Empowered Women is a three-part series aligned with International Women’s Day to showcase how our female leaders have risen in the workplace to make a difference in their respective business areas.
In the second feature of this series, our Market Head for Greater China and North Asia Ms Teresa Lee shares how she overcomes unconscious gender bias which can affect women rising to leadership positions in corporate environments.Today, she is one of six market heads responsible for successfully growing the portfolios of clients in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.
In her three years with Bank of Singapore, Ms Teresa Lee, our Market Head for Greater China and North Asia, has seen female leadership grow at our Hong Kong office where she is based, and she finds this encouraging.
When Teresa first joined, she was the only woman among the six Market Heads at her office. Today, there are three.
She said, “It’s a breath of fresh air. It demonstrates inclusive behaviour and provides opportunities to women to have greater mobility in the workforce.”
Despite greater awareness of gender diversity in the workforce today, unconscious bias still exists in some corporate environments where women are not taken seriously and face difficulties rising to leadership positions.
The problem is exacerbated when women exert the same bias on themselves and downplay their potential to take on greater responsibilities.
Teresa has been faced with this many times along her career spanning nearly two decades at a smorgasbord of financial institutions and has adopted a different mindset to curb it.
She shares, “When it comes to gender issues, the stereotype is rooted in historical and cultural values. Stereotyping is not inevitable, and we need to recognise it. In the workplace, unconscious gender bias affects how we expect, perceive, judge, and work with both men and women leaders.
“Women tend to be hesitant advocating for themselves or asking for what they want. Don’t be afraid to speak up or contribute and never say ‘I can’t do this’ because you are a woman. The important thing is to embrace new challenges and show others what you’re capable of.”
Teresa said, “I put in a great deal of effort with my team to deliver and constantly exceed the expectations of what management sets out for us to achieve.”
Build up your confidence by taking up new projects and challenges. Learn to adapt to male-dominated environments and never exclude yourself from anything because you are a woman. If you’re able to perform well, you will earn respect from all levels of stakeholders.
Ms Teresa Lee, Market Head for Greater China and North Asia
Cultivating strong relationships is also important to Teresa and she extends this to her personal life as well.
She makes it a point to be transparent with her husband and shares with him aspects of her work life such as who her colleagues and long-time clients are, as well as her career goals and aspirations.
Teresa says with a laugh: “I lead a busy life, so I have to make sure he is aware of that.”
Her advice for young women at the workplace is to be bold and step out of their comfort zones.
Teresa says, “Build up your confidence by taking up new projects and challenges. Learn to adapt to male-dominated environments and never exclude yourself from anything because you are a woman. If you’re able to perform well, you will earn respect from all levels of stakeholders.”Disclaimer applicable to recommendation
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Version: December 2019