Though she is one of the topmost female executives at Ping An Insurance (Group), Jessica Tan says that there are very few of her kind in other Asian and Hong Kong companies.
Tan, who cites effective time-management and family support as key attributes for her success, laments that there is a big gap between the top and the entry, middle management positions in terms of female employees in markets like Asia and Hong Kong.
Only about 10 per cent of the directors in the Hong Kong listed companies are women. That is way below the 17 per cent to 40 per cent seen in Western nations.
Tan, the chief operating officer of Ping An, says that Ping An is different from the rest of its Hong Kong peers, in terms of the number of senior female executives its has, including chief internal auditor Solan Ye and chief human resource officer Cai Fang-fang.
“It is to the credit of our group that we have an open, diversified working environment that allows talent to blossom irrespective of the gender or background. There is no glass ceiling at Ping An. It (Ping An) provide one of the best career development and employee training programmes that I have seen in my professional career,” says Tan, a Malaysian Chinese who worked for reputed international firms like McKinsey in America and Singapore before joining Ping An.
Ping An is rather unique on the mainland as there are very few Chinese companies who would hire a plethora of talent and adopt a multitude of working styles.
“I am grateful that Ping An is rather unique in China, with more than half of its top 150 executives coming from different nationalities. Though the diverse cultures does bring in varied working styles, it is also much more easier to adapt. My advice is to not worry too much, and focus on the work itself. As long as it is business and nothing personal, there is nothing to worry about,” she said.
As a mother of two daughters, Tan believes it is important for female executives to have a good work-life balance.
“I believe a successful woman should be able to “excel in both – career and family life”,” she said. “I think it all starts with time management. Everyone has exactly the same amount of time, so it is how you use the time most productively,” Tan said.
Tan separates her work and personal life so that during weekdays, she is 100 per cent focused on her work while she sets aside the entire weekend for family. She says that there are three attributes that can make or mar a career woman:
■ Having the right mentality: Work is not only for promotion and salary. Since work occupies a large part of our time, it is important to focus on work that is meaningful so as to better realise the value of our life.
■ Having a good mentor: This is very important. I am grateful to my mentors who always give me a hand when I had any doubts or difficulties. I am grateful to the senior partners I worked with from McKinsey in America and Singapore, and to our current chairman and chief executive Peter Ma.
■ Family support: I am extremely grateful for the support that I got from my family. I met my husband at MIT and have been so lucky to get his support. I am also very grateful to my parents who helped me to take care of my two daughters. I want to be a good role model for my daughters.