Cover The nominees for the Front & Female Awards Hong Kong 2022 (Photos: Affa Chan/Tatler)

Ahead of the Front & Female Awards ceremony on December 2, we announce the 20 nominated individuals championing the progress of women in Hong Kong

In August this year, we opened public nominations for our inaugural Front & Female Awards. The response was phenomenal and the amazing women brought to our attention truly inspiring. It was a challenge to whittle down the nominees, but below you will find the shortlist of the 20 individuals supporting and driving the progress of women, as demonstrated by launching or growing an initiative in the past 18 months with impact predominantly in Hong Kong. 

On December 2 in a live ceremony, we will announce the six winners of the first Front & Female Awards taken from this list of nominees and identified with the help of our expert voting committee, which is comprised of some of the most influential female leaders in Hong Kong from sectors that span business, philanthropy and public service. 

We spoke to our nominees ahead of the Awards to find out what inspires them, the challenges they have overcome, their advice for the next generation and what success means to them.

1. Libby Alexander

Libby Alexander is co-founder, CEO and the driving force behind Splash, which teaches under-resourced communities, particularly migrant domestic workers, how to swim. Its free programmes not only provide training that can save lives, but empower women and create community. Many of those who learn to swim with Splash—92 per cent of whom graduate from the programme—go on to become coaches within the organisation, while almost all have learnt to swim, float and be comfortable in water, taking away with them skills they can pass on to their families. This year, Splash launched a free Learn to Swim video series on YouTube to expand its reach.

Who inspires you?

Libby Alexander: Splashers are the obvious choice. There is such an enormous fear factor when learning how to swim and yet they put their heart and soul into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On top of that, they give so much back to Splash so that more people can learn. It is true that often those who have the least, give the most.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

LA: I want Splash to become a global organisation. There are over 4 billion people who don’t know how to swim. Splash is such a simple, effective model that can work anywhere. We haven’t invented anything new—we are just connecting the resources that already exist. Learning to swim is a life skill that keeps people safe, but, more importantly, it empowers and connects people.

What does success mean to you?

LA: In my mind, there is no better feeling than watching other people succeed and knowing you played a part in that. That is success for me.

Related: Libby Alexander Is Helping Hong Kong’s Underserved Communities Learn To Swim—And Is Ready To Take On the World

2. Francesca Ayala

Comedienne Francesca Ayala is the co-founder of Bitches in Stiches, an all-femme stand-up comedy troupe in Hong Kong that seeks to champion inclusivity and create community within the city’s comedy scene through jokes that challenge gender biases and turn laughter into empowerment. Since the troupe’s first show in April 2021, the collective has sold out 21 consecutive shows and more than doubled the number of regular performers (exclusive of guest performers) in the line-up.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome? 

Francesca Ayala: Evolving Bitches in Stitches from being a show with an all-female lineup into a community of performers focused on supporting each other. It’s one thing to sell tickets, but ultimately we want more femmes to learn about and get involved in the Hong Kong comedy scene. This requires a lot of effort, but so does anything that makes an impact.

What advice would you share with other women? 

FA: Lift as you climb. I struggled getting to where I am in life, but this doesn’t give me license to be an obstacle to another woman's growth. There’s so much more we can achieve when we work together.

What is your greatest strength? 

FA: Empathy. I used to care only about being heard, but it is exhausting and ineffective. There’s so much more to be gained from listening.

Related: How Hong Kong’s First All-Femme Comedian Group Turns Laughter Into Empowerment

3. Claudia Chanhoi

Illustrator Claudia Chanhoi uses her art to encourage positive conversation around female sexuality. Most recently, she been commissioned by global sexual wellness brand Lelo to create works addressing attitudes to health and intimacy, including an outdoor mural in Sheung Wan promoting female sexual pleasure. She has also worked with Hong Kong charity Teen’s Key on a limited edition T-shirt to promote positive sex education and raise funds to help young women in crisis, including those who work in the sex industry, and was part of a charity art exhibition with Hong Kong gynaecological cancer charity Karen Leung Foundation.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years? 

