Ka Yi Ling, Group CTO & Co-founder at Shiok Meats
“We see a lot of young women who are graduating university interested in joining our business. They want a sustainable future, are environmentally concerned, and would like to make an impact. “
Q: What is your interpretation of #BreaktheBias?
A: #BreaktheBias is about everybody having an equal opportunity. Whether you are female or male, or your background, if you are poor or rich. If you have the right capability and talent it should not matter where you come from.
Q: How do you relate to #BreaktheBias?
A: In my experience in recent years with Shiok Meats, I have noticed that females are leading in this area, and I do not see a lack of female representation. As such I know that I am quite fortunate. In the Alternative Protein sector there are a lot of female founders, whereas this would not be as common in other sectors.
Some people are surprised to learn that we have an all-female C-suite. We have a significant female representation, but we do not intentionally pick a specific gender. We value those who want to work with us and believe in our mission and a sustainable future. We welcome everyone, and that is always how our team has been. For me, providing equal opportunities is extremely important and, as a leader, I find that doing so is very rewarding.
Q: How do you think that we can close the gap between genders?
A: This is my first time in a leadership role in the business world. To be able to empower and inspire people through sharing opportunities is amazing. I think to achieve gender parity we need to continue networking and providing more opportunities to less-represented people who can bring diverse viewpoints and an abundance of enthusiasm to the table.
“If you have the right capability and talent it should not matter where you come from.“
Q: Are there any challenges for hiring diverse staff in the Alternative Protein sector in Singapore?
A: I think that in Singapore if you are not in Fintech or some sort of digital startup a lot of people are still hesitant to join. For other startups, like ourselves, hiring is difficult. For middle class folks, they often believe that startups are very risky as we are not established brand names. They also expect bigger salaries, which does not make sense as startups are generally poorer!
We do, however, see a lot of youths who are graduating university keen in joining our team. They want a sustainable future, are environmentally concerned, and would like to make an impact.
Q: Do you think COVID-19 had any impact on gender equality?
A: Personally no, but I have seen friends and peers affected. It affects mothers a lot. It is hard to separate work and home life during COVID, and a lot of the times women are expected to take care of the kids. Of course, fathers do this too – but speaking from my own experience I have seen a lot of working mothers struggle during COVID if they do not have a good support system.
Q: If you could give a single piece of advice to young female entrepreneurs, what would you tell them?
A: Take the risk and, on a practical level, give yourself timelines. They are useful for keeping yourself on track.
Q: What has been the most vulnerable moment of your career?
A: I am trained as a scientist. I would have to say my most vulnerable period was when my PhD work was not published. I left my PhD lab once my scholarship term was complete, and my PhD advisor was insistent on publishing my work in high-level journals, but it did not work out. It got to a point where I was afraid that my PhD might be revoked as my advisor was doubting the work which she pioneered and scrutinized throughout my PhD. Thankfully, my thesis committee members were extremely helpful and supportive. However, at the young age I was, with no knowledge of the legal world, I was required to sign a document that declared that I would not try to publish my paper on my own without my advisor’s approval. That was an extremely hurtful and vulnerable moment for me.
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