrated achievements along the way. I try to carry on this brand of mentorship with my team. And so far, I continue to celebrate their wins and adventures wherever they may be in the world. Most gratifying indeed!
I have worked in progressive capacities across different industries in Asia and Europe - living and working my dream jobs in Lausanne, Switzerland and Paris, France. I led a team of energetic and performance-driven professionals while dealing with the complexities of managing a diverse team across cultures and generations. As a leader, my greatest challenge then (aside from learning the French language) was to build a collaborative work culture and shared purpose. Looking back, we often debated on approaches to an issue only to find out in the end that we meant the same thing. I have never spent more time rephrasing what I thought I heard and understood than I ever did in my life!
The most challenging times were the most rewarding.