Break glass ceiling with achievement
Global female leaders, who gathered for an international conference in Seoul, said women need passion, hard work and achievements not words to smash the “glass ceiling.”
Lee Bae-yong, chairwoman of the Presidential Council on National Branding and former president of Ewha Womans University, opened the session of the Global Women’s Leadership Conference titled "Women Leaders in Asia: Break Glass Ceiling and Leading Change” on Monday
"There are female presidents, prime ministers, CEOs and university presidents across the world now. Women have become distinguished in various fields including politics, business, education and culture," Lee said. "The growth of women's role in society is explosive and there is only one thing left ― smashing the glass ceiling."
Lee said breaking the glass ceiling is important because it would make women's issues included in the final decision making process.
“Women leaders are relay runners who have to convey the passion to the country, devotion to the world and hope for the women of the next generation,” Lee said.
Five panelists participated in the second discussion of the conference: Emily Lau, member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong; Cho Yoon-sun, a Korean assembly woman; Park Mee-sok, president of the International Women and Family Foundation; and Nurul Izzah Anwar, member of the Lower House of the Malaysian Parliament.
Najla Al-Awadhi, keynote speaker of the second session, is from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Al-Awadhi is one of the first women and the youngest in the UAE to be a member of its parliament. She also serves as the CEO of Channels at Dubai Media Incorporated and writes columns for Gulf News, the English newspaper in the UAE.
“As women in Asia, there is a common thread that binds us, and our solutions will be an innovative and dynamic combination of our collective experiences and ideas,” she said.
Al-Awadhi said the glass ceiling comes from the societal subconscious and mindset about the natural gender roles of men and women and it is the primary glass ceiling and most difficult to break, especially for the women in Asia.
"When I became a member of Parliament, many people said behind my back that I was too young and I did not know much about politics and the world," she said. "I did not answer. I stayed focused and passionate for the things I believe in and I worked very hard. After four years in Parliament, my major critics have no choice but to respect me and my opinions, because they have seen me working."
The young politician and entrepreneur said women have to be innovative enough to see that a new reality for women is possible and attainable. “You break the glass ceiling not with words, but with hard work, ethics and achievements in life,” she said.
Many Asian countries ranked low in terms of gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Report released annually by The World Economic Forum.
Korea is no exception. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Employment and Labor in March showed that 48 percent of office workers said gender bias is still a serious problem in Korea, despite 81 percent saying sexual discrimination in their work life had improved.
Only 6 percent of executive positions of companies with more than 500 employees are filled with women. This is relatively low compared to the average women's employment rate of 33 percent and more than 70 percent of companies did not have any female executives.