21 March 2007

Half of the world's sky is held up by women

How many of us actually celebrates International Women's Day? I didnt know about this day until i joined my company 4 years ago. It is the day when people around the world celebrate women's achievements, equality, emancipation, and inspire and empower future generation of women to make meaningful changes. To some, it is also a day where men honor their wives, mothers, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues.

I've never really given much thought to the evolution of women's struggle for equality in the workplace or their role in society. However, if you compare Brunei's women workforce some 10 years ago and recent years, you will find great advancement of women in both the government and private sectors. The country is (finally) acknowledging women's talent, commitment and their ability to lead. Or shall we say, Brunei women are taking charge of their destiny now, bolder and filled with confidence and support, they set out to achieve what they are capable of doing.

An IT company and Brunei Times recently handpicked a few of the many successful women in Brunei to be featured in BT's Life section. Amongst them, the 1st to be interviewed is Puan Apsah, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education. Caryn was there during the interview and Puan Apsah's story: Sincere Apsah paves the way sent tears rolling down her eyes. (Anyways, she's very emo, cries over happy endings and touching stories, hehehe) Having met Puan Apsah at last year's IWD event, i saw and respect her as a woman who must have performed well to get where she is today, i did not see beyond the fact that there are many other factors behind the scene. Her commitment to continuing education, her dedication to the future leaders of Brunei, her struggles at home and her dreams to build a school. I'm sure she's a role model to many of her students, colleagues and women out there.

Her quotes:

"I don't think women has to choose between a career and family. We can have the best of both worlds. Yes it is hard but if you make your priorities right."
"Being contented with what you have is very important."
"Live a legacy. Have an impact on people's lives." wink

And can a woman succeed when thrown into a room filled with Y-chromosomes? Suriyah Umar, Acting Deputy Accountant General at the Ministry of Finance is proof of that. Her story: Succeeding in a men's world is both humourous and inspiring. Before being transferred to MOF, she was working in the Civilian Finance Dept in Ministry of Defence where she made her "biggest achievement of changing the male perception of what a woman could achieve." Another noteworthy point is she did not let being a single woman deter her from having a family. She is the first person i know to have adopted a daughter to raise on her own. Kudos to Dyg Suriyah.

Her quotes:

"Having a family does not hinder them (friends and colleagues) from performing their jobs. A woman with a family is not a problem."
"You must not think that just because you are a woman, you are not able to do a man's job."
"If it is your passion, you should work for it and not let being a woman stop you."
"You are an individual. Hold yourself in the highest regard."

Keep an eye out for more interviews in BT's Life section.

As part of Accenture's observance of IWD, they recently published a research report titled Expectations and Achievement: Empowering Women from Within. It's based on an online survey and interviews conducted with 2,246 male and female executives in 13 countries to examine how the personal expectations of both men and women have influenced their achievement. The study also reveals how expectations about career advancement; progression and fulfillment change over time and what causes these changes; how both men and women define leadership; and the factors they believe have had the greatest impact on their personal success. It's definitely a good read.

Some quotes from the top female leaders in Accenture:

Words of wisdom:
"People might not remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel."
The most valuable thing you can give someone is your time."
Never lose sight of your dreams and remember to have fun along the way."

Top secrets to success:
"Recognize that your success is totally dependent on the success of those around you. Always share the credit. Never share the blame."
"Have some creative tension in your organization—it can drive good decision-making. A senior executive does not always have the answers at the end of the day."
"A willingness to explore and take risks"

Ways to balance life and work:
"Choose someone to share your life with who not only accepts what you do, but also loves you for doing it."
"Take control of your life. It’s part of being successful."
"Schedule exercise—whatever it takes to do that—in the middle of the day, early in the morning or late in the evening."
"Have a good support network and infrastructure. I make sure that when I'm home I really have time to spend with my children."
.ahhh this is certainly empowering.


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