In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, we chat to three female leaders in Equiom’s Hong Kong office – Eleanor Yip (Associate Director - Trust), Eunice Tan (Director – Legal), and Karen Choy (Director – Private Client Services), as they share their experiences and offer insightful suggestions to women in the workplace in order to learn, grow and succeed in their careers.
What are the key qualities to being a good leader?
Eleanor: Having a can-do attitude! Although gender equality has been promoted for decades, women in leadership positions are still coming across barriers. For me, the key to being a leader is maintaining a can-do attitude and believing in yourself.
Karen: Be yourself - do your own thing and work hard. Secondly, have a strong self-belief, think innovatively, be passionate and have tenacity.
Eunice: Being assertive in a way that achieves the desired outcome, without ‘ruffling feathers’.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barriers in your career, if any?
Eleanor: Hearing disturbing and subjective comments, such as ’women are relatively emotional’, lowers my confidence from time to time. These noises can sometimes affect my emotions, judgement and mindset, and I meditate to filter those noises and move forward.
Karen: Oneself, is often the most significant barrier in any woman’s career. We live in a digital world where we face a flood of information, advice and comments, so we must train ourselves to have a clear and calm mind.
Eunice: For me, it would be balancing family life and work life, and weighing career decisions and opportunities with how they could impact my personal life.
What do you think of Equiom in terms of gender equality?
Eleanor: Actions speak louder than words, as we see certain senior roles at Equiom are filled by women. Clare Belcher being Group General Counsel, Sarah Gomersall being Chief People Officer and numerous ladies as Managing Directors in different jurisdictions, Equiom does stand by gender equality.
Eunice: I have to appreciate our management in this region, women are clearly being championed and given a fair share of leadership. Having more women and diverse perspectives will definitely benefit all of us.
What do you think of your business sector or profession in terms of gender equality?
Eleanor: I have seen an increasing number of females holding key positions and it’s incredible to see how many women are thriving in the financial industry these days. It’s great to see that large corporations are committed to appointing more women in senior management roles and it gives me confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.
Karen: We see a growing number of females taking up management roles in the financial/trust industry. Even though there is still room for gender equality, I must say that I’m lucky that I’m living in Hong Kong where society provides lots of opportunities to women.
Eunice: Our legal industry appears to attract both high-calibre women and men, so I believe in this regard, at least in this region, gender equality is very much present. Although this might not be the case in other parts of the world and so, understandably, will continue to be an issue.
Are there other women who inspire you?
Eleanor: Ho Ching, the current member of the Board of Directors and the soon-to-be Chairman of Temasek Trust, an independent Trustee of philanthropic endowments and gifts in Singapore inspires me the most. She’s the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but that hasn’t stopped her career development and philanthropic passions. She helmed Temasek Trust for 17 years while supporting various community services and charitable organisations. She demonstrates the can-do attitude – ’you can be/do whatever you want’ - perfectly.
Karen: Angela Dorothea Merkel, a German retired politician and scientist who served as the Chancellor of Germany from 2005 to 2021. She was the first female Chancellor of Germany. During her tenure as Chancellor, Merkel was frequently referred to as the de facto leader of the European Union (EU) and the most powerful woman in the world. She has been a reliable partner for Europe and an example of responsible leadership, earning respect far beyond the borders.
Eunice: Two women come to mind: Clare Belcher, our Group General Counsel, who is a strong example of a high-functioning and supportive leader, balancing a demanding career and motherhood. Another inspiration is my childhood friend Patricia Malay, Partner and General Manager at Fleishman Hillard, an American public relations and marketing agency, who has had a diverse career path, consistently outperforming her predecessors while earning the respect and affection of her staff, and still takes the time out to mentor others (including myself).
How have you developed confidence and resilience during your career?
Eleanor: Embrace the imperfections, we are human beings so it’s impossible to be perfect. I consider the mistakes I’ve made along the way as a part of the learning process. Accept yourself completely, know your worth, minimise the possibility of repeating the same mistakes and see your mistakes as gifts – this will transform your whole being.
Karen: Listen and follow your heart. Believe in yourself. Appreciate where you are in your life, even if it’s not where you want to be. Everything serves a purpose. Be positive and trust the timing of everything. Just because it’s not happening right now doesn’t mean it never will. Stay patient.
Eunice: Building relationships and skill sets – I’m constantly looking for ways to improve myself. By having a fulfilling life outside of work, joining groups where people are positive and diverse and are able to push me outside of my comfort zone. I learn so much from other people’s experiences.
How do you unplug from work and take care of yourself?
Eleanor: Meditation always helps me to unwind, listen to my soul and reset my mentality.
Karen: Mental health is equally as important as physical health to me. I reserve time for my family, so I can refocus, exercise, rest, learn and network each day. Especially due to the pandemic, I always make time to chat with my family and friends.
Eunice: I watch Netflix with my husband, swim (indoors and outdoors), eat out and meet up with friends.
What advice would you give to other aspiring female executives or those who are entering this profession?
Eleanor: As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said ’You cannot step into the same river twice’, the only thing that never changes is change itself, especially in the digital era. We all face changes every day. Once you can recognise this reality, you become confident and adaptable to changes. Be brave, be ready and embrace change.
Karen: Today’s success may contribute to tomorrow’s failure. Likewise, tomorrow’s failure may contribute to future success. It is up to you to determine what your future looks like.
Also, surround yourself with people who are always improving themselves because they will help push yourself to be better too, as these like-minded people will help you reach your goals and, in the process, allow you to become extraordinary.
Eunice: Make contacts, speak to a lot of people in the industry, build on your knowledge base by taking courses on unfamiliar topics. Knowledge is power. And find mentors and champions along the way.