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#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace

#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace

Taking charge

Text: Sarah Hani Jamil

Hair: VV Chan
Make-up: Rachel Seok
Image: Aaron Lee/Lenswork Production

These women have made it far in their careers and in honour of International Women’s Day, they’re sharing the sweetness and struggles of their success

Between the demands of a high-powered career such as making tough decisions, resolving conflict, and managing others, as well as balancing time out for family and self-growth, it’s not easy being a woman in leadership. But how do they make it all work, nonetheless? Together with ShopBack, we spotlight the highs and lows of four women who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into building their careers to what it is today in the #WomenWhoStart campaign. This movement aims to encourage women to make the first move and pursue their dreams, whether in their career or personal life, simply because dreams can be achieved from that first small, yet courageous step forward.

#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 1)
#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 2)

Shalma Ainaa Bruhanutheen, TV Host, Content Creator and Founder of Shals

Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s global theme is called #BreakTheBias, which imagines a world free of discrimination and inequality. What are your thoughts on it?

“Happy International Women’s Day! The issues and stereotypes we women face have long been addressed and fought for at all fronts by women leaders around the world. Therefore, I’m very much aligned and fully on board with this year’s theme.”

In your career, have you ever been in a situation where you were discriminated against?

“More often than I’d like to admit. In entrepreneurship, where most key decision-makers are men, you’re bound to be discriminated against and undermined in your opinions and ideas. It’s important to remain steadfast so as to not derail from the main goal and above all, let your professionalism and intellect do the talking.”

What achievements are you most proud of today?

“My Shals. It has been a long journey but one I wouldn’t change one bit. I’ve grown, made mistakes and learned from the multiple facets of my business. And Alhamdulillah, these past three years, we’ve been able to reach our annual targets with flying colours.”

What advice would you like to share with women considering your career route?

“Never give up, stay the course and learn something new every day or learn new skills that are in demand in the fast-paced fashion industry.”

What's one thing you have to do every day?

“I love to wake up in the morning and set my daily affirmations, and enjoy a cup of tea by my balcony whilst watering the plants. It’s a very calming and meditative ritual that’s good for the mind, body and soul.”

What is the most challenging moment in building your business?

“I’d say growing the brand whilst simultaneously strategising the business. Multiple SMEs have this common obstacle and it requires a lot of patience and knowledge to get the right balance in growing your team relative to the set KPIs.”

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

“Being able to inspire the community by doing what that I love.”

How has it been for you working with ShopBack?

“It has been very refreshing because ShopBack offers a lot of perks and added value when I shop online, be it for local or international brands. I’m truly grateful for this shopping app that rewards me as I shop!"

#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 3)
#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 4)

Michelle Chin, Co-Founder of Oyen Pet Insurance

Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s global theme is called #BreakTheBias, which imagines a world free of discrimination and inequality. What are your thoughts on it?

“I love the theme—I believe it's spot on and offers a strong call to action for everyone. We cannot truly advance if we don't create awareness of these biases and take an active role in calling them out. To me, choosing to stay silent and to ignore the bias, discrimination and gender stereotyping is equivalent to choosing against advancing equality for women. Having a strong theme advocates for stronger action to acknowledge and play a part in rejecting these discriminations and biases.”

The past two years of COVID have been hard for everyone. What new things have you learnt about yourself within this period?

“That it’s okay to not be on the go all the time and having to fill up my time with productivity 24/7. Having my movements confined to just my home during the lockdowns have been difficult, and many times made me feel like I was not doing enough. The process of languishing and reading about it taught me to take a real break and be kinder to myself.”

What achievements are you most proud of today?

“Taking the leap of faith to build a business to solve real problems and building people as part of the process. The 10-year-old me would have been super proud of myself.”

What advice would you like to share for women considering your career route?

“Don't be afraid to do things that are unconventional and different from what is 'expected' of you and never be afraid to reach out to ask for help!”

What is the most challenging moment in building your business?

“It's the constant juggling of many things to do and fire-fighting! This is a constant feature in building a business, so my way of handling it is to look at the bigger picture to allow me the room to prioritise what demands my time and energy the most at any given point in time. Of course, having friends and family who are supportive always helps too!”

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

"Firstly, it’s seeing my team love what they do, and continuously strive to do better and help each other out. Secondly, it’s reading all the conversations and reviews from our customers from all the hard work we've put in to service them.”

What do you like to do on your time off?

“I am a big advocate for financial literacy among women, so I spend a lot of my free time working on creating content to simplify personal finance knowledge and sharing them. Otherwise, I love watching TV series on Netflix and cooking—these are my ways of taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life."

