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Tuesday, 21 March 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Turning glass ceiling into a staircase

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 mistake, 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.