International Women's Day: Marilyn Tan, Tracy Phillips, Farah Lola and more share inspiring messages

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Celebrating women this International Women’s Day 2019

Women have marched, protested and fought for their rights. It’s a great time in history and for women to continue to make a difference in this world. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter to drive gender-balance around the world, and Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to women of today, be it entrepreneurs, athletes, artists to share their thoughts on what it takes to be a woman today.

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Tracy Philiips (Credit: Vanessa Caitlin)

1.

Tracy Phillips, director and head of programming at PPurpose, former DJ

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I think it varies too greatly depending on where you are in the world, your economic status, age, education, background etc, to be able to give a definitive answer.

I count myself as fortunate though to be able to live my life on my own terms at this stage of my life and the fact I think it’s fortunate and not a given already implies that the world still has a way to go before men and woman are treated equally and fairly the world over.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Ultimately I think the biggest challenge I face is knowing if I’m getting the balance right. Between personal growth, career and doing enough for the people around me and society as a whole and questioning if I could be doing more and if more mean’s less somewhere else. It’s a delicate balance to be able to keep pursuing personal growth while being contented with where you are at but it’s something I think about constantly.  

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I’ve never had a mentor but I am inspired by anyone who cares about making a positive impact and who lives, speaks and acts in alignment with their believes.

Ginette Chittick

2.

Ginette Chittick, artist, lecturer and a designer for FruFru & Tigerlily

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I think it’s no finer time to be alive. We have many wonderful role models young girls can look up to who clap back when told to sit down. Look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fine example of a young woman who isn’t afraid to question the men in Congress, who celebrates the work of the women who came before her. On the home front, we have Annabelle Kwok, AI genius who uses tech to create inclusive spaces; Siti Noor Mastura who started Back2Basics an non-profit group that delivers free halal food to Muslims in need and started Interfaith Youth Circle to facilitate interfaith discussions; Associate Professor Teo You Yenn, an author who wrote a book about inequality in Singapore; Sherry Sherqueshaa, a transgender sex worker turned activist with Project X; Melissa Chen, Humanist, Atheist and MD of Ideas Beyond Borders.  

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

There just aren’t enough hours in a day. Also, I need to battle my own imposter syndrome and own what I’ve achieved in my life.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Music has always been a huge part of my life and one of the reasons is because the women of music have had an uphill battle against the structures that already in normal circumstances are very trying, but that bend in the wind more toward men. In scenes that are especially male-dominated like the punk and hardcore scenes, women have been sidelined and glossed over. But Kathleen Hannah (singer of 90s punk band Bikini Kill), whose Riot Grrrl DIY ideology was the movement that swept the punk scene up in a hurricane and charged teenaged girls all over Europe and Asia to rise up and start punk bands, make zines and believe in their creative expressions. Kathleen, her views and her music changed my life completely.

Alicia Pan

3.

Alicia Pan, founder of Yoga Movement, a multi-chain yoga studio in Singapore

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

There is definitely a certain pressure we create for ourselves to be independent – I think we are very different from what our mothers, or even our mothers’ used to be like back in the day, where the role of the female in a family really revolved more around the household and caregiving. We are a lot harder on ourselves for the things that we do or do not achieve.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

My personal challenge would have to be not being able to find time for myself. For the past 7 years, things have been so career oriented that I feel I might have neglected some of the important things surrounding my personal wellbeing, but I acknowledge that at this point, and am looking to make a switch 🙂

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Every successful working mother is my idol – it is the hardest job to balance the two. Especially the mum guilt when you spend so much time working – it’s real!

Vanessa Fernandez

4.

