WOMEN HOLD UP HALF THE SKY Mum and other amazing women taught me that!
My Dearest friends,
I wanted to share my thoughts with you on an oft quoted phrase “women hold up half the sky” and how women have influenced my own career.
I was just a toddler when I began to realize that there was something very special about the way my parents related to each other. It was apparent by the tone of their voices when they spoke to and about each other, by the way my father walked on the side of traffic when he held my mothers hand as they crossed the chaotic streets in Mumbai, by the way they worked in complete unison to achieve their goals – to educate us three boys, to work through a deadly accident that almost took my eldest brothers life, to handle every family emergency that came, to deal in total with six heart attacks of my grandma, and to live a life of purpose and integrity. Through it all, I learned how gender equality equals much better results. For 40 years my parents lived this every day. Their life wasn’t easy, neither was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Yet they MADE life easier for each other and for themselves primarily due to to the mutual respect they shared. They passed away 11 years separated in age, but at the same ripe age of 86. Maybe it was coincidence or maybe it was my fathers way of telling my mother from the afterlife that he could no longer bear being without her. I am sure they are rocking heaven right now as I write.
I learnt more about gender diversity and how to respect women from my parents than I did from anyone or anything else. They also led me to find my purpose in enabling gender diversity through my work! In 2012 I completed a book in memory of my father (Daddy’s Logic, 2012). At one of the launch events a gentleman in the audience stood up and asked me “Why no book for mum?” So I wrote another book – for mum – titled Break the ceiling touch the sky : success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women. Mum passed away that December, but the book changed my life. I researched over a 1000 women leaders and finally interviewed 43 for the book. I learnt indeed how women are holding up half the sky!
Women in senior leadership are connected to better financial performance
Companies with most women directors on their boards (compared to those with least) had 66% higher ROI, 54% higher ROE, 42% higher ROS (as early as 2007 studies)
McKinsey showed that 89 European listed companies with the highest proportions of women in senior leadership positions outperformed industry averages for the Stoxx Europe 600, with 10 percent higher return on equity, 48 percent higher EBIT (operating result)
Yet just a little over 4% of the world’s largest companies are run by women. I think my parents and you all will agree that it makes no sense and that a lot more needs to be done!!
I often hear the repeated phrase “But what can one Company or one individual do?” A lot! Here are snippets about four of the 43 women who I interviewed for the book who touched my life in a very significant way. They started with little and achieved a lot. I thought they might inspire all the women reading this post to enhanced success to break your own glass ceiling!
1) Dr. Lois Lee, Founder and CEO of “Children of the night.”: Moved on from UCLA after her research on prostitution was “disallowed” by them. Went on to persist with her research and start up America’s first sex trafficking help line. Over the last 30 years has rescued 11000 child prostitutes in America, taken them off the streets, educated them and helped rehabilitate them into society. Has become the world’s expert on helping victims of sex trafficking. Has advised Japan, Romania, Mexico, Canada, on how to set up similar programs.
Lois shared with me, “I believe my life is about making a difference. My goal has always been to take social services to the people who need it the most – the people on the street.”
2) Judith McKenna, Chief Development Officer, Walmart US: Worked for years at ASDA (now part of Walmart). In 2000 was passed over by a man for the role of Deputy Chief Financial Officer of ASDA. Devastated, but recommitted to her role at ASDA. In 2001 catapulted directly to CFO of ASDA. Went on to become COO of ASDA, overseeing 560 stores and a 34 Billion USD business. Key ambassador for TICKED PINK, the breast cancer awareness program that ASDA supports. One of Walmart’s most prolific leaders. Role model for over 1 million female employees at Walmart.
Judith shared with me, “All my life I have tried to do what I am most interested in, versus doing something that may be the most direct route to advancement. I have tried to make a unique contribution in every single role that I have taken on.”
3) Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon Limited: Could not make the grade for medical school. Started her own business – biotech Company Biocon out of a garage with 200 USD. Invested her life savings in 1980 to buy a 20 acre property for her future business. Went door to door selling to traders in India to win their business. Did so. IPO’ed in 2004 at 1.1 BILLION USD. Today employs 7000 staff, annual turnover over 500 Million USD. Multiple charitable activities including a 1400 bed cancer hospital and 9 clinics offering healthcare to 75000 patients a year.
Kiran shared with me, “There are incredible opportunities if you are willing to commit! I think glass ceilings are in people’s minds. The glass ceiling is a transparent one, so its up to you to either hallucinate that it is there or think that it is not there. BREAK IT!”
4) Joanne Soo, CEO, Ace adventure, successful at climbing Mt. Everest: Adopted by caring parents. Mum worked in the shipyard, dad as a cook and then as a school bus driver. Committed at 19 to be a climber. Worked three jobs – A full time one, McDonalds part time and a part time camp instructor. Became an entrepreneur at 29. Trained alongside to climb Mt. Everest. Successfully made it to the summit many years later (in 2009) with an all-women team from Singapore!
Joanne shared with me, “Having a clear goal has helped me stay focused despite the most challenging of circumstances. I want to live a life such that I would not have any regrets later. So I became an entrepreneur. I went full time into outdoor adventure. I stopped working for the money, and instead started working towards my dreams.”
I learnt so much from these amazing women and my parents.
Here’s how my own story panned out.
In July 2014 I published Break the ceiling touch the sky: success secrets of the worlds most inspirational women and in the last 10 months we have sold enough copies to donate royalties sufficient to support 25,000 tests for maternal anemia for underprivileged women in India via SAVE THE CHILDREN. In Sept. 2014 I moved on from Walmart to open up my own firm House of Rose Professional. Our mission is to help ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS succeed . Since then I have spoken to close to 4000 women across 45 large and small companies in Asia about the book. In May this year I determined to convert all the knowledge I had gained into Asia’s largest summit for women professionals (rather uncreatively) named after the book. Break the ceiling touch the sky 2015 – the success and leadership summit for women to be held on September 29, 2015 in Singapore! (See www.houseofroseprofessional.com for details and registration) .
PepsiCo, Fleishman Hillard, SHELL have stepped up as early sponsors. More companies are welcome to join. I have 40 of the world’s most accomplished leaders (25 announced so far) already confirmed to speak at our summit! We will have 500 participants at the summit this year.
We hope we will be doing a little bit to help women across the world who come to the summit to LEARN, NETWORK AND ACHIEVE!
So you see, great things are possible, if you just START.
And nothing stops you but YOURSELF.
Have an amazing rest-of-the-week. Would love to receive feedback from you all! And would love to see many of you on Sept 29 in Singapore.
And to my mum who is likely holding up half of the sky with all the amazing women up there in heaven, I say THANK YOU. None of this would have been possible without YOU.
Anthony A RoseBreak the ceiling touch the sky, conferences for women, gender diversity, Success secrets of most inspirational women, Women in leadership, women leadership summit