Dear Dr. Sophia Zhao
Thank you so much for taking special lecture on May 31
And also we appreciate your interview; this interview will be a great asset to Women manager in their career.
First of all, feel free to comment on what you felt after the lecture.
I really enjoyed the two hours with the group of pretty and bright ladies from Jeju Development Co. Although I don’t understand Korean, I could read non-verbal cues and feel the energy in the room. The themes of career enablers and blockers from the discussion are similar to what I heard from other parts of the world; for example, how to balance work and family; how to balance being an assertive leader and a feminine woman; how to achieve self-clarity of “who I am”… In that sense, Korean women leaders are not alone. However, I am also aware that Korean women do face unique challenges, for example, the tight national and organizational culture; lack of infrastructure that can support childcare. But time is changing, society is also changing. I am optimistic that we will see more and more women leaders in Korea in the future.
What is your thought about “women’s Leadership”?
Leadership is about setting direction, aligning people and motivating commitment. This is the same for both men and women. That said, people’s expectation and perception of men and women leaders may be different. This is because, in most of the societies, a typical leader’s figure is associated with a man: one that is strong, powerful, and masculine. This figure has been deeply implanted in our mind that we expect leaders to behave in a certain way and use the image to judge them.
With the development of technology and the nature of work, leaders nowadays need to have other competencies to motivate employees. For example, research has shown that empathy and listening skills are critical for leadership effectiveness. Women leaders have some natural advantages because women are more relationship oriented. But it doesn’t mean that men cannot be empathetic, either.
How do people in developed countries promote women who are talented and how do they support them to develop women’s career?
Based on the interviews I had with successful women leaders in Singapore, a lot of them benefits from their organizational culture and policies. They mentioned that: first, the organizations they work for have a culture that values talent. The top leaders understand the importance of diversity and “walk the talk” to advocate women leaders. Other leaders, especially their direct bosses also value talent and support talent development. Second, they also benefit from some organizational policies such as flexible working hour. Last but not least, Singapore is a meritocratic society where both men and women have equal access to education and work opportunities. Also, young parents also benefit from the child-care infrastructure built by the government.
What is your career development method that has come to your position?
First of all, I still have a long way to go in my career journey. That said, if I look back, I have two key lessons. First, be clear about my goal and achieve it with the people around you. Sometimes, our family or friends may have different opinions. That’s OK and I trust that they have my best interest in mind. If I am certain about where I want to go, I will keep communicating with them and gain their support. Second, make critical decisions. I have several turning points in life: leaving home for the first time and going to university; leaving my country for the first time and going to pursue my PhD; and starting my own family. At each point, I made the decision myself and take the responsibility. I have no regret.
How did you become such an influential person to many people?
Haha, I am not an influential person…I just love my job and keep doing it.
Why is it Important for Women manager, such as “Korean Women Ledership Academy?
Ah, I think it is great initiative. Current and future women leaders can benefit from the research and training provided by the academy. But more importantly, they will benefit from the network. Research has shown that women lack strong network for their career advancement. The lack of career network can be due to many reasons: a) women may not have time for networking because they have to take care of their families; b) women may not feel comfortable in social events that are dominated by men; c) women may shy away from networking because they perceive it as something negative. Such academy provides an opportunity for women to come to know each other and become peer support in each other’s career journey.
Please give us a word of cheer to the women manager who will become a good leader in the future.
“Let’s be the role model of our children. Let the boys know that Daddy and Mommy are equally capable of being leaders and doing housework. Let the girls know that she can achieve anything if she set up her mind to.”