Women in compliance

Written by International Compliance Association on Sunday March 8, 2020

For International Women’s Day, we caught up with Angelia Lee, Sandra Horma and Alice Chen, who were on a 'women in compliance' panel at the 2nd Annual APAC Conference last year. They share their great insights, experiences and advice for other women in the compliance industry.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced throughout your career and as a female working in the industry?

I think the challenges are similar across industries where women are underrepresented at the highest levels. I think one of the most cited reasons for fewer women at the top is balancing work-life priorities. But this challenge applies for both men and women and shouldn't just be associated as a "female problem". Other challenges include changing and not perpetuating existing stereotypes. If you are the only woman on a team, it's important for the team not to bucket your views as being reflective of all women, and sometimes, rather than offering a unique perspective and be seen as antagonistic, some women may feel it's easier to just fit in and conform. Many women also have a tendency to justify their position and why they should have a seat at the table.
- Alice Chen

What’s the importance of gender diversity not just in the compliance industry but in general?

If I may, I would not use “gender” but rather diversity in all aspects such as ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, social status, etc. I took a healthcare compliance leadership course in INSEAD and in one of the modules, I’ve learnt that a team of diverse employees actually makes smarter and better decisions. In a Harvard Business Review [1] dated 4 th November 2016, it emphasizes that “by breaking up workplace homogeneity, employees become more aware of their own potential biases that can otherwise blind them to key information and even lead them to make errors in decision-making processes”. I can’t agree more to this statement. Many of my career years are spent working in regional headquarter offices that are cross-cultural and diversified. No doubt, there are a lot conflicts in the workplace and many people may not see eye-to-eye with one another. But when we finally align ourselves with a common goal, that is, for the patients (in the case of healthcare industry), I realize that people start to make good decisions.
- Angelia Lee

What more can companies do to encourage and enable women to enter into c-level positions?

The first thing to look at is the hiring strategy and how clear are the expectations for skills and qualifications. If people are sure they approach hiring with objective and function-based plan, then it is much more likely to end up with honest and fair decisions.
However, leadership does not start with positions, it starts with attitude and culture. One of the ways the culture can be lived is creating low-risk high-reward opportunities to involve various people onto projects and initiatives, like holding workshops and motivational talks. When people see the empowerment not limited to positions and only certain types of profiles, it creates a positive self-fulfilling loop of feedback.
In addition, continuous and strong mentorship will create long-term impact and can be one of the strongest ways to increase existing leverage of management.
- Sandra Horma

Do we need to profile more female leaders and is it a top down issue?

Profiling more female leaders can send a positive message and inspire other women to step up and believe in themselves. Countries like New Zealand, U.K., Taiwan appointed females as their country presidents or prime ministers. This may reflect a country’s culture and how accepting its society can be of female leaders. This goes the same for a company - corporate culture can be driven top-down but it can also be employee-driven. I do see and hear more female leaders are being profiled as CEOs, senior executives or in roles that have always been male-dominated. Such highlights may sometimes even boost the company’s image and trust in the public and investors.
- Angelia Lee

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The industry and attitude within it has no reason to invoke the change unless the participants enforce it, meaning, it is up to us to choose the type of companies we want to work with, leaders we follow and issues we help solve. I encourage fellow people in compliance to vote with their feet and decide for themselves as much as possible.
- Sandra Horma


Further reading:

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