There is a saying by Eleanor Roosevelt, “A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”.
This is so true with my experience. I jiggled like a tea bag and gained strength when I became the co-chair of a mentoring programme for 30 young women last year. I am an introvert; a young professional, who neither had much experience nor knew the art of coaching and mentoring. While I was honoured to be the co-chair of the Women Who Thrive programme under the Business Alumni Chapter of Monash University Malaysia, I had to ask myself some questions. Am I qualified? Will I do a good job? How do I deal with a team of alumni volunteers and 30 young enthusiastic women?
All I knew is that I wanted to be part of advocating for more women leaders and to build a powerful new generation of women leaders. I wanted to be one of these leaders and end the myth that women will always be the number two.
Over the years, the fundamental role of women in society has led to the stability, progress and long-term development of nations around the world. Concurrently, discrimination or acts of violence against women gave rise to many initiatives to catalyse powerful changes in driving gender equality globally. Today, marginal steps are taken, and advocacy is strongly in place towards achieving gender equality; Goal#5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Why do we need still need to advocate gender equality?
My personal engagement with the organising team, mentors and mentees brought upon many thoughts from the lessons learnt. I have concluded that we need to have strategies and thinking habits in place to bridge all the equality gaps; gender, pay etc. as these have the fundamental bearings on whether the economies and societies thrive. As a young leader, my advice is simple based on what I have learnt and encountered. We need to have these three fundamental keys to gear up in building a new generation of women leaders.
1. The Influence of a Growth Mindset
Learning from failures and mistakes throughout the programme pushed the team to embrace challenges, work harder and stay persistent despite setbacks. We need to do the same. Each day; every day. We need to persevere and not give up. Dr Carol Dweck, a psychologist, called this the “growth mindset”. It is when one does not give up easily but accepts the challenges to change and grow, even if it’s with men, as a large number of them often provide support and encouragement.
2. The Influence of Mentors
Everyone should at least have one. There were great success stories shared by the mentees of the programme on how their assigned mentors have helped them to grow and challenged them to be the best they could be. Some mentors had introduced them to important contacts as well as their network whereas some gave their mentees the confidence and pushed them to achieve their definition of success. The right mentor is one that opens doors, influences and is there with a net ready to catch you if you fall. They allow you to fly like a kite, while they hold on to the string and tug it when you’re out of control, giving you stability. They allow you to soar to greater heights.
3. The Power of Passion
Great leaders like Steve Jobs had this – the power of passion. You need to have passion to achieve something great. Many great mentors gave this advice which resonated well because coming together on a volunteering project like this could not have led to its success if the people behind were not passionate. Passion is not something you can force onto anyone and we believe the passion for learning and achievement is what drove these mentees to bring out the best in them.
Who is to say a woman can’t lead? As a woman, I choose to empower other women. I want to create and build a team of women leaders who will contribute to the future of our society and our country. It starts with ME! My humble, constant reminder is the quote from Jack Ma, “Never give up. Today is difficult, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine”.
Huei Ying Lim is a consultant with Aon, a world-leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. In her current role, she leads the Digital Benefits team in Malaysia.
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