The past decade has seen great strides in leveling the playing field for women in business. More and more women are entering the business sphere and many of them have proven themselves capable in leadership positions. Business organisations throughout the world should also be commended for their dedication to change and their efforts to equalise the opportunities presented to both genders. Here are some commentaries from Sanofi and Telstra on the topic.

Gift Samabhandhu
Southeast Asia Zone Head for Consumer Healthcare, Sanofi and
General Manager – Consumer Healthcare, Sanofi – Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Often, maintaining work-life balance is perceived as an inevitable ‘challenge’ for a woman in the workplace. I don’t hide the fact that I don’t believe in work-life balance because in reality, it will never balance. There will always be more of one or the other at some point, and the key is to integrate the two so that they go hand-in-hand.

When it comes to challenges, the most prominent for me has been forging an environment in which people can succeed. Leading a team across multiple cultures, locations and time zones, you can’t physically and emotionally be present all the time. Because of this, you run the risk of being ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

I have learned that to successfully engage a diverse team is to offer clarity around business direction and priorities, transparent communications, and have strong local leadership. I’m blessed to not only have a supportive spouse and children, but also to work in an environment like Sanofi that is committed to seeing all of us succeed.

From providing opportunities to work in different teams and locations across the world, to flexible working arrangements, Sanofi understands that diversity is among our biggest strengths, therefore the company strives for inclusive policies to harness this colourful and dynamic environment.

My advice to other women leaders? Bring your entire team along in the journey to success – it’s important for others to help out when challenges arise. We all succeed together or we all fail together.

Marjet Andriesse
Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Telstra
Corporate diversity has become a focus for companies in the Asia Pacific that are looking to reduce the gender gap in leadership positions through measures like gender quotas. At Telstra, we are focused on creating an environment that’s inclusive and supportive and are committed to improving diversity in the workplace.

There are, however, still various challenges that women face in becoming top-level executives. In Singapore, this is especially the case with the proportion of women on corporate boards hovering around 18 percent.

As we fill in senior positions, the most important thing to do is find out what you’re good at and excel in that area. Many people make the mistake of forcing themselves into positions that they have no interest or expertise in – they take a role, for example, because it is offered to them in a company re-organisation when it’s hard to say no.

Next is finding yourself a good mentor and surrounding yourself with the right people. It’s important to reach out to good coaches regardless of gender. This means that you should be looking for good role models based on their relevance to your goal and interests.

Rising to a leadership role will also require dedication to spending time with your people. Make time to interact with your co-workers and peers. By engaging with people outside your usual areas of focus, you’ll be able to widen your perspective and find those who can teach you more than what you already know.

As we advance in our careers, we will all struggle to deliver and excel at what we do. We cannot be 100 percent perfect all the time. When we do reach the point in our career path and rise into a leadership role, we need to set up ourselves for success and know what we need to do to shine.


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