shine strong pantene advert

(Image via Pantene)

TMB had the privilege of attending one of Women Media Network’s much anticipated panel events in celebration of International Women’s Day 2014. The panel were incredibly inspiring and consisted of: Christine Brendle, founding partner of Kids Dailies, Kimberley Cole, Head of Specialist Sales at Thompson Reuters Asia, and Mariko Sanchanta, Asia Pacific Regional Managing Director, Media at Burson Marsteller. The discussion was moderated by the fabulous MJ Jennings, Director, Training and Executive Coaching, Active Communications.

The event kicked off with a screening of Pantene’s recent advert, Labels Against Women and Jennings encouraged women to check out Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign, which aims to change negative labels associated with women in the workplace.

Then we got down to the nitty gritty and MJ asked the panel: do women block other women’s careers? Sanchanta thinks that women holding each other back in the workplace is “a load of baloney”, but the facts read out by Christina Pantin says the opposite. According to research, 40% of workplace bullies are women and 70% of the time a woman is bullied by another woman. Pantin says that women working together tend to become good friends and can sometimes share very personal stories and secrets. This could this be a root cause for future bullying.

Should women in corporate environments play by the men’s rules?

Sanchanta reveals that she doesn’t play by men’s rules and tries to stay true to herself. She says because of her small frame, she remains feminine and dresses in a feminine way, which TMB is behind 100%. Even Marissa Mayer said in an interview with Daily Beast, “One of the things I care a lot about is helping to… show girls that you can be feminine, you can like the things that girls like, but you can also be really good at technology.” We think it can be tough to stay true to yourself in male-dominated industries, and women shouldn’t play by the men’s rules.

The panel compare Anna Wintour against Bill Gross, and how the media use different adjectives to describe behaviors of women. TMB believes that men in the media do get off lighter and this is based on facts from Miss Representation organization, which draws attention to how the media scrutinizes women on a daily basis. We agree with the event audience in that men have less decisions to make in their careers, while women have to juggle if they choose to have a family.

How do you juggle work and family life?

Cole says she believes that women can’t have it all and if women do try to have it all, they feel guilty about it. However, it’s important to note that it’s a family issue, not a women’s issue. Cole had her kids in the UK and benefited from longer maternity leave. Then she came back to Hong Kong and took advantage of the cheaper childcare in Asia. Brendle had a different experience and chose to focus on family after having her second child. She says that if you need time off work for family, you should be respected. When you return to work, you shouldn’t be treated like a 2nd class citizen.

Juggling work and family is a challenge and it helps to have some flexibility. More women are choosing to stay at home and create their own businesses, so they can work from home. That way there’s a better work/family balance. Many women in the audience and on the panel said that they think women are choosing between work and family, instead of trying to have it all.

Who do you turn to for support?

Both Sanchanta and Brendle have had many mentors and sponsors in their careers, who have been very helpful when they needed support. Articles today are saying that sponsors beat mentors when it comes to career progression. However, we think both can be very helpful in moving you forward in your career and making important decisions. Cole advises women in the audience to have both internal and external mentors, because a mentor in the workplace could leave.

How do you celebrate success in the workplace?

Celebrating and owning success can be difficult in the workplace due to the labels that can be placed upon women, which is evident in the Pantene advert. Sanchanta explains that because she grew up in a Japanese culture, she was taught to be humble. Because of this, she had to learn to recognize when she achieved something in work. She also says that she celebrates her success with her team and she focuses on the “we” not individual success.

One audience member reveals that she has a “yay me” folder in her inbox and files away all positive e-mails she receives. This is a great idea if you struggle to recognize your successes in the workplace. Cole discusses labels women can have if they do celebrate their success and shares an inspiring sign that hangs on her daughter’s bedroom door that reads, “I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.”

What helped you on your journey to keep growing and taking steps forward?

Brendle confesses she is learning about the small details while running her own business and being an entrepreneur. Sanchanta says she feels inspired living Hong Kong and after being in journalism for 15 years, learned a lot more after having a child. She reads on a regular basis to keep growing and is interested in startup life, so that could be a new direction in the future. Cole continues to want to take on the next challenge and her drive to be financially independent helps her to continue growing.

So, do women hold each other back in the workplace? After hearing from the WMN panel, TMB thinks it’s evident that in Hong Kong, women tend to help each other out when it comes to careers and networking. There have been a few stories shared of women not helping each other, and we cannot ignore the stats read out by Christina Pantin. However, it does depend on the company culture and environment in which bullying takes place. Overall, women are supportive of each other. We’d like to end this post by a great quote read out by Brendle.

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”
Madame Allbright

wmn panel