Vanessa Fernandez, singer, radio deejay,

https://www.soundslikevan.com/

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

It is certainly interesting and empowering. There are more women in power adding diversity to the workplace, more women’s rights movements that advocate for fairer deals and better protection. It is also more superficial than ever before in the age of the internet, but there are also more youths who believe they can change the world and their lives for the better, following through on “good” acts for a sustainable future. I’m grateful to be born in this time.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

I personally struggle with having to be so social, and the concept of success in a modern world. In the music/entertainment business, particularly if you’re an artist, you don’t just have to socialise with a network of people that could help you with your art, but also with larger audiences online who feel personally connected and entitled to you. It’s hard enough as it is to cultivate relationships you can trust one-on-one,  but the idea of doing this with many more people without losing your sanity is a tough balance. Linked to this, is the idea that success is how many followers/streams you have, which can result in compromises in other aspects. I often wish I had a machine that would let me see the alternate reality should I choose differently… But I don’t have any regrets. Even if the struggle is real, it’s all part of the journey.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

There are a few women I look up to –  Rosalyn Lee, for her honesty and sense of adventure. Anita Kapoor, for her wisdom and insight. Tracy Phillips for her vision and creativity. They’re all passionate, confident, caring and therefore beautiful to me.

Ming Bridges

5.

Ming Bridges, founder of Rentadella, a fashion rental platform

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

It’s an incredible time to be a women living in the 21st century. With the rise of the internet and social media, we are able to start our dream businesses at the drop of a hat and make connections while working faster and more efficiently than ever before. Women are empowering each other to do greater things and to get in the front seat to steer their own lives. Although we still have a way to go, we live in an era that celebrates our accomplishments and shines a spotlight on women who break boundaries in what used to be very much a ‘man’s world’.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Coming into my late 20s, I feel like I’m finally transitioning into a proper adult – and with that the realisation that my time and energy is precious. It’s now more obvious that the struggle to please everyone, and do many things I don’t want to do – out of the fear of not being liked – is stunting my growth, especially having started my own business. I see that if I’m going to better myself as a person and a CEO, I need to prioritise myself and put the time into watering my grass, which is challenging! I think we spend a lot of time caring for others and feeling like caring for ourselves is selfish. At this point in my life, the biggest challenge is to overcome that fear of ‘selfishness’ and not being afraid to say ’no’. After all, if we never put ourselves first, we will never be able to become who we want to be.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I don’t have a particular mentor or idol I look up to, but more of a series of hardworking women who are kind but also strong to the bone. Women who know their self-worth and aren’t afraid to be disliked for speaking up and being true to themselves. Whenever I’m in a situation that I’m getting pushed around in (I suffer from the ‘too nice’ syndrome), I think of what these ladies would do and try to channel my inner lady boss. From admiring from afar, I’ve recently plucked up the courage to start reaching out to the women I admire – to learn from them, which has been an eye opening experience. Surrounding yourself with personal mentors and idols really forces you to up your game – you’ll find the conversations very different over at their table.

Pek Lay Peng

6.

Pek Lay Peng, founder of SocietyA, multi-fashion label e-commerce site with a retail store

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

We are fortunate to have opportunities that are not limited by gender and the world is really our oyster. Today, we are free to pursue the life that we want – we are only limited by our own values and priorities.

In addition, we live in an exciting time where our voice is heard. I think women generally have more avenues to express their opinions and exercise their rights with technology and social inclusivity. This shouldn’t be taken lightly because with that, it now means that we can bring about changes to causes we believe in – women are rising up the ranks and taking up leadership positions throughout the world, so we should be conscious of this responsibility that we can impact on the community by making responsible positive difference through our actions.

With that, we must thank our equal partner, men for acknowledging our voice.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth? 

I have founded SocietyA (www.society-a.com) with the objective to support Asian designers and showcase their amazing work to consumers through our platform. SocietyA has done relatively well in Singapore for the past 4 years – our vision to put Asian designers on the same platform via omnichannel has come a long way since we started in 2014.

To me, growth is very important, for both the personal and career fronts. Thinking of the next 30 years and the seeds that I’m planting today, as a leader, I must ensure that my boundaries are constantly pushed so I can enable my team to see a bigger picture that we can move towards together, and for them to aspire to achieve much more in their lives as well.

