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We Need to Talk About Women

Trends and Insight 0 Add to collection

Brenda Han, Regional Business Director, OgilvyOne Singapore

We Need to Talk About Women

 

Back in 2013, when I was working at Ogilvy London, my ‘big boss’ at the time, Ros King, sent all of the women in our team, including her own assistant, to the annual conference organized by Women in Advertising and Communications London (WACL). Powerful women spoke candidly about their experiences, struggles and triumphs – it was both relatable and inspiring and what I thought was possible for my career became a whole lot bigger that day.
 
Before then, I’d never felt limited by my gender, but hearing those senior women explaining that they had overcome the same things I’d struggled with was incredibly empowering. All of this was possible because organizations like WACL existed, and women like Ros King invested in my career by sending me to this conference. Each ticket cost 400 pounds and there were maybe fifteen of us. Her generosity was astounding. 
 
Upon moving back to Singapore about a year and a half ago, I took on a challenging new role. I was looking for inspiration and support because this new venture required me to be more entrepreneurial and deal with a lot of fluidity, as opposed to the more structured nature of my previous role. On top of that change I was planning for my wedding. 
 
In Singapore I feel there is less discussion about women in the workplace, at least publicly. Support networks tend to be privately established, through past working relationships and personal friendships. That works fine, but I believe it’s important to expose women earlier in their career to the options and lessons we’ve learnt over the years, so they are best equipped to shape their own destinies. This is why I started Advertising Women Singapore at the end of 2012, to help each other and the women that come after us.
 
Of late, there’s been much debate about women and their careers and since I started this endeavor I’ve had to really dig deep on how I feel about the topic. Although career development is not a gender-specific challenge, we do live in a man’s world and it takes more effort for women to operate and succeed within it. Coming together can only help. 
 
My first event for Ad Women Singapore happened in last year – we brought together 30 senior women from the industry to discuss what can be done. Fiona Gordon, Group Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Singapore and keynote speaker at the event, talked about seizing opportunities and the importance of having mentors, both male and female. It’s not about waiting to get a mentor formally assigned to you, it’s the mindset of looking for leaders you admire and have good rapport with. Those who can advise and support. 
 
The response was great. Everyone present had different experiences to share on the career challenges they’ve faced as a woman – family and ways in which they’ve held themselves back were two subjects that cropped up a lot. What’s encouraged me most is people’s willingness to come together and talk about it. Women have contacted me about running events on specific topics, some have offered to speak and help and others have told me how heartened they are with such initiatives. 
 
Recently I’ve gotten in touch with SheSays and Women Media Networks, which are two other female industry groups. They’re doing fantastic jobs in creating forums for women to meet and discuss – the conversation is really starting to open up in Singapore.
 
Women don’t just work to pay the bills, they want stimulating and fulfilling careers as well. They’re navigating through existing societal norms and working around corporate rules largely written by men. The more we can surface these discussions, spread awareness, encourage women and work towards changing the institutions that limit us, the better. That is my hope.
 
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lbbonline.com, Sun, 14 Apr 2013 16:15:37 GMT