In support of International Women’s Day, Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec, President of the INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business, captured some thoughts on IWD from Jaz Athenia Chua TIEMBA’16Jan, Business Operations Director, Growth Markets, Paypal, and current President of the Association.
“Hmm, that’s a good question,” mused Jaz, her eyes twinkling, as I asked her what experiences made her the Jaz that we know now. “I think I was fortunate to grow up in Singapore,” she said, after some thought. “Here, we are quite lucky – I never felt that my gender got in the way of competing against boys.”
Jaz was a math whizz, who took Additional Mathematics in middle school years, and often tutored her peers. On top of her school work, she developed a strong personality and discipline, as an alumnus of Hwa Chong Institution, National University of Singapore, and later INSEAD. This would stand her well.
“INSEAD was an eye opener,” she shared. The diversity of background, ethnicities and ways of thinking opened up her perspectives. However, “going international” had its own quirks. Classmates from all over the world saw gender differently. She began to appreciate how women were treated differently from men in different cultures, from very conservative norms where female classmates’ opinions were ignored, to daily micro-sexisms that were meant to be flattery.
Although she had not grown up in those environments, this sparked Jaz’ passion to change the way things were. This eventually led her to join the INSEAD Women In Business (WiB) Alumni Club in Singapore, and led her to her current presidency.
“Choose To Challenge is close to my heart,” she said. Jaz tapped her finger gently twice on the table, listing the 2 things that she would champion and choose to challenge: unconscious bias and gendered roles. These affected everyone to the detriment of the society they live in. It could colour the way people were hired, the way people perceived themselves as being good enough, the way money and property changed hands, and even national institutions. More than that, it could create an invisible barrier which women had to continuously strain against, just to be on equal footing.
“I support this year’s IWD theme of #choosetochallenge together with our fellow alumni across the world,” Jaz beamed.