The coming years, I’m excited to bring the unique SocietyA experience to the region and beyond with collaborations. This is another steep learning curve that we have to overcome since every market is different and we have to customise our strategies accordingly. But I am very excited about this expansion.

On the personal front, I am pregnant with my third child now. Physically, it can get a little daunting to have to juggle all the responsibilities at times. But I love being a mum, so, it’s all good!

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Good question. I have mentors that have made a difference to me growing up and I thank them for making me see the bigger picture and the patience they have for me to grow.

If I had to name one, my father has always been an inspiration and role model to me. Through him, I learnt the important lessons of doing the best in all we can and to persevere even if the going gets tough. True success never comes easy, and that you reap what you sow.

My father also taught me about humility and teamwork – that success is always a collective effort and we should always stay grounded and stay true to our roots no matter where we are, or how much we have seemingly accomplished.

These are important values that apply to all aspects of life. Even at 72 years old this year, my father is still very much living by these values, and I witness it every day how much my father is being loved and respected by all who are in contact with him – family, friends, business partners and employees. That is a high benchmark that I hope to live up to.

Rachael Leong

7.

Rachael Leong, founder of LucyandMui, a bespoke jewelry line

What is it like being a woman in the 21st century?

To me, being a woman in the 21st century can be summed up in one word – choice. The freedom to effect change in our communities, and to be unafraid to take a stand. Being a mom to 2 young children, juggling my full-time job as a corporate lawyer and running a business at the same time, I experienced first-hand what it meant to struggle to find that elusive balance between work and family – so I set out to create a programme that would help women find that balance.

The Lucy & Mui Brand Ambassador Programme was launched in 2016, and allows women to build a business on their own terms, alongside building their family. Our vision of accessible entrepreneurship for women has resonated with more than 50 women that have come through the Programme, and it means the world to know that Lucy & Mui has made an impact, no matter how small.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

When I first started Lucy & Mui, I did everything on my own. From design and marketing to operations and shipping, I handled every aspect of the business from start to finish. The first year on my own allowed me time to listen, to respond to customer feedback and implement changes as quickly as I could – sometimes even within 24 hours.

As the business has grown over the last 4 years, I’ve found that I haven’t been able to respond to customer feedback and implement requested changes as quickly as I would like. I hope to change that as our small team works to implement some new and exciting changes for 2019.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

The label was named for my maternal and paternal grandmother – Lucy and Mui. Two women that were a huge part of my life growing up (and continue to be), and who have been an incredible inspiration to me. They lived through the war, worked and brought up 9 children and 18 grandchildren between them. They’ve taught me perseverance, kindness and shown me what it means to be resilient in the face of adversity. Through them I’ve learnt to appreciate the world we live in that much more – where women can work and be proud of what they’ve built – and for that I am forever grateful.

Marilyn Tan

8.

Marilyn Tan, founder of Marilyn Tan Jewelry, an eponymous jewelry line

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

It is both easier and harder: easier as we now know that there is nothing a woman cannot do if she sets her mind to it; It is harder because both women and men need to accept that times have changed and we need to move forward with these new attitudes..

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career?

I view challenges as opportunities to learn. Life is a Learning journey. Stay Curious

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

My mother who is now 92. She was one of the first women stockbrokers in Singapore.

Jacqueline Chang

9.

Jacqueline Chang, owner of Prep Luxe

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

As opposed to a woman in the 15th century, or as opposed to a man in the 21st century?

Either way, I wouldn’t know because we will never be able to compare the parallel universes that we never get to live in.

Shouldn’t we be for equality and not gender?

How come International Women’s Day is a big thing but International Men’s Day ain’t?

I mean, people say #girlboss like it’s a big thing but #boyboss sounds like a joke.

Woman, man, rich, poor, skinny, fat, in-crowd, out-crowd… just be a good human!

