Inspirational Female Leader In The New Age
Female leaders are no longer a novelty. In many countries, women have been entrusted with major positions in the state apparatus or in large companies. An interesting conversation with Pamela Phua, new general director of AkzoNobel Vietnam, will help us discover the greatness in modern female leadership.
What do you think is the role of women’s leadership in modern society? What challenges and opportunities await female leaders?
I think the most important role of a female leader is to do her job well for all female and male colleagues. When running the company, she needs to break the barrier to inspire employees, helping them maximise their capacity. Female leaders always come up with different approaches to solve problems in a flexible way to encourage people’s interactions and cooperation in a diverse environment.
Many female leaders are important representatives in creating greater social impact on income equality, changing workplace policies that favour both men and women in order to attract more talent. The biggest problem today is that women are still facing the untrue prejudice from the past that being a leader is too challenging for women.
Social and cultural moulds tell a woman to stay at home to do housework and take care of her family. Even when a woman goes to work, she has to work twice as hard to gain recognition. And, of course, there is the problem of income disparity.
The community, society, and the government have begun to realise the importance of eliminating these prejudices and this is a great time for women to express themselves, helping women move forward and make a difference.
How has your work inspired and motivated you to stand where you are now, as a leader in research and development (R&D) with a long list of achievements?
My initial role at AkzoNobel was in R&D. Considering that I majored in industrial chemistry, this was a natural starting point for me. I have been the director of R&D teams at the SESAME (South East South Asia Middle East) region as well as the director of the Global Exterior Wall Paints Expertise & Research Group over the last 12 and 7 years, respectively.
Over the past 20 years, we have developed numerous new and exciting products and innovations that are commercially successful, environmentally friendly, and sustainable. Some examples include the popular Dulux Weathershield, Powerflexx, and Easyclean which are high-performance products using environmentally friendly ingredients.
Besides the hard work and long hours put in by our R&D department, the support and collaboration from all other departments was just as crucial. It is also important to sincerely believe in what you do and this enthusiasm and passion will inspire others to work towards the same goal. This often means we can achieve amazing things together.
As a woman, it is probably easier for me to create a friendly, warm, open, and collaborative working environment where everyone can look forward to coming to work every day. This is an environment where everyone can speak their mind and be passionate about what they do. This should also be a place for continuous learning to stimulate curiosity and creativity. In a learning space like this, teams will give their best and become achievers.
Training and nurturing talent in the company is also important for both the personal development of employees and the continued success of the company. We have spent many years searching and fostering talented individuals in the field of R&D to benefit the company’s business development. Fostering talents regularly will ensure the long-term sustainability that our company aims for.
With the important leadership positions that you have filled, could you share some of your successful leadership experiences?
Since last year, I have taken over as the general director of Decorative Paints in Vietnam. We have achieved the highest operating income in the region, and more importantly, the highest growth rate in the world. This is testament to the fact that this is an area of exponential growth and AkzoNobel is investing heavily in this region.
The belief that AkzoNobel has in the region further motivates my team and me to expand and accelerate our business throughout Vietnam and the Indochina region. According to a recent field survey, AkzoNobel is already the top paint manufacturer in Vietnam, but we are confident that we can bring it to an even higher level in the years to come.
I hope my success, my passion, and my resilience will inspire young people in Vietnam and around the world to enjoy and be passionate about what they do, to be creative, and come up with good ideas and good products to achieve a brighter and better future for all of us. That, to me, is truly what (woman) leadership is all about.