Who are the Singaporean bankers empowering female leaders in finance?
Women still account for less than two per cent of C-suite roles in financial institutions worldwide, but Laura Hwang And Tan Su Shan are two local bankers who have paved the way for their fellow womankind in the competitive world of finance.
When Laura Hwang became the first Singaporean managing director of international merchant bank Arbuthnot Latham Asia in 1984, she made the news. Her appointment was even more significant as she was the first woman to head a bank in what was then a male-dominated sector.
“While many men in the industry were initially wary of dealing with a woman, I took it as my responsibility to change their attitude as best I could through my performance,” she said.
Not only is Hwang a female pioneer in the Singapore banking industry, she also champions women’s rights.
During her tenure as president of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations from 2011 to 2014, she led the organisation in motivating changes to the Women’s Charter by improving the legal and support frameworks for divorced women and families.
As Singapore’s representative to the Asean Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, she has also inspired change on a policy level across the region.
“While many men in the industry were initially wary of dealing with a woman, I took it as my responsibility to change their attitude as best I could through my performance.” – Laura Hwang
“Taking on this role is most satisfying to me because it also showcases Singapore’s leading role for women’s leadership,” shared the director of private investment firm, Linyi Investments.
While there has been significant progress towards gender equality in the workplace in recent decades, women still account for less than two per cent of C-suite roles in financial institutions worldwide, according to a 2018 study by the International Monetary Fund. Moreover, they still boast a presence of less than 20 per cent in the executive boardrooms of the banking industry.
Taking the baton from Hwang is Tan Su Shan, group head of institutional banking at DBS.
“I grew up in a trading room environment where it was all-male and they were saying things and yelling vulgarities at each other. You either join them or you don’t,” Tan shared in a 2015 interview with Singapore Tatler. Having been in the finance industry for the past three decades, Tan admitted that it was tough when she first started out but she made sure that she was never bullied because of her gender.
“Technically, I am as good as any other guy, so don’t think that I come in not knowing my numbers.”
Tan considers it important to send the elevator back down and help groom young female leaders. In 2001, she co-founded the Financial Women’s Association Singapore, which provides mentorship programmes for budding women leaders in the financial sector.
“The team and I have always been very vocal about the renewal of leadership. A part of our agenda is to enable younger women to come in, try, and succeed.”
“I grew up in a trading room environment where it was all-male and they were saying things and yelling vulgarities at each other. You either join them or you don’t.” – Tan Su Shan