Claudia Chanhoi: I hope to encourage more open and honest conversations about the taboo subjects and help not just women, but everybody to own their sexuality with a positive attitude without shame and disgust.

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls? 

CC: There will always be someone telling you “no” to things that you are passionate about or things that you want to achieve in your life. Never seek anyone’s approval because you are the only one who is responsible for your own happiness at the end of day.

What does success mean to you? 

CC: Success means that I get to do what I love 100 percent and my work has a positive impact on people.

Related: Claudia Chanoi's Unique Art Normalises the Idea of Women Expressing Sexual Desire

4. Olivia Cotes-James

Olivia Cotes-James is founder and CEO of Luüna, a health and wellness company changing the way we approach, understand and support hormone health, from menstruation to menopause. Luüna fosters social and environmental impact through sustainable product innovation, educational programmes and policy development. It is the first local brand to be sold at major mainstream retailers and its programmes and policies are in place at global companies, schools and universities around the world, reimagining the workplace to create a more equitable future for all.

Who inspires you and why?

Olivia Cotes-James: I am inspired by my mentor, Maaike Steinebach. She has reached amazing heights in her corporate career, alongside now making valuable contributions to the femtech industry, which she, like me, is deeply passionate about in relation to advancing sexual, reproductive and menstrual health. But to me, she is truly an inspiration because, alongside advancing in her career, she is relentlessly supportive of other women, uplifting so many others—myself included—along the way.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

OC-J: Our goal in five years is to have deeply shifted social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation, menopause and other important life stages through product innovation and policy development. We want to be recognised as a company that was pivotal in changing attitudes around how our bodies are seen, understood and supported, redefining the category to empower our community at every life stage.

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls?

OC-J: When you feel like you don’t have a seat at the table, build a new table.

Related: Luüna Naturals Founder Olivia Cotes-James Wants You To Reframe the Relationship You Have With Menstruation

5. Nicole Denholder

Women-led startups receive less than three per cent of venture capital funding. It’s a figure that Nicole Denholder seeks to address through Next Chapter Raise, a digital platform and funding ecosystem that connects female founders with the knowledge, tools and education—as well as the investors—that they need to raise funds and accelerate their businesses. Nicole is also co-founder of Sophia, a financial education platform that launched in January 2022 to drive female financial literacy and address the gender wealth and investing gaps.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

Nicole Denholder: I want to double the amount of capital that goes to women (currently only three per cent of capital goes to women). 

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls?

ND: Life is short, so don’t wait or worry about doing something. Just go out and do it.   

What does success mean to you?

ND: Making an impact on communities while achieving financial success. 

Related: Sophia Wants Women to Learn About Money and Prioritise Their Financial Wellness

6. Jen Flowers

Jen Flowers is dedicated to empowering women, both internally at HSBC where she works as global head of customer intelligence and partnerships, and externally. A member of the HSBC Balance steering committee and part of the Male Allies team, she is committed to influencing HSBC senior leaders to ensure gender equity across the organisation, while also contributing her spare time to mentor younger members of the company. Externally, she was a founding member of TEDxShanghaiWomen, and is the co-chair and licensee for TEDxTinHauWomen.

Who inspires you and why?

Jen Flowers: My older sister. She lost not only our parents, but her fiancé passed away right before their wedding. She then went on to do IVF, find a sperm donor (twice), buy a house, have two kids on her own while excelling in a demanding sales role. She is an absolute legend and still treats me like I am five years old.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years? 

JF: I want to continue to grow communities, network, make introductions, and do all that I can to help inspire women (and everyone really) to come out of their shell and share their amazing stories. But more importantly I want to be a good wife, mother and friend so the impact matters.

What advice would you share with other women? 

