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Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore Champions Mothers and Parents This International Women’s Day


As the agency announces a new initiative to support new parents, its leadership team reflects on this year’s #BreakTheBias global IWD theme

Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore Champions Mothers and Parents This International Women’s Day

"Agency culture and leadership is often stereotyped, and unfortunately, it's often not very appealing for parents of young children. The impact is that the war for talent, especially experienced, brilliant, female talent, is more challenging than ever. We know that it's a privilege to lead by example, so we want to ‘parent proudly’. Normalising the impression of parents, and mothers especially, in the agency workplace will set a precedent and change the narrative. We want Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore to be a place where talent can thrive at any stage of their life and career." - Po Kay Lee, president of Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore

This International Women’s Day, Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore are championing and celebrating parent leaders, especially mothers in the workplace. In tandem with this year’s global IWD theme of #BreakTheBias – they want to break the bias of what parenting should look like in our industry. Parents, especially mothers with young children, often find themselves in a position of having to choose - between taking on responsibility in the workplace or parenting. Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore want to tell their story about why becoming a parent, especially a mother, does not need to derail your career.

Introducing the Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore Leadership Team.

Four Mums, one Dad with 10 children between them and all under the age of six. Welcome to some of the most mentally and physically demanding parenting years. To balance work, let alone a leadership role is a lot. But what these leaders collectively feel is that with the right culture in place,  parents are in a position to do their jobs and flourish. Forsman & Bodenfors wants to celebrate this.
- Image: Jason Feng

Diversity the F&B way

Building a multicultural and inclusive environment has always been core to the Forsman & Bodenfors way. The agency leads the industry as one of the most progressive in fostering a healthy company culture. Most recently, Forsman and Bodenfors Singapore  announced an update to their parental leave policy to include 16 weeks paid paternal leave to fathers alongside mothers. This is a significant move for a company in Singapore where the local industry practice for paternal leave is just two weeks. Parental leave also includes the option for an additional eight weeks non-paid leave.

The move signifies the agency’s investment in fully supporting parents and to even the level the playing field between mothers and fathers during the critical months of a newborn’s life. Forsman & Bodenfors also remains the only globally certified agency by the 3% Movement, indicating that they are above the industry benchmark across all their  offices for fostering a healthy and prosperous environment for female creatives and empowering women in the creative profession.
In 2021, Forsman & Bodenfors launched their annual Global Inclusion at Work survey with a commitment to full transparency across inclusion, and the demographic composition of the collective. The survey covered 12 themes relating to Inclusion at Work which included opinions on  Work - Life Integration and of Parents & Caregivers. The results among parents across the Singapore office reflected some very positive results  - 100% of employees felt the company helped them successfully transition back to work after parental leave, 80% feel the company is a place where parents can thrive and 79% felt wholly included as parents. 

In honour of International Women's Day, the Forsman & Bodenfors' Singapore leadership team spoke about managing both children and a business and what they consider a strong woman in the workplace to be.

Q> How do you balance parenthood and being in a leadership position?

Po Kay Lee, president> Honestly, accepting the role of president at six months pregnant, and with a 20 month old, seemed like such a crazy move! I would be lying if I said the thought of it wasn’t overwhelming at first. The team at F&B were a breath of fresh air, full of ambition and commitment  while entrusting me to help them build the next chapter of this agency. I was completely honest about my situation, they listened with empathy and understanding, and they responded with action. 

Balancing motherhood and leadership is possible for me because it isn’t just about what I choose to do, but also what the people around me are willing to do. It truly takes a village, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have an extension of this village at work, to share in my professional and personal goals. 

Deborah Abraham director of PR strategy & communication> I’ll admit my first encounter with motherhood and agency life was rough.  Just six years ago, flexible working hours in an agency in Singapore was rare. When I was expecting my second child two years later, my instinct was to resign, despite being at the height of my career.

