In a special collaboration with Cartier, Tatler presents 10 influential women from different walks of life who are shining examples that, yes, a woman can
Little girls need strong female role models, heroines to look up to, inspire them to dream big and help them realise their own potential. When they see other women achieving great things, particularly those succeeding in fields long dominated by men, it opens their eyes to possibilities and spurs their ambitions.
We've gathered 10 women who have blazed trails in their respective fields to ask them to share life lessons and experiences that have shaped them to become who they are today.
Prof Emerita Dato’ Seri Dr Mazlan Othman, astrophysicist, professor emerita at UKM, and director of International Science Council Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
“My message to my younger self: Have the courage to stand by your ideals and principles as success is only permanent if you achieve it without destroying your principles. But do not stand by them too rigidly as the world is in constant change, provided that you do not change them for convenience or social acceptability. Knowing when to change comes with knowledge and wisdom you will acquire in your journey. Be careful to stick to your ethics, sense of integrity and moral principles.”
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, socio-political activist, HIV/AIDS advocate, writer, and founder of Zafigo
“I turn 65 this year and I don’t think the me of 50 years ago would ever have imagined that I’d turn out the way I have. At 15, I was awkward, shy and like many teenagers, unsure of myself. I went off to a boarding school for very smart girls feeling like I didn’t belong there. The inferiority vibes I gave off were picked up by others; some didn’t believe I had gotten there on merit like they did.
It took me years to shake off the feeling that I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, good enough. Partly because I was academically mediocre. Partly also because I lived under the gigantic shadow of my parents whose successes I could not possibly emulate. All I could do was put my head down and do the best I could.
As it happened, destiny was written for me. HIV/AIDS picked me and shoved me into the spotlight with very little knowledge or experience. I had to swim or sink. But the challenge put floats underneath me and kept me not just above water but up above the waves. I navigated my way gingerly but with each success, began to emanate confident vibes. People who needed help actually got it through my colleagues’ and my efforts.
Today, I would tell the 15-year-old me that life may seem uncertain and unpredictable but where you’re headed is a combination of luck, hard work and not shrinking from challenges and opportunities when they’re presented to you. Your destiny may be written for you but you still need to be able to read it, even when it seems improbable.”
Nadiah Wan, executive director and group chief executive officer of TMC Life Sciences, and CEO of Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara
“I spent a lot of my teenage years thinking about the tenets I wanted to live by. Looking back, I think I had them mostly figured out. One tenet I had was to live my life without regrets, which basically meant that I should go for whatever opportunities that presented themselves and that I should be a good person to others so there is nothing to forgive. That’s probably how I ended up travelling and living alone in Costa Rica and Ghana as a student.
The second one was that there was no one else to fear but God. Which means I should ask the silly question in front of everyone or speak up for what I think is right. Whatever travails that happen, I can survive. I left a lucrative job in consulting to work as a manager in Sunway. My grandma thought I was crazy, but I always thought the worst that could happen was I beg for my old job back.
Lastly, my parents always emphasised having a generosity of spirit. We always had endless people at our door seeking help and my parents never turned them away. I still remember Bill Gates’ remarks at my commencement at Harvard, ‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected’. And that’s how I view my life now—there’s no point having success if it doesn’t make the world a better place.”
Lee Jim Leng, group managing director and CEO of Hong Leong Investment Bank
“I believe that happy girls are the prettiest and healthiest. I believe that tomorrow is another day for miracles. The most important thing is to live our lives happy and invest time to relax and exercise to keep ourselves healthy. Health is wealth.
Remind myself that if we are courageous, exude confidence, believe in ourselves, be not afraid to fail or reinvent and break conventional norms, know who we are, know how to lead and empower others, invest in our success and own it, then we can call ourselves successful and powerful women.
We must also possess humility, generosity and give back to the community. Without those traits, there is nothing to help inspire others. And to be an emotionally strong woman, I want to not only use my charm but my actions to inspire others as well.
Pay heed to the most inspiring quote from Audrey Hepburn: ‘As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.’”
Dr Jezamine Lim Iskander, STEM cell medical entrepreneur and CEO of Cell Biopeutics Resources
“I would tell my younger self to be kinder to myself and be less judgmental. Don’t sweat the small stuff in life as the beauty of an experience lies in the journey of it and not the destination. The most important and meaningful relationship you would ever have is with yourself. Nothing and no one is above your peace of mind, it’s the only thing money can’t buy apart from your health.”
Prof Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, infectious diseases expert, chairman of Malaysian AIDS Foundation and WHO Science Council member
“Live a life of purpose, make and strive to do the right thing. To quote Rumi, ‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’”
Jenn Low, founder and managing director of Wanderlust + Co
"Every single day, some things will go awesome, and the most unexpected things can and will go wrong. The starting point of staying not just sane but happy, is to let go of the expectation that there is a perfect version of what life should look like. Decide what your core values are as a person, what’s important to you overall, and focus your energy on the things that are going to matter months from now. Try not to let the little things get to you, and remember that when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority, so learn to pace yourself as good things take time.
Somewhere along the way, you’re going to forget how unique your journey is as an individual. Doubt and comparison will kick in especially when life is not going the way you’re expecting. That’s ok and that’s normal. When that happens, take time out to self-reflect and remind yourself that this season of your life is never going to come by again. Be comfortable with change and be confident with your journey of becoming, as you continue to work towards healing, learning and growing to be the best version of yourself.
One last thing: You’re never going to look more beautiful or younger than you do right here, right now. The sooner you can accept all that you are, every little lump, scar and curve, the more you will radiate an inner quiet confidence and glow. Speak kindly to yourself, and create awareness around your inner voice, sowing the seeds to planting blooms in your mind. Strong back, soft heart.”
Nadia Nasimuddin, director of Naza F&B and Naza Corporation Holdings
“Patience, persistence and happiness pays off. So do something you enjoy. You don’t have to figure it all out by yourself—teamwork multiplies success. Seek knowledge and never stop learning. Lastly, take a break, pause and reset when you need to refresh.”
Raja Teh Maimunah, managing director, wholesale banking at AmBank Group
“There is no such thing as perfect so do not seek external validation. Be curious. Try new things. Life is one big adventure and adventures begin at the edge of your comfort zone. You will make mistakes along the way, learn and not be fearful of them. Build many skills, ride a bike, swim, dive, skydive! And travel. See the world and immerse yourself in different cultures. Be courageous. Work abroad; that will let you truly immerse in a world different from the one you were raised in.
On this note, use your annual leave days. Spend your money on experiences, not things. Your life will be enriched by them. You must develop healthy eating and exercise habits early on, otherwise you would not be able to do much of the above. Remember it’s not about weight, it’s about health. Trust me, you will know what I mean as you become older.
There is no right time to have children. Things will fall into place. Children are a blessing and a joy. Though they will also cause you to age! Spend time with your kids when they are small because time really does pass quickly.
Honesty is everything. Never compromise on your principles. Do the right thing always even if you are the minority. Don’t be afraid to speak up against wrongful acts. Love! Allow yourself to love and be loved! There is no Prince Charming or Mr Right. Be each other’s best friend and confidant. Know that your parents truly love you and want the best for you. Love them, honour them, pray for them. Spend time with them. Cut out toxic relationships. Pray sincerely to God, thank Him, speak to Him, serve Him. Smile more, frown less.”
Jane Chuck, entrepreneur, social media influencer, and founder of Chuck’s and Motherchuckers
“I would tell my younger self it’s okay to want something different. It is okay to not know anything but always be curious. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to fail and don’t let your ego stop you from learning. Take life as if it has no destination, enjoy the process, the pauses and the endless possibilities.”
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