In conjunction with International Women's Day 2019, the ladies at Salt Malaysia had the privilege of spending the morning with an aspiring female leader in the advertising industry, Lisa Hezila, Group Managing Director of VMLY&R. We had an open discussion on issues surrounding women at workplace, gender equality and disparities, and how empowering women is a collective responsibility of various aspects in the community.

Being a mother, a daughter, a wife, a colleague, and a leader, Lisa always believes in the importance of women having the right mindset - to be fearless. "From the day I started working until now, I do not feel that there is a barrier for me as a woman, to climb the ladder in my career. It's all about the mindset", said Lisa. In the discussion, we gave our thoughts on what truly influences the mindset of women - culture.

This leads to one very important question - HOW do we change that culture? 

We all agreed that the society we live in play a huge part in this. The past decade saw major changes in empowering women to take up management positions in companies. For example, in Malaysia, all government bodies and GLCs must consist of 30% of women leaders. Infrastructural changes were also implemented, eg women's coaches in the public transport, women's parking space in office buildings, and many more. More emphasis is also to be given to education for women. Last but not least, MEN (husbands, fathers, brothers, sons) should embrace, protect, respect and honour women as equals.

Along with these catalysts, women themselves can make a change. Lisa shared a very interesting analogy of a fish to describe psychographic variables attributed to a woman's personality, values, interests, lifestyle etc. 

This analogy explains a continuum of psychographic labels as life progresses. Let's take the mainstreamer as an example. You are in the middle income class living in the suburbs, and you move into a bigger city to earn a better living. This would change how you think and behave. You may be more sociable, more vocal, and more confident due to the environment you have to adapt to. This could then lead you to be an aspirer and set an example to other women.

Nevertheless, since these labels make the body of the fish, all are equally important in the society. Which means, a women could be in the mainstreamer phase, but with collective social responsibilities and the woman herself wanting to make a change, she could be zero to a hero, as how Lisa defined it.

Another question from the floor - is there a difference between great male and female leaders?

There's no right or wrong in this, though the discussion led to a unanimous answer: YES.

Here's some points we all agree on:

  • Women are better multi-taskers
  • Women tend to empathise better
  • However, women need to also learn from men on "letting it go" - women can get caught up in emotionally challenging situations and this can be counter-productive

Lisa ended with a powerful message for the women - it's the individual who decides to make a change. It’s therefore important to equip yourselves with the right skills and experience to ensure you have the confidence and mindset to own your future and be as successful as you can be.

Definitely a morning well-spent!

Happy International Women's Day!