Posted on 21/09/2016 by Marie Swarbreck
Meet Headline Speaker
Suzanne Price, Director & Founder Price Global and Top 10 Consultant in The Economist Global Diversity List 2015
Question 1 - Can you introduce yourself in a couple of sentences?
I am a pioneer in the inclusion and diversity space in Asia Pacific, based in Tokyo and providing consulting, workshops and coaching throughout the region. I first came to Asia backpacking for 2-years and doing voluntary mental health work. I continue to integrate applied psychology into my work with organisations and individuals.
Question 2 - How has your company/position got you involved in the gender equity space?
Back in 2004, I was approached by a US multi-national company to design and deliver a leadership development programme for women in AsiaPac.
When I was first approached, I challenged, women don't need fixing, it's the people assessing the women as leaders who need some insights and a mind-set shift. The company agreed and still maintained, they wanted to start with the women.
In total, 250 women went through our 5-day leadership programme. The client reported better retention and promotion rates and went on to develop a wider global programme – quite unusual for a US company to adapt an initiative designed in Asia for global roll-out.
I personally felt hugely fortunate to have the budget and client support to experiment with content ideas, hold focus groups for evaluation about what stuck and to cultivate sponsors. This first big break gave me the opportunity for hands-on research and to develop some thought leadership about what was unique for women versus men, the impact of culture and so on.
To this day, having seen the results, I believe in a systemic approach. I am an advocate for initiatives that target women so they can benefit from insights to make conscious behaviours and strategies to support their personal and the organisations’ goals. I also maintain my view that organisations need to address bias in systems, culture and particularly those held by decision-making managers (if not everyone). To this end, I have joined D&I councils as an external advisor, consulted on the business-case, design and implementation of sponsorship programmes for women, delivered workshops and assessment tools on mitigating bias and enhancing inclusive behaviours for better gender equity, inclusion in general and better business results.
Question 3 - What are you doing to inspire women in leadership?
Through coaching and workshops, I am empowering women already in leadership positions to become more effective role models and mentors for women in their organisation’s pipeline. Some successful women leaders are unable to articulate what exactly they have done to overcome workplace gender biases. Others think ‘their way’ is ‘the only way’ rather than ‘one way’. Many of the women I work with have unconsciously developed contingency behaviours that have served them well. With awareness, they can transfer their insights to others. They can also identify when others face different challenges or, need a different approach.
I also support women in leadership who find themselves ‘under the microscope’ and acutely aware of how their performance may be under more scrutiny as a minority whilst having more at stake in terms of paving the way for others.
One interesting phenomenon is when women ‘pull up the ladder’ once they make it to a senior position - knowingly or not. By partnering with women leaders to heighten their awareness of their process and their triggers, I coach them to find a way to be ‘safe’ at the top and adopt behaviours to guide others up the ladder.
Question 4 - What is your opinion on gender equity in HK?
Hong Kong, like anywhere, has some cultural and location specific nuances. Examples include the dis-alignment between values and bias. Hong Kong Chinese values may support equal contribution at work regardless of gender and at the same time, parenting and elder care tend to rest on the shoulders of women more heavily – most likely a bias that associates women with these responsibilities and pressures.
I think the availability and affordability of domestic help can be a ‘double-edged sword’. There is a tendency to value ‘presenteeism’ and to work long hours in Hong Kong. Whilst having help at home is hugely beneficial for anyone balancing career and home priorities and certainly empowers more women to take on the challenges and unpredictability of a leadership role, there can also be an over-dependency on this provision. By expecting ambitious women to have help at home, there is therefore no need for the organisational culture to address the internal mindset around presenteeism or to resist figuring out flexible ways of working.
Don't miss the opportunity to meet Suzanne and learn more about unconscious bias in the workplace on 29 September at the Gender Equity Conference. Book your tickets now.