Kai Yi Carrie Chan, Co-founder & CEO at Avant
“In an equitable and diverse leadership team I find more camaraderie and a better strategic output. The focus is always on what we need to do for our company, and it is fortunate that we have a diverse team at the helm of Avant.”
Q: What does #BreaktheBias mean to you?
A: #BreaktheBias is to do with stereotyping. Stereotyping of certain cultures and certain genders. I think a long time ago we wouldn’t expect salespersons in shopping malls selling skincare products to be men. Also for women, there are a lot of stereotypes that they are good at certain things and not good at others. We should be open minded about all people, and consider their skills and experience over anything else. For example, when we are hiring In-house we like to look at candidates’ drive and other transferable skills. These qualities, along with the candidate’s values, are what’s most important to us.
Q: How do you personally interpret #BreaktheBias?
A: In the last industry that I came from, when it came to Project Directors I found that out of ten, there was maximum one or two women in those positions. I find that from time to time there is an unspoken, or at times very visible, bias that women face. I am fortunate to work in the entrepreneurial and innovation space now, where I encounter less situations in which women face unfair bias.
Q: Do you see a difference in leadership environments where men and women are represented equally?
A: I think the style of communication between men and women can sometimes be different, but that never affects the strategy that we set forward in business. In an equitable and diverse leadership team I find more camaraderie and a better strategic output. The focus is always on what we need to do for our company, and it is fortunate that we have a diverse team at the helm of Avant.
“If you have done the right preparation then do not wait too long. In business you can almost guarantee that your idea, or a similar one, is being planned out by somebody else too.”
Q: How can we close the leadership gap between men and women?
A: I think there are multiple ways to do so. For a recent Research Scientist role we received the majority of applications from males, but our shortlist ended up being diverse and had great female representation. I think it is important to be proactive about maintaining a diverse hiring environment, ensuring that all candidates are afforded a fair opportunity. Practically speaking, we should look at people’s backgrounds as well as experience and start considering diversity to be a crucial part of merit-based hiring.
Q: Do you think COVID-19 had an impact on gender equality?
A: Not very much. We had to arrange a lot of work-from-home for our team members. Even in the case where some had kids at home, we saw men and women sharing responsibility to allow both parents to work effectively and prioritise their children too.
Q: If you could give a single piece of advice to a young female entrepreneur what would you tell them?
A: Be well prepared. Know that there will be a lot of challenges. You need to be prepared, mentally and financially to face them. When I started my business I did not jump into it overnight, as I knew that I would need to save an adequate amount to start operations. It can take a while for stable income to come about, so know that managing personal finances is crucial.
If you have done the right preparation then do not wait too long. In business you can almost guarantee that your idea, or a similar one, is being planned out by somebody else too. Timing is incredibly important – those who work in Fintech, for example, will know this – so make sure that you organise yourself and execute your business idea at the right time.
Human Resources - B2B, Financial Services, Tech
Consultant, Finance & Strategy Consumer & Real Estate Practice