JF: Never forget to laugh, sing and cry with loved ones. We don’t have it right all the time—our jokes may not be funny, our tune may be off, our tears may be silly, but you never need to be alone. Find your people and be strong for them, and—just as importantly—let them be strong for you (and laugh at you too).

Related: These Are the Most Popular TEDWomen and TEDxTinHauWomen Talks

7. Ines Gafsi

Ines Gafsi is co-founder of Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW), the largest business platform for female founders and business executives in Asia with a mission to empower women with the essential skills and networks to help them grow both personally and professionally. This year FEW launched a new three-month accelerator to bridge the female funding gap, providing female founders with access to mentors, investors and other resources. Ines is also the Country Chair for Inspiring Girls, which launched its role model campaign in February to inspire girls through female role models.

Who is your hero and why?

Ines Gafsi: I have many heroes, but I am particularly a fan of women like Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, who are challenging the status quo. Following your gut feeling and standing for your own beliefs has always been my motto. I am a critical thinker and I tend to challenge everything that does not feel right—the world is in constant evolution and we should not take what is given to us at face value, but question things, adapt and sprinkle compassion along the way.

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls?

IG: Believe in your dreams and dream big. The road to success is full of setbacks, but building your self-esteem and resilience early is the key.

What does success mean to you?

IG: Success is living life with purpose, having a positive impact on others and inspiring more kindness in our complicated world.

Related: 8 Female-Led Startups Making the World a Better Place

8. Christine Gardener

A senior partner and counsellor at Oasis Hong Kong Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Christine Gardener has been offering pro-bono services to women survivors of human trafficking in Hong Kong, working with a number of related NGOs to confidentially provide support and mental health awareness to these vulnerable women, many of whom are suffering from trauma, in order to help them find a renewed identity and face their perpetrators and their past as they embark on a new path to freedom.

Who inspires you and why?

Christine Gardener: The person who inspires me the most is Victor Frankl. Frankl was a Jewish survivor of the holocaust and a psychiatrist who developed a theory of meaning and unavoidable suffering during his time in Nazi concentration camps. He founded Logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that describes a search for life’s meaning as an essential human motivational force. Frankl completely reshaped my approach to therapy with his optimistic hope for humanity to find their greatest meaning out of life’s hardest challenges. In the work I do with asylum seekers, refugees, and those caught in human trafficking, I have seen first hand how hope can emerge when meaning in life is addressed. Frankl has given birth to my own meaning and purpose in life, which is to help others discover theirs.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

CG: I want to dedicate myself to the ongoing work of helping women in need in our city through growing our counselling services at Oasis, training and raising up a new generation of Logotherapy counsellors, and expanding our work to equip women survivors to become a source of support and help to others.

What advice would you share with other women?

CG: Adversity will always be a reality in your life. What will make you thrive is not avoiding adversity and the pain that comes with it, but confronting it and discovering through it your life’s purpose and meaning.

9. Vivien Khoo

Dedicated to supporting the development of women in digital finance, Vivien Khoo is the founder of both SatoshiWomen, which supports women in getting the same access as men to knowledge, opportunity and resources to fully participate in the blockchain and digital assets space, and Web3Women (W3W), which aims to bridge the gap for professional females to move into Web3 and especially cryptocurrency and achieve senior level roles.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?

Vivien Khoo: There have been many, from managing things out of the 2008 financial crisis, to the recent transition of my career (after being a senior compliance professional in a large investment bank for two decades) into the crypto industry. I am overcoming one as we speak with the recent events in the crypto market and how to continue push forward the agenda in building a sustainable and trusted ecosystem for the industry.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

VK: Personally I think whether someone is making an impact needs to be defined by others  but I plan to stick with the core of what I have been doing with my core principles to continue to push boundaries and explore new ways to doing things.

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls?

VK: Take your future in your own hands—there is no Prince Charming—and stop trying to find someone to idolise. Money and power can make people blind, there is no compromise when it comes to integrity and reputation.

