Female execs share success secrets
Prominent female leaders have shared their insights and what they have learned while building successful businesses.
The discussion, themed "Connecting Women: Inspiring Change, Making Progress", was held by Citi Thailand to mark International Women's Day last Friday.
Supaluck Umpujh, vice chairwoman of The Mall Group, and Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, chairwoman of Toshiba Thailand Co, credited their families for beginning their current businesses.
Supaluck was encouraged by her father to study in the pharmaceutical field. Then she had the opportunity to join the family business in a top executive position, she said.
Kobkarn said her mother was behind the success of her business because she taught her daughter to learn to love what she was doing.
Kobkarn graduated in the architecture field and then began her career with MBK. She decided to work at Toshiba Thailand, a joint venture between the Japanese electronics company and her family's business, because she was taught by her mother that she should learn new things every day so she could progress in her chosen field.
Kobkarn said making connections was part of succeeding in business. Her mother advised her to learn both operational and back-office functions in every subsidiary of the group even though her preference was advertising and marketing.
"Thanks to Mother, I understood that it's not enough to have deep knowledge; our knowledge must also be broad once we are in top management," she said.
This connectivity was not confined to the company but outside it as well, as Kobkarn spent part of her time working at the Thai
Chamber of Commerce. A successful business relies on relationships, connecting with people inside and outside the enterprise.
Supaluck agreed that connectivity was very important for doing business, saying The Mall Group had become a leader in the retail business because of its partnerships.
The first department store was unsuccessful because of a lack of experience, she said. She told its tenants that the company would not charge a rental fee. The tenants were happy and set up outlets in the second department store as well.
"Connections are meaningful for business. We must keep our connections with people not only strong or long-lasting but also sincere and caring. Nobody can make achievements without partnerships and networking," she said.
Supaluck said leaders must dare to change and motivate others not to be afraid of change.
The Mall Group leader said she inspired her employees to look at the overall needs of the organisation and not just themselves when changes were required.
When the company can continue, the employees can also, she noted.
Kobkarn added that change must be initiated by the leaders. This has occurred not only with Toshiba staff, but with its dealers in traditional trade. They were told that they would still be needed in the Thai market despite the growth of modern trades such as hypermarkets.
About 70 per cent of Toshiba sales come from traditional dealers, she said.
Amporn Chotruchsakul, head of country operations and technology of Citi Thailand, said working at this firm gave her a chance to move up to top management, as Citi is a global organisation that gives all its people the chance to advance.
She added that she had also encouraged and inspired her staff to dare to adapt to the changes in the fast-changing business environment.
The luncheon talk was attended by about 80 Citi clients, high-ranking staff and media.
Grant Thornton's International Business Report (IBR) revealed last week that globally24 per cent of senior management roles are now filled by women. This is up from 21 per cent in 2012 and 20 per cent in 2011. However, the Group of 7 economies come at the bottom of the league table with just 21 per cent of senior roles occupied by women. This compares with 28 per cent in the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China), 32 per cent in Southeast Asia and 40 per cent in the Baltic states.
"The pioneer economies where economic growth is high have greater diversity in their senior management teams. Asean and Apec are ahead of the global average at 32 per cent and 29 per cent respectively but Thailand is even higher at 36 per cent.
"Women are playing a major role in driving the world's growth economies, bringing balance to the decision-making process and the smooth running of their companies. In comparison, the mature economies of the G7 are now playing catch up.
"They need to wake up to gender disparity and add this crucial ingredient to longterm growth and profitability," said Thai senior audit partner at Grant Thornton Thailand, Sumalee Chokdeeanant.
The IBR also reveals that the proportion of women in senior positions is markedly different across different sectors. More than double the number of positions in the global healthcare sector are occupied by women (45 per cent) than in construction or mining (19 per cent).
Thailand's tax partner from Grant Thornton, Melea Cruz, noted: "It may not be surprising to see more women succeeding in healthcare than in sectors like construction or mining, where traditionally fewer women work. But being a woman in a top job should be about more than just strength in numbers.
"Women should be awarded on merit, and even if the route to the top is tougher in certain sectors and regions than others, all businesses can benefit from greater diversity in top positions. Here in Thailand we are worldwide leaders in this; looking across all the senior roles in the company, the position most filled by women is CEOs at 49 per cent which is the highest proportion in the world."