How has it been for you working with ShopBack?

"The ShopBack team has been great to work with—quick in responding, fast in execution and super friendly! It was important for us to work with a business that is trusted by many consumers as we are a relatively new, niche market product and needed to spread awareness fast."

#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 5)
#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 6)

Joan Yeoh, Country Director, Love, Bonito Malaysia

In your career, have you ever been in a situation where you were discriminated against?

“I have been fortunate when it comes to this as I’ve worked in companies that were very progressive and in the forefront of promoting women empowerment. However, I would say that throughout the years in my career, women have had to be much tougher and more adaptable when it comes to working alongside men as we were the underdogs.”

The past two years of COVID have been hard for everyone. What new things have you learnt about yourself within this period?

“I’ve always been a person that has high grit and perseverance, but the last two years tested the limits of that. I think during this period, these are the few things I’ve learnt:

  • Change is constant and the only certainties in life are death and taxes, therefore, we are only able to control what we do as a result of that. As long as we are doing our best, we should let go of the things we can't control.
  • Strength starts from within us—mentally and emotionally. We must have the ability to pick ourselves up and believe in the power of manifestation, positivity and having the courage to fail.”

What achievements are you most proud of today?

“I have many things to be proud of, but I am very proud of my team that has gone through thick and thin, through COVID and the business that we have built at Love, Bonito in Malaysia today.”

What advice would you like to share for women considering your career route?

“It is not for the faint-hearted, but the most important thing for young women is to learn by nurturing themselves with the right fundamentals, having the mindset of growth and constant learning, having the courage to go after what you want, seeking the right mentorship, and not just going after greatness but having the consistency to rough it out when the going gets tough. That is what separates you from others and that is what gets you from good to amazing.”

What is the most challenging moment in climbing up the corporate ladder and how did you overcome it?

“One of the most challenging moments would be when I had to wear many different hats when we lacked manpower—I had to do everything from HR, Finance, Operations to Marketing, and there were days when I would feel overexerted. The key thing to managing this is to stay focused on the key priorities, differentiate what is important and urgent, and set timelines. Having the right support from my mentors also really helped and therefore, it is very important to seek guidance so that you do not feel alone.”

How has it been for you working with ShopBack?

“We’ve had a very good working partnership for years now and I look forward to more projects together!”

How can we encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship or leadership roles in their careers?

“I think there definitely can be more women entrepreneur workshops, training, and mentorship sessions that can help encourage more women to pursue their goals and dreams!”

#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 7)
#WomenWhoStart: Meet the four women who are empowering the workplace (фото 8)

Wai Kuan Wong, Global Head of Marketing, Malaysia Airlines

Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s global theme is called #BreakTheBias, which imagines a world free of discrimination and inequality. What are your thoughts on it?

“I am a mother of special needs child and many times, this group does not get the right attention as well as lack of inclusion by the society. This is primarily due to low awareness of various spectrums of special needs. We need to recognise and allow them space in society. I strongly believe in the theme of #breakthebias and personally, it shall be a continuous effort throughout the year.”

The past two years of COVID have been hard for everyone. What new things have you learnt about yourself within this period?

“Due to the pandemic, I have learnt to adapt to work-life integration. I’ve become better in time management, more efficient in compartmentalising my work based on my best productive hours and have even been able to squeeze in an hour or two for my workout or running. Honestly, the pandemic has taught me so much.”

What advice would you like to share for women considering your career route?

“I strongly believe mental and physical health is extremely important for every woman. We need to have both to sustain our hectic and demanding daily schedules. When both are balanced, you'll notice high levels of productivity and energy, the ability to think sharply and enhanced self-confidence.”

What's one thing that you have to do every day?

“I start my morning with a workout and that adrenaline pumps up my body's battery throughout the day! I also try to pray, pray and pray daily (though, not fervently yet!).”

What is the most challenging moment in climbing up the corporate ladder and how did you overcome it?

“There is always a steep learning curve between the first six to 12 months because every career movement is different. That has made my career life so colourful and yet, full of great experiences. I thank God that I am surrounded with wonderful, caring and kind-hearted colleagues and bosses who have helped me along the way.”

What do you like to do on your time off?

“I start my day with running or hiking and taking scenic photos!”

How has it been for you working with ShopBack?

"It has been a great experience because great minds think alike!

How can we encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship or leadership roles in their careers?

“Be courageous, be brave, persevere, and be genuine. You won’t go wrong.”

Check out ShopBack’s International Women's Day 100% cashback campaign to pay it forward to #BreaktheBias.Visit shopback.my or download the ShopBack App to find out more.