To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, MSC took the opportunity to chat with some of its female staff around the globe.
Here, five of them discuss their personal and professional experiences of dealing with perceptions, bias, and social and cultural changes.
"Of course, it’s certainly true that society, in general, does still have some traditional expectations around men and women and what their roles should be. But, despite this, I think change is happening, and I am a very positive person who believes that what the world needs is people – be they men or women – who are competent, creative, ambitious, and have the strength to overcome life’s obstacles.
Each gender brings with them certain qualities, which means that in a workplace, it helps to benefit from those varied attributes.
My experience is that women are generally more intuitive and flexible, and that creates empathy. I think you need to be empathetic and to truly understand the colleagues you work with – particularly when we spend more than eight hours every day with them.
Looking at my own life, my challenge is in maintaining the right kind of balance between being the mother of two restless boys, and being good at my career. Both of those roles demand responsibility, dedication – and time.
I see every day how women feel forced to choose between their career and motherhood, and a lot of them take the view that the two are incompatible. Of course – that simply is not true! It’s challenging, and we women do have to be all the more organised, but it is possible to have a demanding professional position, as well as to be a good parent.
In our particular agency, some 60% of our staff are female, so I’m mindful of their challenges. I make sure all employees have the same job opportunities, and that we are as flexible as we can be.
For young women today, my advice to them would be that they need to be patient, as well as ambitious. Their worst enemy is fear, so they need to work hard and consistently every single day in order to achieve all that they hope to.”
“I first joined MSC in 1999, when securing a job was a top priority for either gender in Asia, because of the poor economic climate at the time.
It was my personal love of sailing, boats and the ocean which made me consider an opportunity with the company’s regional office in the first instance, and I can honestly say that I have been blessed with abundant opportunities to develop.
It’s definitely true that shipping, as a traditional industry, has been male-dominated, but I’ve personally been very fortunate to have an exceptional female mentor, in the form of MSC’s Caroline Becquart, who has accomplished an enormous amount in her career.
Growing up within Asian society, I am of course aware even more so of how gender biases prevail. Singapore is generally quite advanced compared with other Asian cultures, from what I can tell. The government here is continually driving the message around fair and progressive work environments; and in addition they are emphasising equality commitments through schools’ programmes.
To enable this change to continue to take place more globally, I look forward to seeing more pro-women policies within society generally, but equally, I do think women need to cultivate a ‘champion mindset’ themselves and strive for what they want to achieve.
From a personal perspective, multi-tasking is something I have learned has to come with the territory of being a wife, mother, and high performing manager. I’ve gradually learned not to feel over-ridden by guilt when I’m not available to everyone the minute they want me to be, but it helps to be blessed with a strong family support network to make that easier.
Having taken three periods of maternity leave during my career at MSC, I think I am proof that you certainly can ‘juggle’ and that you don’t need to sacrifice in order to have a family. One of the notable initiatives we have in the Asia region is a lactation room to support female employees, and that has certainly been well received.
I think for any female starting out on career today, my biggest advice would be to support one another and to ensure you have an understanding network within and outside of your workplace which helps motivate you and remind you of what you are accomplishing along the way.”
“Although I’d certainly agree that society has a lot of stereotypes about women, I don’t believe they just come from men – rather from other women too.
We tend to be competitive, and sometimes critical of one another, and I think this can influence situations in today’s workplace. My personal opinion is that ‘respect starts close to home’ so we need to bear that in mind and consider and support one another.
From a personal perspective, I’ve been very lucky to have been given opportunities based on my genuine experience and abilities, and I don’t feel that being a woman has held me back professionally at all.
In fact, I feel very fortunate to have experienced career progression over the last 14 years within a company which has such strong female role models.
Women definitely bring something unique to their professional delivery, based on certain female traits. Women, in my opinion, are better able to multi-task, which tends to mean that they have a better insight into creating balance between work and home-life.
Generally, I’d say we are also more optimistic and passionate, with strong intuition – things which can be useful in the workplace.
For any woman starting out on their career path now, my best advice would be to get a role model who you can look up to, and hopefully someone you can discuss issues with as they arise. Also, based on experience, I would say ‘pick your battles carefully’.
Sometimes it’s good to stand up for something you really believe is worth fighting for. Others, it’s best just to let things pass.”