Related: Why Vivien Khoo Wants Women to Go All-In on Crypto

10. Bowie Lam

Through her charity Teen’s Key, Bowie Lam works with abused young women and girls. Focused on addressing young women’s sexual and reproductive health, not only does Bowie offer holistic treatment to young women in crisis, including education and other services to learn about their health and rights and have the support, but her work has seen her rescue girls from gangsters and the sex industry and allowed them to find alternative work. Teen’s Key struggles with funding as many corporates don’t want to be involved in such work.

Who inspires you and why?

Bowie Lam: Yuet Lin Yim, the founder of a Hong Kong Sex worker advocacy group, Ziteng. She is so dedicated to empowering sex workers in Hong Kong.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

BL: To empower more young women and girls, especially those who are in difficult situations or from grassroots backgrounds, so they can achieve their dreams.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

BL: “Write it down or it doesn’t exist”, from University of Chicago professor Linda Ginzel. Good ideas fly away so easily if we don’t write them down.

Related: Meet Bowie Lam: An Advocate for Hong Kong's Sex Workers

11. Mahnaz Lee

Mahnaz Lee’s charity Women Helping Women Hong Kong aims to increase awareness of gender-based violence and improve the lives of women and children who have been subjected to physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The pandemic has seen a sharp increase in domestic violence that Lee sought to address with the introduction of a new 18-month programme in conjunction with Hong Kong Family Welfare Society to further support these women and children particularly in the districts most prone to this increase in violence. She also hosted a charity concert in August 2021 to raise money for her cause.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?

Mahnaz Lee: The greatest challenge for me is to be the voice for women that can’t speak out for themselves about domestic violence and abuse.

Who inspires you and why?

ML: I am inspired by those who selflessly dedicate their time and effort to help those in need in their community. Because the change starts with all of us.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years? 

ML: I would like to contribute to the betterment of underprivileged families and their children in Hong Kong through creating various programmes for youth and their parents to have harmonious family relationships and to learn to deal with their social and psychological issues.

Related: NGO Founder Mahnaz Lee On Her Decade Of Helping The City’s Most Vulnerable

12. Alicia Lui

Alicia Lui is the founder of Women in Sport Empowered (Wise), which seeks to engage women and girls in sport as a means to grow personally and professionally and support both physical and mental health. With programmes aimed to increase participation in sport for underserved communities, she works with local schools to promote the benefits of sport. Last year, she launched the SHE (Sports, Health Empowerment) mentorship programme to connect female working adults with female students to use sport as a tool for professional development.

Who is your hero and why?

Alicia Lui: I have two, both of whom play tennis, even though I’m not a tennis player myself. The first is Billie Jean King, because she started the Women’s Sport Foundation (WSF) in the US and that organisation was my first exposure to a not-for-profit that focuses on using sport and physical activity as the vehicle to advance women and girls. If I hadn’t come across WSF, I wouldn’t have realised that it was possible to do something like this—which says so much about the importance of visibility and having opportunities to be exposed to new ideas.

The second is Serena Williams, for all the systemic barriers (such as gender, socio-economic and race) she’s had to overcome to get to where she is. Not only that, but she’s also a mother, an investor and an entrepreneur, and to me it is so inspirational to see she can use her voice and platform to advocate for social justice and to be “more than” an athlete. I truly believe that we all wear multiple hats in life and she’s able to navigate all these parts of her so gracefully.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

AL: I think of it in terms of what I would like to leave behind. I’d love to get to a stage where women and girls can stand on an equal platform in sports in Hong Kong. What that means is women and girls having the same opportunities and resources to participate and engage in physical activity in ways that meet their needs and desires and can find belonging, community and meaning in doing so. And because sport is a part of society, I hope this translates into opportunities to participate societally and to be valued and recognised for those contributions. I’m going to keep finding ways to contribute to this agenda.

What does success mean to you?