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Learning to understand the beauty of time and flow with the right decision for opposing tensions in life, like when to give and when to take, when to tear down and when to build, when to search and when to give up, when to tear and when to mend, when to be silent and when to speak, when to plant and when to uproot, when to embrace and when to part with.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

My mum with her exceedingly great understanding and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.

She’s always the one to outgive, outpray and outlove.

Farah Lola

10.

Farah Lola, comedian, https://twitter.com/iamfarahlola

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Being a woman in modern society means having a chance to be heard. With new media, you have various platforms to showcase your talent or opinion freely. Obviously this is not the case for some women in different parts of the world, but privileged women can rally, speak up for them and actually be taken seriously.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

At this point all my friends are getting married, having kids and doing a complete 180 on the life we used to have, which I completely respect. I’m working on myself and they’re working on their new families, which can be isolating. I think people need to understand that your personal milestones don’t have to be exactly the same as everyone else.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I think I’m expected to say Malala Yousafzai or something, but I really want to say Rihanna, haha. She is gorgeous, a business mogul and absolutely dripping in swagger. Don’t get me wrong, Malala is a badass chick too. Not even Rihanna could do what she does.

Rika Lim

11.

Rika Lim, designer at video game company, Ubisoft

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

In the past centuries, women were denied things that men could do. However their perseverance and efforts in helping to change the world in many different areas helped paving the way for women to live their lives more independently.  How do I relate to this?

Having the ability to bring my childhood passion into my career is probably one of my most cherished moments in my life. Having been brought up in a traditional and average income family  in Singapore, it was expected for me not to fail in my education and get a well-recognised job in the society. My parents were skeptical about me picking a video game industry career in the beginning, but eventually my achievements and me explaining and showing them what I was working on, that my job was far beyond the usual stereotype of “developers play games all day long”! I learn every day, develop new ideas, challenge myself continuously and I am always in touch with new trends.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

I accepted an opportunity to take on a managerial role last year and began to lead people. It is challenging at times, especially when you are dealing with people’s  emotions, motivations and aspirations. Fortunately, my company supported me with adequate training and coaching which enabled me to learn about myself. The more I learn about my strength and weaknesses the more it helped me manage people.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Rather than a specific mentor, I would say it is more like a collective of people with their knowledge and experiences that I am glad to meet and work with, from different job families available within the industry (designer, artist, finance, management, marketing, programmer and so on). They have provided me with guidance and pushed me forward to develop myself and my skills in my career. Each of them have their ways of working and dealing with certain matters, and by combining the various perspectives and experiences I have gained while interacting with them, I am able to come up with my own method of solving problems, creating and develop new ideas, and spreading the knowledge of what I have learnt to my peers around me.

Stephanie Dickenson

12.

Stephanie Dickenson, founder Greenisthenewblack, a conscious living and mindfulness platform

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

It’s an interesting and exciting time to be alive. But I would think people might have often felt that way at their time. It is a time of exploration and growth – pushing boundaries, questioning status quos, disrupting things that no longer make sense. It is a time where the feminine is expanding and I think that the ability to be vulnerable, to break down barriers we’ve put up will make us stronger. It does feel like anything is possible.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

We are in a growth stage with Green Is The New Black, having just closed our first round of funding. We’ve got incredibly exciting opportunities, and at the same time, I hope that I can continue to grow as a person and replace the moments of anxiety and stress with ease and grace. I always think it’s going to get easier, but in fact the more we grow, the challenges often remain the same, you just learn to juggle bigger things. One of my biggest challenges is dealing with the a-type, perfectionist in my head, with exceedingly high expectations, and a yearning to be in flow and at ease with life. So this year I am focused on love not fear, learning to enjoy the good, the bad, celebrating and not taking things too seriously.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

There are so many women that I look up. Some that I am lucky enough to interact with on a weekly or monthly basis, others that I admire from afar. Marie Forleo has been a huge inspiration for me, from the way that she goes about business, to the ability she has to take complicated life (and business) issues and make them really easy, relatable and actionable. Her phrase ‘everything is figureoutable’ has given me a lot of strength in dark moments, as well remind me that everything happens the ways it’s meant to at the right moment. Even though it may not seem it at the time, looking back you can see the positive from what at the time may have seemed hopeless. Louise Hay is another, having started her business so late in life, built an empire and touched millions with her powerful and life-changing philosophies.

