Empowerment, passion, determination and financial freedom: these were just some of the many concepts that were brought up during the “Empowering Women to Empower the World” talks on the the first day of The Star Women’s Fiesta, held in conjunction with this year’s WOW-Women Do Wonders campaign and International Women’s Day.
The discussions saw many successful and influential local female leaders sharing their experiences with a rapt audience. The speakers passed on insightful advice, gained from their many years in their fields, on how to achieve success, not just financially but in all areas of life.
The day started with a session by Jenn Low, founder of local jewellery label Wanderlust & Co. In her session, which was boosted by many inspirational quotations, Low shared her experiences building her business, and the importance of never giving up despite failure.
“What does it mean to be a woman today? For me, I think we’re actually creating a new diversity, all around the world. We’re creating new understandings, new thoughts, new visions not just based on our biological characteristics and identity, but on our diverse opinions and worldviews,” Low said.
Low’s talk was followed by a session by Tunku Mona Riza, director of the award-winning film Redha. Tunku Mona spoke about the challenges she faced in making the film, and also about raising awareness about autism.
“What is empowerment? In my humble opinion, it all begins with us. We have to empower ourselves and then we can empower others. It has to begin at home, and as women, we must know what we want in our lives. We must be focused, and through that, we can give positive vibes to others,” Tunku Mona said.
Dahlia Nadirah Juhari, founder of local makeup brand So.Lek, then shared her journey of creating a business that took pride in being Malaysian.
“Kalau boleh, I wanted it to be 100% Malaysian made,” Dahlia recalled her days of setting up the brand. “We were offered to have it made in China, because it was cheaper. But I refused. Because I wanted to prove to the world that Malaysian products can be as good as international brands.”
One of the most popular sessions of the day was by Success Concepts CEO Joyce Chuah, who spoke about the importance of financial planning from a woman’s point of view. One of her major points was how the amount of money many people think can last them through retirement is actually not enough, due to the increasing rates of inflation.
“We put too much dependence on EPF (the Employees Provident Fund). I mean, EPF is great, I greatly thank the government for that. However, it is not enough. We think it is, but it isn’t. So a checklist on retirement readiness is very important. On top of that, a rule of thumb you need to save an extra 10% on top of your EPF, and put it behind bars. It’s difficult but you have to,” Chuah said.
The last speaker of the day was AirAsia Foundation executive director Yap Mun Ching, who spoke about the importance of empowering women in the workplace. Among her stories was how adding female staff to the ramp staff of AirAsia encouraged the male staff to work better, thus increasing productivity all around.
“The ramp store always looked like a mess. But once the girls came in, it began to look a lot better,” Yap quipped. “Bringing women to the workplace is much more than empowerment. It brings you dividends that you may not realise, when you have gender balance in your work functions.”
Following this was a panel discussion on Women and Wealth, which saw a lively sharing of points between four prominent female Malaysian business leaders: Hong Leong Investment Bank Group manging director and CEO Lee Jim Leng, Mah Sing group Berhad director of Group Strategy and Operations Jane Leong, ChristyNg.com CEO Christy Ng, and Propedia Consultancy principal Vicky How.
Issues discussed included the importance of property investment, diversifying one’s assets, and of course, how a woman could get ahead in business.
“I believe if you stay true to your cause, and if you’re very serious of what you’re doing, people will respect you, regardless of whether you are male or female. If you show your conviction, your dedication and persistence, and you have grit, you will get far,” Ng said.
“You have to first believe in yourself, that you can achieve what the other gender can do. It’s all in your mindset. The more the you pull yourself back, and give in to negative thoughts, the more you won’t succeed,” Leong said.