Today, I’m in a place of privilege. I get to thrive as a parent, knowing I am fully supported and valued by a work culture of intelligence and empathy. I am also grateful to have a supportive husband who steps in to share the load of parenthood. To truly find balance at work, you need a commitment beyond a HR policy. It’s having the collective consciousness of your peers and leaders to genuinely invest in working mothers. 

Ali Loveday-Herzinger, head of production> I’m not going to deny it – it’s tough finding work-life balance as a producer. For me, it’s about having both an understanding family and workplace. Part of my reason for joining Forsman & Bodenfors is because I knew if I was going to sacrifice time spent away from my son, I was doing it to create beautiful and powerful work to be proud of. I joined the agency when my son Henry was five months, and explained to the agency at the time that my husband was being deployed to the Middle East with the military. I gave the agency the option not to hire me due to my challenging circumstances.

Forsman & Bodenfors’ entire response was that this was a short term problem and that I was a long term investment. They valued my experience and professionalism above all else. I have found an environment where I can thrive as a mother and also have a career. This is a place where everyone takes work seriously with a mutual respect for a life outside of work. It is this culture that I am really passionate about.

Mariana Berney, head of business partnerships> Understanding that ‘balance’ is a moving target and being realistic about what this means for me personally. I have some non-negotiables around my family and my capacity for being present at home. I make sure that as much as possible, I manage my diary in a way that can support this. For example, clearing emails before 8am to spend some time with my children in the morning and have an enjoyable drive to school without any pressure or massive rush to arrive at the office. 

Rather than balance, I aim for a healthy work-life integration. Some weeks this is easier than others, but I feel the key to this is working in a human company, with a supportive culture that understands that we are much more than just the work we do. We have families, responsibilities, passions outside of work and we all need to understand and support each other in our quest of achieving that ‘balance’.

Firrdaus Yusoff, head of creative> It’s a tough act, especially when my kids are all under six years old. But I’ve made a conscious effort to plan my schedule around their time; mornings are blocked off because I’m prepping them for school and sending them off. And between the run up to kids bedtime and wind down time, the agency knows to respect those hours for me. Forsman & Bodenfors fosters that safe, open environment where I know they cover for me if I have to bring a kid to the doctor or if they need urgent attention. I'm also surrounded by working moms who are heavily engaged with their children, so I feel liberated to be a hands-on Dad too. At the same time, my wife is supremely supportive of my role, and I have to give her a huge shout-out for always being there to lean on.

Q> What qualities do you think embody a strong woman in the workplace?

Po Kay Lee, president> I think being a ‘strong woman’ can mean so many things, but ultimately when we cultivate trust, and celebrate diversity and differences in the workplace, that is when we all win. So no matter what your gender pronoun is, showing-up fully as yourself, being authentic and courageous in who you are, and championing the success and uniqueness of others, are qualities that I value in my colleagues, my leaders, and my community. I love to see this in the women I work with

Deborah Abraham director of PR strategy & communication> I’ve had the fortune of working alongside some incredibly inspiring women who have made a profound impact on my career. They are strong, firm and fair. They’ve taught me that motherhood and work shouldn’t be a chore. We need to define our own rules to have a career that is dynamic, fun and rewarding in every sense. Never underestimate your value, and don’t be afraid to command what you’re worth.

Mariana Berney, head of business partnerships> In my opinion, a strong woman in the workplace is one that allows themselves to be who they really are. Being strong is staying true to who you are, letting go of the preconceived notions that we need to be louder, more aggressive, less emotive in order to rise to the top. An inclusive workplace, fair and supportive policies and access to mentors and female role models can make a difference in the life and career of women. The fear of falling behind because of having children is real, and the fear of having to choose one over the other is haunting

Firrdaus Yusoff, head of creative> I think fostering the right culture is imperative. A culture where it’s never about choosing motherhood or career; it’s about excelling in both. A culture where if you’re a woman; it’s never counted against you, and for that culture to thrive, women need to feel supported and seen.

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Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore, Mon, 07 Mar 2022 14:36:00 GMT