“I think there is an expectation that women need to take on more responsibilities when it comes to taking care of the family and the kids. This responsibility poses greater pressure and challenges to female professionals during the pandemic. They need to help their kids with online schooling during lockdown and prepare meals for the family. This expectation has forced women to work longer hours both for professional and family matters,” says Echo Jin, CFO for Microsoft Greater China, and a member of the Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC), which provides support and direction to the programming for AmChina China’s annual Women’s Economy Summit.
Jin’s most important takeaway during the pandemic is a well-used phrase, but still as relevant today as ever: “There is opportunity in every crisis”. Most notably, “There are more sophisticated and flexible ways to use technology, which helps us to not just maintain, but also improve, productivity,” Jin adds, recognizing the learning opportunities that exist amidst the changes that arise from a crisis.
Through her role on the WAC, Jin aims to support women in the workplace as well as women entrepreneurs to grow both personally and professionally. The Council brings together a dedicated group of powerful women and men to support and sponsor the growth and sustainability of women leaders and women entrepreneurs.
When considering progress made with respect to gender equality in the workplace, Jin provides that, “most enterprises now understand the importance of gender equality in the workplace and have started to put measurements and KPIs in place to track their progress. There is a strong emphasis on hiring diverse candidates for different roles.” However, she still believes that there are areas to improve on: “Gender equality at middle or lower management is relatively OK; however, if you move up in the management chain, the female percentage gets lower. Currently, there are only a few women who can reach positions on the Board, or as CEO or Chairman.”
Tze San Koh, President of China Gas Marketing at ExxonMobil, and a keynote speaker at this year’s Women’s Economy Summit, also reflects on lessons learned during the pandemic, a period that was made even more challenging by a critical injury her son faced earlier this year.
“The first thing I learned was to ask for help. But before we can do that, we must have great friends, and a great network from whom we can solicit that help. I had never sought so much help in my whole life before this particular accident. Thankfully, with the network that I have and friendships that I’ve made over the years, we had people that were willing to drive more than five hours to help us to care for our child,” says Jin, who will be providing her perspectives on how the pandemic has affected her both personally and professionally during Day 1 of the Summit on October 21.
Koh has been at ExxonMobil since 1992 and has amassed nearly three decades’ worth of global, commercial, and operations experience. She has served in various senior executive roles in the upstream, downstream, chemical and Public & Government Affairs teams at several locations in Canada, the US, and China.
Koh concludes with her final piece of advice: “The whole world is going through lots of changes due to the pandemic and the economic slowdown. For those of us in the professional world, we need to be resilient leaders, because if we are not, we will not be able to jump back and recover from any personal or professional crisis that we may face. Therefore, in my mind, this pandemic has made me stronger and more resilient. My advice to the current cohort of professional women in our community – whether they are my peers, my subordinates, or the broader female population – is that, together, women can make a positive impact, but before we can do that, we must first be resilient ourselves.”
Click here for an overview of this year’s Women’s Economy Summit.
Join us online from October 21-23, to hear the latest from Tze San Koh and many other senior executives, as we explore why women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and how they aim to combat this inequality.