AL: Being able to show up every day in the world courageously and proudly, as well as having meaning, fulfilment and supportive relationships.

Related: Alicia Lui Is Using Sport to Empower Women and Girls in Hong Kong

13. Kay McArdle

A lack of access to legal information and support disproportionately impacts women. This is something that Kay McArdle, former CEO of PathFinders, is seeking to address through her charitable initiative Equal Justice Limited, which provides free legal education, information and support, especially to marginalised communities. The organisation’s recent initiative, an award-winning interactive, trilingual portal, PAT: Pregnant @ Work is a resource to help women navigate getting pregnant at work, and is just one example of the way the organisation seeks to close the justice poverty gap.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

Kay McArdle: I’d like law to be taken out of the books and into people’s hands and phones. Fully accessible, regardless of social or economic status. And that’s what the team and I are working towards at Equal Justice.

All Hong Kong people, and especially disadvantaged people, should be able to anticipate, prevent and solve their legal problems, regardless of their ability to pay legal fees. In the cases we see, the inability to identify and solve legal problems can be existential and has a multiplier and devastating effect on the health and welfare of the people we help.

For me, not knowing the law is a bit like having a new computer and no operating manual—but this is your life! Knowing the law is always important and becomes critical when life goes wrong.

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls?

KM: If someone says something is too hard or impossible, do it anyway. Life is not a straight road, so enjoy the bumps. Equal Justice just turned two, despite launching during Covid.

What does success mean to you?

KM: For me, success means three things: having a healthy and happy family—my heart physically aches when things go wrong or I have not seen them for a while; having a few good friends; and doing meaningful work with and for people who challenge and inspire me.

14. Fiona Nott

Fiona Nott is a long-time champion for the progress of women. As CEO of The Women’s Foundation (TWF), she has established a number of initiatives to empower women and advance gender equality, from the Male Allies programme to the Boardroom Series for Women Leaders. More recently, she took the Girls Go Tech programme online to expand its reach and worked to support women who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Nott is a member of 30 Percent Club Hong Kong, which along with TWF has been leading advocacy that in 2021 resulted in new regulations from the HKEX on board gender diversity and will open up more than 1,000 board positions for women in the next three years.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?  

Fiona Nott: I want our city to think bigger and aim higher and see how gender equality benefits everyone. I want a future where everyone has access to the same tools, resources and opportunities; where we see happier families, a thriving economy, more innovative and satisfying workplaces; a society without gender-based violence or harassment, where women are equally represented at all levels of leadership, and where children and adults don't feel constrained by their gender to dress, speak or act in a specific way. 

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls? 

FN: The world needs you. We are facing urgent, complex global issues that require new talent and fresh perspective. Your generation has the creativity, innovation and immense capacity to acquire the skills of the future, to lead in spaces yet unimagined and to seek out new ways for all of us to live equal, inclusive, meaningful lives. Believe in your talent, your strengths and your ability to change this world for the better. 

What does success mean to you?

FN: Finding your North Star, having the courage to tread your own path and empowering others to be leaders who can change the world. 

15. Lucinda Pike

Lucinda Pike is the executive director of Enrich, which empowers migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong to achieve financial literacy by educating and providing them with the necessary competencies to get out of debt, be financially independent and manage their resources for a better future. Lucinda has been instrumental in lobbying donors, activating volunteers and providing support to domestic helpers, particularly in response to the pandemic, which saw her pivot to digital channels for delivery of workshops and classes, and co-ordinate with other NGOs to support helpers kicked out by their employers during Covid restrictions in Hong Kong.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?

Lucinda Pike: Coping with the sudden death of my mum when I was 24. We were very close and life changed irrevocably. I had to learn how to live with and recalibrate around grief on a very different level. But, it spurred me on to the things I had always wanted to do: to follow my passion for women’s rights. My mum was made redundant whilst pregnant with me, took her employers to court for unfair dismissal and won, so it’s fair to say women’s rights and equality have been important to me from a very young age.

