Cover Peggy Choi, CEO of Lynk

Peggy Choi, Lynk CEO and co-founder, says that workplaces must prevent further regress on gender equality amidst global uncertainty

This year’s International Women’s Day theme called on us to #breakthebias, exhorting us to be intentional in creating more equitable workplaces for all.

There's been some good news on that front: According to the YPO & UN Women HeForShe Global CEO Survey on Gender Parity conducted last year, 60 per cent of more than 2,000 CEOs surveyed reported that their organisations are more diverse than they were five years ago.

A growing focus on diverse board representation in recent years has also seen significant traction. Bloomberg also reported that the percentage of women on board seats in companies on the S&P 500 banks index reached 35 per cent for the first time in May 2022. In the meantime, the FTSE Women Leaders Review found that nearly forty per cent of board positions at the UK's biggest companies were held by women, while social enterprise Aurora50 reported that listed companies in the UAE have more than doubled the number of women on their board of directors since 2020, as part of the country's efforts to improve gender diversity among corporations.

However, it is also observed that women have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The UN Women’s 2022 study that was conducted in 20 countries shows that attitudes toward gender roles have deteriorated amid the pandemic. In times of hardship, outdated social norms can lead to reversals in the hard-won gains in gender equality. Some are calling the regress a “she-cession.”

As the global economic outlook grows uncertain, how do we do our part in reversing the regress on equality and put us back on the right track for a more equitable workplace?

Value diversity of thought

At Lynk, we truly value diversity of thought—it is a key enabler that has helped us grow a team of ten to a company of over 200 employees from 22 nationalities who together speak more than 15 languages, and who work from eight locations worldwide. I often try to remind myself and our team—at all levels—that there is more than one way to think about something. The same thing may be right in a specific context, but wrong in another. We disagree and commit.

The emphasis has been a driving force for our ability to think outside of the box and deliver real innovation to our customers. A natural outcome of this practice is that we are valued based on merits. True equality is achieved with a genuine embrace of diversity, not just the intentional engineering of gender ratios.

Be authentic

Research by Great Place to Work found that when employees trust that they and their colleagues will be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, they are 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work and 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work. But while companies have an important role, colleagues also need to play their part authentically. An equitable workplace is where we can all be our professional, authentic selves.

Early on in my career, I often found myself the sole woman—and the only Asian—in the room, especially when I was working at hedge funds and private equity in the US and Europe. These were highly male-dominated environments, and the social conversation would often revolve around sports. Initially I tried to blend in, but ultimately, I realised that there’s no point pretending otherwise, as people will know if you’re putting on an act. Instead, it’s more useful to be who you are, be professional, and show that you are truly interested and care about the other person. If you build that kind of authentic friendship and relationship, then the other person will also end up caring about you as well.

Reflect on frameworks to avoid unintentional biases

Putting in place objective frameworks can help companies and teams minimise unintentional biases. For example, pay disparities shouldn’t even be an issue if a company does its organisational planning and compensation benchmarking for different roles correctly. Remuneration should never be different for men and women, or ethnicity, right from the start. The focus should always be on work and specific criteria outlining what qualifies as great work. Your employees will naturally understand this criterion and what they need to produce in order to advance in their company.

"True equality is achieved with a genuine embrace of diversity, not just the intentional engineering of gender ratios."
Peggy Choi

Similarly, we can remove our biases from our thinking on an individual level if we reflect on our own assumptions and beliefs intentionally from time to time. Conclusions based on our own mental models are usually obvious to us, but we often jump to them by missing objective facts. The biggest challenge with mental models is that we often don’t realise that we act a certain way. Reflect and be aware of our mental models, ask questions and challenge our own beliefs. Breaking mental models is not easy but is a powerful tool for individuals and leaders alike, helping us adapt, remove biases, and be intentional about diversity and inclusion.

We are all learners

Addressing equity with a growth mindset is crucial. Embrace the need and the challenges it takes to grow. We can make more progress by first focusing on ourselves as individuals and then using what we’ve learned to improve our environments and systems. After all, it’s the individuals who ultimately make up the system, and it’s our individual behaviors that make up each other’s experiences on a day-to-day basis. The first step to improving involves asking ourselves questions like:

●      What background and experiences do I bring into my workplace that impact how I engage with my colleagues?

●      How do my background and beliefs potentially influence my work?

●      What do I truly believe is possible in terms of my own and my colleagues/teams’ achievements?

 

Those with a growth mindset believe they can change their abilities through learning. They also believe that others can grow through learning too. This belief fundamentally enables equity in the workplace—making all feel empowered and levelling the playing field for everyone.

 


Peggy Choi, founder and CEO of Lynk, is an Asia's Most Influential 2021 and a 2018 Generation T honouree from Hong Kong.

Having majored in Computer Science Engineering with a focus on Robotics and Computer Vision, as well as Finance and Statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, Peggy Choi started her global career in finance as an investor in distressed assets and special situations at TPG Capital in San Francisco, as a private equity investor in the European technology space at Silver Lake Partners in London, and in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs in New York City. In 2015, Choi founded Lynk, an AI-driven knowledge management platform, to make knowledge more accessible. With a diverse team across eight locations, Lynk works with hundreds of global enterprises including top Fortune 500 companies.

This piece is part of a collaboration between Tatler Asia and Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO), a global leadership community of chief executives, which counts more than 30,000 members from 142 countries among its members.

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