Lessons From Women Who Are Paving The Way

Takeaways and learning points from four ladies who are leading the pack and making change.

Although recent studies show that Singapore has a lower adjusted gender pay gap than the US, Canada, and China, there’s still some way to go to make up for the 6% difference between what women and men earn here. Men still dominate top executive and technical roles, as this CNA article reports, so we’re extra proud of these four ladies in our Workspace community who have fought to overcome various challenges in the workplace to be where they are. There’s plenty to learn from their journeys and experiences along the way, and in celebration of women this upcoming International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up some quotes and accompanying lessons from four distinguished ladies. 

Photo: Kilo Kitchen

Lesson 1: Know what you want

Case Study: Gisela Salazar Golding, Executive Chef at Grain Traders, CapitaGreen

Isn’t it strange that in most homes, you’d expect the mother to be one whipping up most of the family’s meals, but across the world, female chefs are disproportionally recognised compared to their male counterparts? In 2019, barely 4% of chefs with three Michelin stars were women; there has never been a female chef named on the World’s 50 Best list without having to share the honour with a man.

This is something that Gisela has had to learn the hard way. “If you're an aspiring female chef, your mentality is the most important thing you bring to the workplace,” she says in this AsiaOne interview. “If you come with a lack of confidence, people will notice and it will translate into the way they treat you.”

Trained in Spain and with experience in Dublin, Shanghai, France, Cambodia, and Singapore, Gisela is now leading Grain Traders’ first-ever foray into the US, in Los Angeles. However, she acknowledges that gender isn’t the only challenge. “This industry is just as tough for men as it is for women—out of the 48 students that I went to culinary school with, only four remain in the industry. You just have to be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices…and have a lot of passion.”

Knowing what you want, fighting hard for it, and not giving up—just some of the lessons we’ve learnt from Gisela. 


Lesson 2: You have to roll with the punches

Case Study: Tracie Pang, Artistic Director at Pangdemonium at 9 Changi South Street 3

Most of us were able to adapt quite quickly to working from home at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. But when your job—and passion—is live theatre, what do you do? With performance spaces closed, Tracie and her team were at a loss—but not for long. “I think anybody who has spent 30 years in this industry are not people who will give up easily,” she says in this Vogue Singapore article. “If we have to put on a play to 50 people, then we’ll put on a play to 50 people, and see how we can make that financially viable.”

The team pulled themselves together, and rallied with the Singapore Repertory Theatre and WILD RICE to produce a short film titled The Pitch. Tracie also directed and adapted the play “Waiting For The Host”, which was written by New York-based Marc Palmieri, specifically to be performed online.

Tracie shows us that it’s okay to grieve a little for what has been lost, but it’s only in being versatile and adapting to change that you might just find out what your true focus and purpose is, and in the process, create something brilliant. 

“The purpose of theatre is to unite us in times of division, to empower us when we are weakened, and to remind us that we have to keep fighting on in the face of adversity,” she says in this interview with TimeOut. “We believe that life, as well as the show, must go on.”

Photo: Singapore Women’s Weekly
Photo: The Peak

Lesson 3: Be the change you want to see

Case Study: Preeti Razdan, Managing Director, Diageo Southeast Asia at One George Street

In a time when survival mode has kicked in, Preeti decided that the community was more important. As Managing Director for Diageo in Southeast Asia, she drives Diageo’s regional internal and external strategy, including the Diageo Clean Serve Campaign to help bars and pubs affected by Covid-19 in Southeast Asia; donations to support vulnerable communities; and movements towards sustainability and gender equity. “Our long-term commercial success and financial sustainability depends on creating a positive impact on society, wherever we live, work, source, and sell,” Preeti said to The Peak.

Understanding that a business is more than just about making profits is just one way that Preeti is helping Diageo in Southeast Asia to create value in the community—it seems that this desire to make change was something that she learnt from her mother, and something that we can clearly learn too. “(My mother) believes in the theory of “and”, not “or”. You define your capacity and capability, versus somebody else telling you,” she says in this Diageo video. “I do the best I can. There’s no point feeling bad about the things I can’t do. But I make my choices very clearly and I live by them.” 

Lesson 4: Let life shape you

Case Study: Chiew Hui Yan, Chief Financial Officer (APAC), IDEMIA Singapore at Infinite Studios

Hui Yan didn’t always think that she would be where she is today. She wanted to be an interior designer, but instead became a national athlete in Wushu (Chinese Martial Arts), who won gold medals for Singapore and graduated with an accountancy degree to join an audit firm. 

But that’s not to say that her life experiences haven’t helped to shape Hui Yan into the leader she is today. “People were doubtful about me being a female leader particularly when I started with a new position,” she says. “But I am grateful that the fighting spirit cultivated in me during my athlete life helped me to overcome even my lowest moments. Most of the time, I’ve been able to prove to myself and others that I am more than capable of performing my role or task.” This was also thanks to the guidance of mentors and leaders who readily shared their experiences and lending their helping hands during her toughest times.

Hui Yan shows us that life doesn’t usually take us down paths we expected or hoped for, but the importance of having a perseverant and positive spirit to overcome challenges.

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