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Be a lady, they said

By Fernn Lim, SC Ventures | 15 Sept 2020

I’ve had the privilege to be 1 of the 30 women selected for the Money 20/20 ASIA RISE UP Programme, class of 2020. If you are part of the Fintech industry, you would know the Money 20/20 folks are a force to be reckoned with!

The RISE UP programme is designed to groom the next generation of women leaders within the Fintech space. Here, we are talking about building networks, sharing experiences and learning new skills that women leaders can leverage, to supercharge their career to the next level.

Being proponents of technology, no global pandemic could stop us from the original meet up. In August 2020, we convened virtually over our laptops, shared our ambitions, struggles and the conflicting bind women often find themselves caught in.. Career vs Childcare, Speaking in a lower voice vs Being authentic, Filling bigger shoes vs the Imposter Syndrome..

As with life, there aren’t any straightforward answers, but it’s useful to pause, reflect and share. I’ve taken some time to pen some of my thoughts down on the back of attending the Money 20/20 RISE UP Programme, SCB’s Women Leader’s ASCEND programme and Google’s #iamremarkable workshop and thought it might be useful to share this with a wider group.

To the women leaders in all of us — fresh graduates, experienced hires, career mamas, ladies on a career break, ladies looking for a career pivot.. This is for you.

1.The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

One of many things we have to remember is this — Your career experiences add up to who you are today. Often, females feel they aren’t “good enough” and have to work doubly hard to prove their worth. Statistically, this HBR article reports that women will only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Rarely, do we look back at our past achievements and acknowledge that what we have amassed over the years is more than some bullet points written on a word document. It is who we are, our collective self, that is “more than good enough”.

2. Keep punching above your belt

This was a mantra that my ex boss once told me and I’ve kept it close to my heart since. Be hungry. Stay hungry. Keep showing value. Keep punching above your belt. Be known for the one that always gives 120%. We only have one life. Why be mediocre when you can be awesome? As I re-read what he told me, it still gives me the adrenaline and drives me to propel forward.

3. Girl, Stop apologising

“Sorry to bother”. “Apologies for the delay in response”.

Sounds familiar? The word, sorry, is something women say far too often, without acknowledging how detrimental it can be, both on your reputation and on yourself. I attended a Google #Iamremarkable workshop and it made me realise how often women apologise unknowingly, because we try to be empathetic.. myself included.

Women tend to over apologise, shy away from self-promotion and end any achievement with self-deprecating humour or attribute it to luck. Remove the word sorry as a filler word. We can be authentic, assertive without being apologetic.

4. The art of influencing and negotiating

Perhaps a skill applicable to both male and female individuals would be that of negotiating and influencing. As part of the ASCEND programme, I attended a session led by Arti Shirish and was blown away by the points she made. Be factual. Lay out the pros and cons but let your proponent decide with the consequences in mind. The importance of negotiating is not about winning at all costs but to enable both parties to win in the long term.

5. Be you

At some point, some of us would have been recipients of well meaning advice.. “Speak with a lower voice”, “You need to learn how to play the game”, “Ahh.. you need to learn how to negotiate and FLEX”. What happened to authenticity? We all have one life, why live it with a different persona? Own your authentic self. Be ok, being you.

To this point, women still face the conflicting demands of gender expectations, regardless if it’s at home or at work. I don’t suppose we have completely eradicated the standards that have been imposed on us, but the first step is to break the purported glass ceiling/box.

Be a lady, they said.

I say, be you.