In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Kerry Consulting spent time connecting with strong female leaders from a variety of industries across our consultants’ networks.
We conducted a range of question-and-answer sessions and published them on our website and LinkedIn to an audience of 100,000+ business professionals. In these sessions our consultants sat down with their interviewees and asked them a series of questions circling around diversity, equitable work environments, support for up-and-coming female professionals and more.
Now, after a successful external effort for IWD and Women’s History Month, we thought it apt to turn the lens inwards and focus on Kerry Consulting itself. To conclude our campaign, we set up an insightful roundtable Q&A discussion with a panel comprising our own female executive leadership team:
- Patricia Teo (PT), Technology Practice Lead
- Emily Tan (ET), Financial Services Practice Lead
- Cynthia Ang (CA), Hospitality & Real Estate Practice Lead
- Agnes Yee (AY), Legal Practice Lead & Head of Interim Solutions
- Audrey Chan (AC), Human Resources Practice Lead
- Cecelia Koh (CK), Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice Lead
You will find the highlights from our discussion below:
A Roundtable Discussion With Kerry Consulting's Female Executive Leadership Team
Q: Why is diversity in the workplace important?
ET: A diverse workforce brings about creative ideas, uncovers blinds spots and unheard-of views and provides wholesome and holistic solutions to problems. It’s refreshing to see new and different perspectives that teams can learn from and embrace, and an impartial and balanced leadership team plays a massive part in providing these.
CK: I think the largest advantage of having diversity in the workplace is that the organisation has a lower chance of being susceptible to groupthink. If you look at the ‘pioneers’ in Kerry, a lot of us are ex-accountants and we tend to function in a particular way, in that our ways of working and thought processes can be quite similar. Today we have hired consultants from many different backgrounds and nationalities, providing a wealth of different perspectives and a lot of rich thought. With this we are afforded better critical thinking and can draw on our consultants’ varied business acumen to help inform our decision making. At the end of the day, as well as being fair, having a diverse staff also makes good business sense.
AC: I believe most of us are not inherently biased by choice but are instead unconsciously conditioned so by the sum of our environments, education, and upbringing. Diversity in the workplace is important in providing a richness in perspectives, philosophies and builds inclusiveness. To embrace diversity, it is important for us to challenge bias within the workplace, whether it is our own or others’. I have been fortunate to work in our firm which has been incredibly supportive of diversity and meritocracy, it is not only a core foundation of the business, but a top-of-mind priority.
CA: A diverse workforce enables us to interact and engage with stakeholders across a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and traits. This allows us to adopt different lenses to challenges, create novel solutions and enhance value for the organisation. If you have multiple people thinking in the exact same way, you wouldn’t be able to grow or innovate.
“The largest advantage of having diversity in the workplace is that the organisation has a lower chance of being susceptible to groupthink.”
Q: Cecelia and Audrey, you have worked at Kerry Consulting since 2004. In the time between then and now, what progress have you seen made in gender diversity within the recruitment industry?
AC: There has been much progress, certainly with more equal gender representation of in leadership teams within recruitment. I have also seen our clients over the years increase deliberate efforts to approach recruitment with a diversity lens with real targets, and I have been pleased that we have contributed to achieving these diversity hiring goals.
CK: Kerry Consulting is a bit of an anomaly, in that we have always had gender-diverse leadership teams, ever since our inception in 2003. There’s always been great emphasis placed on the idea that having diverse leadership will motivate our staff and produce better results. I think myself and Audrey can absolutely confirm this.
Q: Why do we need more women in leadership roles?
AY: It’s so important that women are visible in leadership roles. It’s crucial from a thought perspective, in that women provide a unique point of view. The visibility aspect is also important for young women looking to succeed. It shows that you, very genuinely, can achieve anything that you set your mind to. What impresses me most about women in leadership roles is the amount of determination they display. It’s tough to get into leadership positions, and I think that once a woman manages to do so she becomes acutely aware of the need to maximise her strengths and display good decision making.
CA: I think it is worth considering population demographics for this question. If ~50% of the population is female, we should ideally have a similar representation in senior leadership roles. Your gender should never impede your ambitions, and seeing more women in senior leadership roles will definitely help to inspire the younger female generation.
Q: What is it like being a working mother in the recruitment industry?
PT: I think that Kerry Consulting, specifically, is an extremely supportive environment for working mothers. I recall having an upfront conversation with our CEO about planning for a family in the near future, when I interviewed at Kerry Consulting 9 years ago. There were no awkward pauses, and he shared that there were many instances of working parents in Kerry Consulting who are equally successful and fulfilled at home and at work. It was reassuring to hear and this was one of the deciding factors for me when I took the plunge with Kerry then. Over the years, I have truly benefitted from learning the art of balance from the working parents in Kerry Consulting. The recruitment industry is fast-paced, and much of the day is truly intense so it really helps that at Kerry Consulting we are always supported in our family life.
ET: It can be tough as a working mother, but I think it’s important to be a role model for others. As Patricia mentioned, striking a balance is very important – achieving it requires discipline and being respectful of your team’s work-life balance too. Being a working mum in recruitment has taught me to be more empathetic towards others. You never know what someone is going through, and it’s important that we are supportive colleagues.
“Your gender should never impede your ambitions, and seeing more women in senior leadership roles will definitely help to inspire the younger female generation.”
Q: Agnes, you left Kerry Consulting, set up your own business and returned years later. What was the reason for that?
AY: I left Kerry Consulting in early 2016 and around February I was a one-woman band in my own consultancy, before bringing on two more staff. I did that for two years before merging my business with another recruitment firm. I eventually left that firm due to misalignment of working styles.
In a nutshell, the reason that I set up my own business was because I could. In years past, it was far more difficult for women to do that, or even simply harboring the thought of being an entrepreneur. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, and proud of myself for taking the leap of faith and what I have built.
Some challenges presented themselves when I decided to return to Kerry Consulting, having run my own business. I was concerned that I would be looked at as having regressed. That was never the case. The great thing about Kerry Consulting is that it is a company that caters to staff at different seasons of their life. I returned to the business as a professional at a different stage in my life, and, with regards to that, I immediately felt the respect and welcome from my peers, many of whom I had worked with previously. They didn’t see me as the girl that left, but rather the woman that I became. That’s an outstanding feeling and is a testament to the relentlessly supportive environment that colleagues afford one another at Kerry Consulting.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman entering the modern business environment?
PT: Balancing everything is daunting. Be very clear and honest with yourself on what your prioritisations in life are. Once you have that clarity internally, you should communicate your stance consistently with people around you, including your co-workers, your family, your friends, etc. This way, everyone at home and at work will be on the same page on how much they can expect out of you in terms of time and commitment. This reduces the potential for conflict and stress on yourself.
CA: Don’t fall into stereotypical gender notions – think the age-old saying, “little girls should be seen, not heard”. Seize the opportunity to challenge the status quo and prove your mettle. Start today so you can effect change for yourself and pave the way for others.
ET: Dare to dream big! It’s important to play to your strengths while also being unafraid of challenging and improving upon your weaknesses. The journey of personal growth is a fascinating one. Take time to enjoy yourself and learn from your business mentors. Lastly, don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted – fight as hard for yourself as you would for others.
AC: Dare to venture out and seize opportunities which speak to your passion and purpose. You will hit bumps and fall along the way, know that they are inevitable, but they will give you some of the best learning opportunities and help you find your way. Step up, go the extra mile as much as you can, talent and contribution will not go unrecognized by good leaders.
Technology Leadership, Digital & Innovation