International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
It is also an opportunity to transform aspiration into action, to empower by bringing together and celebrating women from all walks of life who are leading the charge for change with gender dynamics at work and at home.
This year in the spirit of taking action and pressing for progress, TradeGecko hosted its very first International Women’s Day event in Singapore. The event kicked off with a panel discussion on the challenges faced by women at work and at home, and how every employee both male and female could take part in the push for gender equality.
Moderated by TradeGecko’s Chief Operating Officer Nathalie Benzing, the panel was made up of two entrepreneurs, Lucy Ashenhurst from Upstart Alliance and Rosaline Chow Khoo from CXA. Sarah Tan, an international partner manager at Shopify also gave a presentation encouraging women to take a step toward building a business of their dreams.
Lucy Ashenhurst shared with the group the pressures she faced as a corporate lawyer for global leading firms, where placing work over the needs of her family were not only encouraged but expected. Being faced with having to choose between work and her family, Lucy left the corporate life and started Upstart Alliance, a tech-driven but human-centered legal services start-up.
The company hires lawyers and legal service providers who prioritize family-life balance but still want to develop their careers. At the same time, the company solves a real pain point for many startups who require legal services. Upstart Alliance’s mission is to provide equal access to top-tier legal advice for all businesses, however small, and however limited their budget.
Rosaline Chow Khoo pushed for innovation in her previous company for five years without progress. Frustrated by the insurance industry's unwillingness to focus on illness prevention and early detection rather than treatment, Rosaline set off on her own to form CXA, using $5M of her own savings and borrowing another $5M.
Today, CXA has 500 corporate clients across 20 countries in Asia and is valued at more than $100M.
Rosaline’s message to the group was clear, take risks and embrace opportunities for growth and change. Rosaline spoke about the tendency for women to shy away from opportunities because they undervalue their abilities. However, in order for progress to be made, more women need to raise their hands and take on leadership positions in companies, so that they can effect change.
Sarah Tan shared how Shopify has helped many women globally start and grow the business of their dreams. She encouraged women in Singapore to be their own bosses and start their own eCommerce businesses.
The panel concluded with the understanding that progress starts with awareness. In the words of Angelica Pettersson who works with the Global Human Development Program;
To be a woman in the global community means that we are aware of a world beyond our own comfortably air-conditioned ones; that there are women in our backyard as well as in a land across the ocean going through unimaginable challenges; that it all begins with awareness.
The evening concluded with a wine and cheese networking session, where many of the attendees also added to the post-it board with their thoughts on what International Women’s Day meant to them.
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