Who inspires you and why?

LP: MacKenzie Scott is currently inspiring me with her approach to philanthropy, through giving out large amounts of unrestricted funding to charities, often supporting underserved communities. A lot of funding is often restricted (ie tied to specific projects), but the way she is giving unrestricted funds, trusting charities to use the money how they best see fit to serve their communities, and on this scale, is remarkable. We need big and bold philanthropy to solve the challenges the world faces.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

LP: I’m driven to improve women’s rights and access to education, so in the next five years I want to ensure more women and girls have access to education and life skills, so that they can reach their full potential but above all, make their own choices. Women’s rights to me are about being able to make your own choices, whether that's a woman’s financial decisions, reproductive rights, legal rights or otherwise, and I want to see more women able to make their own choices.

16. Stephanie Poelman

Stephanie Poelman, owner and managing director of Pherform Gym, is on a mission to empower women to be stronger tomorrow, both physically and mentally, than they were today. Her welcoming women-only gym offers progressive training programmes, education on habit building and emphasises prioritising women’s own health to benefit those around them. Led by Poelman, Pherform was able to pivot effortlessly to online classes during the various pandemic waves that saw many other fitness spaces struggle, while maintaining a supportive environment for its community.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

Stephanie Poelman: My biggest priority is to lead by example and educate women on the importance that strength training plays in our mental, physical and emotional well-being. 

What is your greatest strength?

SP: Having an incredibly positive perspective towards life and people and being optimistic. It certainly wasn’t always like that, but through time and consistency it became a strength.

What does success mean to you?

SP: Two of my life values are to leave a legacy and lead with integrity. As long as I continue to move towards fulfilling both of these I am successful.

17. Manisha Wijesinghe

Help for Domestic Workers was a lifesaver for many migrant domestic workers during Hong Kong’s fifth wave. Led by Manisha Wijesinghe, Help raised HKD1.2 million to support domestic workers impacted by Covid-19. Aside from its crisis response, Help works to ensure migrant domestic workers have access to justice and receive fair and equal treatment in Hong Kong, from offering advice and assistance, to providing education to support the (predominantly) female workforce that is the backbone of Hong Kong’s society, caring for children, pets and households to allow many other women to go out to work. 

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?

Manisha Wijesinghe: Coming to terms with my mental health. At 26, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. While the diagnosis didn’t come as too much of a surprise, it was a moment where I had to face many difficult truths. Being vulnerable and leaning on others for support were incredibly difficult, yet important, life lessons I learnt during this time in my life.

As I was diagnosed early on in my professional career, understanding what was important to me and learning to prioritise happiness was tough. Mental health was always whispered about, never spoken aloud, and rarely did anyone openly share their personal experiences in the workplace. I still remember the sheer panic that I would have about someone finding out about my mental health struggles. Learning how to move from that fear to being comfortable with myself and my challenges, to now being able to openly talk about it, has been life-changing and made me who I am today.   

Who is your hero and why?

MW: My mother taught me everything I know about resilience in the face of immense adversity. She was a woman of strength who instilled in me the values that I still hold dear. Growing up, it was my mum and I against the world. As a single parent who was widowed when I was less than a year old, my mother faced a lot of pressures from society and extended family. She made tremendous sacrifices to give me the best life she could afford, despite the many hardships during my formative years. This is why I work for the empowerment of women and children, especially to support women trapped in impossible situations and give them courage to rebuild their lives.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

MW: Pay it forward. This is advice I’ve received from many people in my life, starting with my mum. Growing up in a single parent household of humble means, I benefited from the generosity and kindness of so many people, often strangers. Every time I was supported by someone, my mum reminded me that in the future, I should do the same to someone else who was struggling. Now, as an adult, I realise how important this lesson was, and it has become a guiding principle in my life. We are all where we are because someone somewhere has supported, advised or mentored us. Therefore, it is our responsibility to support others in their journeys.

