HE FOR SHE. My real inspirations.
Last Friday, Nov 6, I found myself standing onstage at the AMCHAM Women of Influence Conference and Awards in Hong Kong. I found myself at a loss of words (a very rare phenomenon) as I thanked AMCHAM for recognizing me as the 2015 “Champion for the advancement of women.” presented to me by Diana David of the Financial Times and her beautiful little girl.
You see, I was at a loss of words, because I was overcome with the emotion of all that had lead me to this point.
I did however manage to collect myself and talked a bit about “He for she”. The following is ideally what I would have liked to say in full..
Dear AMCHAM, delegates and “women of influence” awards jury.
Thank you for recognizing me as the 2015 “champion for the advancement of women”. It is indeed a great honor as the only award presented to a man at these annual awards.
As was mentioned in my introduction by Diana, my inspiration for most of my life was my mother. That is why I wrote the book “Break the ceiling touch the sky: success secrets of the world’s most powerful women,” in her memory (which has to date supported 25,000 medical tests for underprivileged women in India), why I moved on from leading Corporate Affairs for Walmart Asia to startup the House of Rose Professional in Sept 2014, and why I created ‘Break the ceiling touch the sky – the success and leadership summit for women in mid 2015,’ which attracted close to 450 participants from 106 Companies at our debut summit in Singapore on Sept 29. We are now headed to India for the India edition on Feb 18, 2016.
But it was another person who instilled in me the “He for she” mindset. It was my father. And several other male role models I have had over the years. I can only mention a very few here.
My father. I was only 4 years old when I started to see how my father treated my mum with so much respect. By the way he walked on the side of traffic when he crossed the street with her, his tone of voice when he spoke to her, and by his humble support to her since 1972 which was when she started running her kindergarten to support the family. Between 1972 and his year of passing 2001, my Dad became assistant teacher, peon, water boy, accountant and even Santa Claus at Christmas time to ensure my Mum never ever failed in her little business. He was truly her champion. That to me was “He for She” in action – men acting in support and respect for women. I saw this same deep respect for all women in everything that my father did.
One of my earliest bosses. Dilip Thakore (founder editor of Business World and Business India). His right hand was a female leader, my immediate boss – Unnita D’Souza. The manner in which Dilip worked with key female leaders and made sure they got the very best inputs to their development, that there was 100% parity in the way they were treated as compared to men and that the office environment was one conducive to women. I distinctly recall he was the first person I know who allowed FLEXI WORK. That was 1991 in India! I watched and learnt.
An incredibly talented writer, Dilip was the leader who taught me FIRST about gender equality. He also gave me another beautiful gift.. he taught me how to write! And by god, he was a perfectionist!
Sumit Bhattacharya, Chester Twigg, Bharat Patel, Helmut Meixner, Gary Cofer, Ashok Chhabra, Bob McDonald all of P&G. In the 13 plus years I worked at P&G, these great men gave me daily reminders of why women should be respected and how to LIVE the “He for she”. Their actions spoke louder than words.
In 1999, what I consider the toughest year of my life, facing a bitter divorce, I received one of the best pieces of advice ever from Sumit Bhattacharya, former Vice Chairman of P&G India. In one of our brief conversations at work, he sensed something was wrong. He asked me, and quite uncharacteristically I shared the personal stress I was under because of the legal battle ongoing at the time. He looked me straight in the eye and said “Anthony, sort it out amicably, even if it causes you far more stress than it does her for now. Make sure she is happy and well supported. You will have plenty of time to recover.” I got his message loud and clear. Sumit is a man of few words and when he says something, you just HAVE to listen. That evening I went home and thought hard. I wanted to do the right thing.
That was a turning point in my life. Till that point, all I had received was advice on how to fight back. An eye for an eye. Instead Sumit showed me another way. In a few months we sorted things out amicably, with respect and patience. By 2001 I was back on track, and written “The 12 winning principles of Marketing PR” my first “book” (P&G asked me to create the first ever web based training for the Marketing and PR functions off that) which became the basis of P&G’s global capability in Influencer Marketing. I was moved into my first international assignment in Singapore in 2002. 14 months later I was promoted into a leadership role in North America with P&G for the Hair care category on the back of a PR campaign that built the Pantene business by 11 % in Asia Pac. I don’t think I could have done it without Sumit’s simple advice that had enabled me to move on from personal challenge.
Sumit and I are still in touch today and he will attend my summit in Mumbai on Feb 18.
I could go on and on about the men who live the “He for she” philosophy EVERY DAY. Scott Price of Walmart. Alex von Behr of Unilever, the unsung heroes who do the right thing, who champion gender equality, who know that gender balanced teams deliver better results.
It reminds me of a favorite phrase from Paolo Coelho who says;
“The world is changed by your EXAMPLE. Not by your opinion.
So beyond all the training and development inputs we provide our people and gain ourselves on gender diversity, the most important input is POSITIVE ROLE MODELS who walk the talk.
I learnt more from role models than from any leadership training.
Thats what brought me to this point…. as “Champion for the advancement of women.” Its the least I can do. Its the least I must do. So that when my father greets me in the afterlife he will know his teachings were not in vain.
Are YOU seeking out good role models?
Thank you again AMCHAM. Thank you Dad, Sumit and all my other role models. You are the real heroes. You are my real inspirations. THANK YOU.
Anthony A Rose is founder Chairman and CEO of House of Rose Professional Pte.Ltd. which is based in Singapore and operates across three segments – Public Relations (PR), Publishing and People. The PR division provides customized CEO/Corporate Reputation solutions, APEC advisory, Crisis Management, Influencer Marketing and Cross-border PR organizational framework strategy. The Publishing division provides publishing services to book projects of inspirational personalities. The People division provides leadership training (focus on women in leadership), executive coaching, executive search solutions and inspirational speaking.
Anthony is also the author of best selling books, the most recent being “Daddy’s Logic: live a life of no limits, no excuses and no regrets” (2012, McGraw Hill) and “Break the ceiling touch the sky: success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women” (2014, House of Rose Professional). Royalties from these two books go to Habitat for Humanity and Save the Children respectively.