Turn­ing glass ceil­ing into a stair­case

CIMB In­vest­ment Bank’s CEO be­lieves that women are as ca­pa­ble as men

The Star Malaysia - - Nation - By S. In­dra­malar news­desk@thes­tar.com.my

PE­TAL­ING JAYA: Where oth­ers see a glass ceil­ing, CIMB In­vest­ment Bank Bhd’s CEO Datuk Kong Sooi Lin sees a grand stair­case lead­ing to great op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“And I al­ways say I’ll wear my best pair of heels as I climb this stair­case,” says Kong.

“I strongly be­lieve that women and men are equally ca­pa­ble at the work­place. Both have to work hard in order to move up. The dif­fer­ence is women have mul­ti­ple roles to jug­gle. This makes it more chal­leng­ing,” she says.

Kong points out that while there is a high en­rol­ment of women in ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions and the work­place, their num­ber dwin­dles in the higher lev­els of man­age­ment.

“Some­where along the way, we see women leav­ing the work­force. Why? Be­cause many find it hard to cope with their mul­ti­ple roles.

“This is the tal­ent pool we are not tap­ping. I am no dif­fer­ent but I some­how found a way to man­age these mul­ti­ple roles,” says Kong, who has been with CIMB for 25 years.

She urges women to have a clear list of pri­or­i­ties for work and for life. And with this in hand, they have to per­se­vere through the chal­lenges that are bound to come their way.

“Over the years, I have said that we can’t sweat the small stuff. We have to look at the big pic­ture, fo­cus on what needs to be done and per­se­vere.

“When you fall, and you will fall, you just have to pick your­self up and move on. If you’ve made a mis- take, recog­nise it and move on. Don’t beat your­self up about it and don’t try to be­have like a man. Be a woman with our own unique strengths,” says Kong, who has three daugh­ters.

Kong knew from a very young age that she wanted a ca­reer in com­merce.

Her ear­li­est in­flu­ence was her mother who was good at man­ag­ing fi­nances, and Kong learnt about bank­ing and bal­anc­ing ac­counts from young.

She was so sure fi­nance would be her ca­reer path that she asked for a trans­fer from the sci­ence to the com­merce stream when she was in Form Four.

She went on to pur­sue her de­gree in fi­nance and eco­nom­ics in Aus­tralia. Kong worked briefly in Aus­tralia but she wanted to come home to “build her ca­reer”.

“Some of my friends and fam­ily thought I was crazy. It was the late 1980s and we were in a re­ces­sion. But I wanted to come back and I got a job in Ernst and Whin­ney (now known as Ernst and Young),” says Kong.

She at­tributes her suc­cess to this con­fi­dence and clear vi­sion of what she wanted. Kong’s fam­ily is also al­ways push­ing her to reach for the stars.

“My great­est sup­porter is my hus­band who is al­ways telling me to punch through the walls. It’s the same with my daugh­ters ... when they were grow­ing up, I asked them if I was there enough for them. But they al­ways as­sured me they were fine,” she shares, adding that her par­ents and col­leagues were also in­stru­men­tal in her be­ing able to chase her dreams.

On March 26, Kong will be shar­ing her sto­ries with other women trail­blaz­ers at the WOW – Women do Won­ders Talk & Bazaar at SEGi Univer­sity, Kota Da­mansara.

Mod­er­ated by WOMEN:girls founder Low Ngai Yuen, the panel will also fea­ture pro­ducer/ac­tress Puan Sri Tiara Jac­quelina, Pure­lyB founder Jes­rina Ar­shad and Car­ing Moms co-founder Ma­jor Shera Ann Bosco.

AirAsia X Bhd chair­man Tan Sri Rafi­dah Aziz and AirAsia Bhd CEO Aireen Omar will also be speak­ing on that day. There will also be a show­case by Hong Kong en­ter­tainer Maria Cordero.

AirAsia is the main spon­sor of the WOW – Women do Won­ders cam­paign.

Bank­able ad­vice: Kong urges women to per­se­vere through the chal­lenges that are bound to come their way.

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