18. Lena Wong

An advocate for supporting women in business, Lena Wong is the founder of Hong Kong Momtrepreneurs, a non-profit that supports mothers on their entrepreneurial journey, and director of impact for 100 Women in Finance, a role in which she encourages more young women to choose careers in finance particularly through mentorship programmes. Most recently, she co-founded Womentors, to build better workplaces for professional women, ensuring they remain active in the workforce amidst their changing needs.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

Lena Wong: With my continuous efforts in the sustainability and DEI journey, I would like to empower more mothers via entrepreneurship and inspire more women by breaking stereotypes and combating unconscious biases.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

LW: My Chinese teacher once taught me, I should act like a bronze coin: round outside but square inside, with strong core values and beliefs but remain agile and accommodating.  

What does success mean to you?

LW: To create impact and empower more people around me. More importantly, it is to be part of the solution that helps make the world a better place. 

19. Christine Yu

With a passion for financial inclusion, female financial literacy and gender lens investing, Christine Yu is set on empowering other women in their careers and their financial empowerment journeys. She is the co-founder of non-profit Girls Just Wanna Have Fund$, which achieved charitable status in 2021 and is focused on closing the gender investing gap, and is the co-founder of financial education platform Sophia, which launched in January 2022 to help women gain the knowledge and confidence to take control of their financial futures.

Who inspires you and why?

Christine Yu: As a woman in finance, I didn’t have too many female role models when I was coming up through the ranks. Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck has been an inspiration to me. When she left Wall Street to launch Ellevest, a female-focused asset management firm, it really struck a chord with me. She faced numerous challenges when she was in the banking world. Yet, she re-wrote the script on her career and inspired a generation of women to create wealth through Ellevest. Krawcheck has changed the way we’re all thinking and talking about the gender investing gap. This is incredibly inspiring and empowering to me.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

CY: I want to see hundreds of thousands of women start investing and building wealth because of the message I’m trying to spread. I want to see Sophia grow from strength to strength and make a dent in the gender investing gap. I want to see the finance and wealth management industry become more inclusive and democratised through the work I’m doing with Sophia. The world is changing—but not fast enough. I want to help usher in that change.

What does success mean to you?

CY: If I have inspired you to do something great with your life, if I helped you own your financial future, if I have mentored you to become a leader in your career, if I have created positive change in the world through my actions—that’s what success means to me.

20. Jennifer Yu Cheng

Jennifer Yu Cheng is passionate about education, and particularly about educating girls, as evidenced by her Jennifer Yu Cheng Girls Impact Foundation (JYCGIF), a charitable initiative that strives to empower teenage girls to become “future ready leaders”. JYCGIF aims to empower 10,000 teens girls in Hong Kong in the next three years through the 10,000 Girls4Girls Coding+ Initiative, which equips students with digital skills “plus” leadership, university and careers preparation, and networking. Over the past year, JYCGIF has delivered events at over 35 schools and engaged around 1,100 students through workshops, talks and summer camps. In October, JYCGIF hosted its inaugural FutureGEN Girls Leadership Summit with around 600 participants.

What impact do you want to make in the next five years?

Jennifer Yu Cheng: I want to do my part to empower today’s youth with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a fast-changing future ripe with unknowns.

What advice would you share with the next generation of women and girls?

JYC: I think it’s so important to pursue one’s passion. Pursing one’s passion motivates you to always keep going, do your very best, and creates meaningful purpose to everything that you do. Finding passion is a journey. I wish I knew this earlier—in high school or college. But it is never too late! After trying engineering, economics, then banking, I finally found my passion for education. The takeaway is: don’t feel locked onto a certain path—shift gears. You never know where life will take you, so leap into the unknown.

What does success mean to you?

JYC: I feel success and happiness come from making an impact on the lives of others, especially the students we work with, and helping them fulfil their full potential.


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