International Women’s Day: interview with Genevieve Heng

March 19, 2019

Frazer Jones is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

We interviewed Genevieve Heng, Senior Director, HR – North Asia, Avery Dennison.

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

Confidence can often be tainted with bias especially in gender and cultural contexts i.e. it ‘looks’ or ‘behaves’ a certain way. I think that there are as many men as women in the workplace who would like to be more confident, but on the outside, they will portray this differently.

I would define true confidence as authenticity, a healthy sense of self-worth, and the courage to ‘put yourself out there’. It’s a combination of courage and resilience. It’s who you are at heart, not just how you are at work.

But more importantly, there are two mottos that I carry close to heart –

1.    Do it for You – if you raise your hand for a role, or ask for a pay rise, or challenge someone, make sure you do it from a place of your values or convictions. Many of us worry too much about what the outcome might be. In all outcomes, there will be a lesson in store and your show of confidence and courage will not be in vain.

2.    Don’t take it personally – perhaps one that women and other minority groups could continue to grow into. There are so many reasons why things don’t always go our way, and we would do well to check ourselves for that instinct to say, “It’s all because of me…if only I had xxx…” The reality is that it happens to all of us, so the best thing we can do for ourselves is to pick ourselves up, dust off and get ready to try again.

I am also a pragmatist, so I am conscious of the ‘little things’ that can enhance the perception of confidence – don’t apologise all the time, carry yourself with dignity (body language!), and when speaking – go slow, and remember that often, less is more.

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

Confidence and career progression – chicken and egg. For me, confidence has grown as I’ve developed my career, but I also think that confidence has also been a key contributing factor in my progress as a leader which has then led to new opportunities.

Both on a personal level, but also on an organizational level – it is enormously powerful and effective when you can project and inspire healthy confidence and belief in yourself, and then onto teams and other leaders. This is not just wishful thinking – it means shining a light on where things are now, but also inspiring the motivation and accountability to find and act on productive ways forward. For example, it might mean being able to truly hear bad feedback and respond to it instead of feeling overwhelmed or attacked.

Can you give an example of a risk you’ve taken that has paid dividend?

I’ve made several pivots in my career – having first qualified as a medical doctor, I spent some time in the pharmaceutical industry before moving into search/inhouse HR. In my HR corporate career, I’ve been thrown in the deep end several times with different types of roles, geographical scope and businesses. Another risk I took was (very slowly, over years!) coming out at work.

Through all of this, I’ve been able to access tremendous support from my personal and professional network, grown enormously, and realised that others can also watch and learn from my experiences. So there have been no ‘bad’ or ‘failed’ risks, only ones that I’ve gained from.