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FORUMEmpathy, resilience and community building are key to women's leadership

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The second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' is held during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. From left are Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku, who serves as the moderator of the session, Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon, Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung, Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann and British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

The second session on "Women empowerment at companies" is held during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. From left are Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku, who serves as the moderator of the session, Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon, Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung, Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann and British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Financial and business leaders discuss how to empower female workforce, overcome glass ceiling
By Anna J. Park

Despite the outward appearance of gender equality in the Korean corporate environment, financial and business leaders who attended Wednesday's Korea Times Forum emphasized that it is more important to cultivate a genuinely diverse workplace than merely having a few women on company boards as a formality. This includes enabling women executives and employees to assume similar roles and receive comparable compensation to their male colleagues

During the second session of the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku led in-depth discussions on how to empower women in the workforce and foster female leadership in the corporate setting.

Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku serves as a moderator for the second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku serves as a moderator for the second session on "Women empowerment at companies" during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Four panelists — Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon, Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung, Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann and British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker — offered their insights and unique perspectives to deepen the conversation.

The session started by discussing why it's significant to have diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace. Panelists put forth that gender diversity does make a real difference and leads to higher performance for companies, citing both their own corporate experiences as well as various eminent studies conducted globally.

"What they found was that having more women on boards led to boards and the C-Suite being more open to change and less driven to take risks and also more likely to invest in R&D, rather than being completely M&A focused. So having women on board led companies being more open and focused on long returns rather than immediate reward, leading to their better performances," British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker said during the session, referring to a Harvard Business Review study.

She added two other important conditions for realizing this effect: having a number of women on the board, not just one, to actually create this change, and that diverse representation needs to be mirrored all the way through at all levels of management.

British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker speaks as a panelist  for the second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker speaks as a panelist for the second session on "Women empowerment at companies" during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung, who blazed a trail for women as the country's first female foreign exchange dealer in the highly male-dominated financial industry during the 1970s and 80s, highlighted that diversity is not just a moral obligation but a business fundamental, especially in the financial sector.

Kim said increasing diversity reduces risks and provides practical benefits; companies with gender diversity have proven to be safer, which is particularly true for credit-creating institutions like banks.

"While the entry of men and women may seem nearly equal, there are five times more men than women at director levels or higher. Additionally, the number of high-income earners among men is more than twice that of women. They say the glass ceiling is a problem, but the 'glass wall' that excludes women from key tasks are an even bigger issue," Kim said.

Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung speaks as a panelist for the second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung speaks as a panelist for the second session on "Women empowerment at companies" during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann, another panelist at the second session, emphasized that having more diversity in the corporate decision-making body yields more innovation and ideas, allowing effective problem-solving.

He also pointed out women's significant purchasing power as consumers, thus "it's better to get them involved particularly when it comes to business-to-consumer (B2C) business."

Additionally, he said employer engagement and the retention rate are higher in companies with greater diversity, citing surveys.

On questions as to what kinds of measures companies can take to enhance women's participation rate, Henkelmann underscored the degree of self-determination allowed to employees.

"I think it's very important to see that self-determination, or a certain degree flexibility in working, plays an important role," he said.

Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann speaks as a panelist for the second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann speaks as a panelist for the second session on "Women empowerment at companies" during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Regarding advice for aspiring female future leaders, Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon encouraged women in the workforce not to lose heart in the face of challenge.

"We now have greater access to a wealth of information and knowledge, and this trend will continue in the future. Thus, I encourage future women leaders not to lose confidence due to a lack of knowledge. What future leadership truly requires are resilience and empathy. While knowledge can be acquired, it's crucial to have strong resilience to recover from failures and personal weaknesses," Yoo said during the session.

"I believe that future leaders are those who possess empathy, capable of listening to the voices of stakeholders and incorporate them into their corporate strategies. I recommend developing resilience and empathy, which will allow them a capacity to integrate their stakeholders' concerns and visions into one's own career and work," the head of the bank added.

Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon speaks as a panelist for the second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon speaks as a panelist for the second session on "Women empowerment at companies" during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" held at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker also underlined the importance of community building and networking among women as an effective strategy for shattering the glass ceiling.

"Things that can help you overcome that fear is knowing that you've got a strong community. So I would encourage women — if you work for a company that has a women's network, join the women's network," she said, emphasizing the strong community of women's network would provide a sense of protection and confidence for empowering the female workforce.

The second session on 'Women empowerment at companies' is held during the Korea Times Forum 'Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality' at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. From left are Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku, who serves as the moderator of the session, Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon, Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung, Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann and British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

The second session on "Women empowerment at companies" is held during the Korea Times Forum "Toward diversity, inclusiveness and equality" at the Grand Hall of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul, Wednesday. From left are Blackstone Advisors Korea Chairman Ha Yung-ku, who serves as the moderator of the session, Citibank Korea CEO Yoo Myung-soon, Korea Network of Women in Finance Chairperson Kim Sang-kyung, Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Martin Henkelmann and British Chamber of Commerce in Korea Executive Director Lucinda Walker. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Park Ji-won annajpark@koreatimes.co.kr


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