Grace Ciao

13.

Grace Ciao, fashion illustrator

www.graceciao.com

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Being a woman today is infinitely exciting! Opportunities and adventures await every day, compared to the lives of our predecessors. Many women still have to fight stereotypes and roles that society throws at them, but I take comfort in knowing that more women are making themselves seen and heard in various industries.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

A challenge in this line of work is to constantly innovate, create, and update myself on the latest trends and developments in the fashion and art worlds. It is demanding to have to always produce fresh new works, but I relish the challenge of pushing myself to break boundaries. I love exploring the world around me to fuel my creative streak.

Do you have an idol you look up to?

Businesswoman and craft enthusiast Cath Kidston is someone who inspires me. She has turned her passion into a successful homeware empire, and continues to inspire others through her designs.

Circe Henestrosa

14.

Circe Henestrosa, independent fashion curator, Head of the School of Fashion at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Our role as women continues to be highly demanding. I think that we now have become super-women since we have to juggle so many things at the same time. I think the world would benefit from having more women leaders in power. There are many leadership studies that show that women have a more transformational leadership style and that women are more nurturing, so hopefully, we see more women occupying high-level leadership positions in the future.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

I find it challenging to see so many men that continue to be appointed to lead creative organisations in the UK and the US at the highest levels. I think in general the creative industries sector should make a bigger effort to have a more diverse representation of staff and leaders across all art institutions.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

There are many women, who have inspired me and who have helped me in the course of my career. I was lucky enough to curate the first ever exhibition of artist Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico (2012), then at the Victoria and Albert Museum (2018) and later at the Brooklyn Museum (2019). I could have never done that if it was not for the support and confidence of Hilda Trujillo, Director of Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico and later Linda Lloyd Jones, Director of Exhibitions at the V&A in London. The continued research of my collaborators and friends Prof. Gannit Ankori and Claire Wilcox has always inspired me. Also, the work of female curators such as Judith Clark, Kaat Debo, Valerie Steele and Amy de la Haye has always inspired me.

Annabel Law

15.

Annabel Law, owner of wedding agency, www.annabellaw.com

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

To be a woman, we must be driven with goals and aspirations. Working towards a dream and waking up everyday knowing that you are one step closer to making it come true. As a woman today, there is no longer a stigma about what a woman must be and should be. We can write our own story with hard work and good attitude and be equivalent to anyone.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

As a professional photographer for nine years, I have been to more than 400 weddings and never my own. Being engaged recently and documenting my wedding planning journey, I am starting to understand the struggles that brides feel. The once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I have many mentors that I look up to. My clients became my closest friends (Steven and Yvonne and Melvin and Kally). They gave me the opportunity to shoot for them even though I was very young and is always guiding me through the school of life for personal and career problems throughout the years. I will never be who I am today without them.

Being in the wedding/art industry, stagnant is never good. Finding photographers to look up to and following trends is something that we must always do to create a refreshing style every year.

Sheryl Yeo

16.

Sheryl Yeo, founder and designer of custom tailored suits label, www.3eighth.co/

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I think being a 21st century woman can be extremely liberating – especially when you understand your rights as one and if you’ve had the privilege to receive education. We’re given a lot more room to smash the patriarchy and call them out when it is needed – and I’m learning to do so when I spot that something doesn’t sit right. I feel like there’s a lot room to also be fluid now as females, women are not just confined to just being “feminine” and I embrace all of that now and be more of myself than what the old stereotypes call for.

There are many others who are still oppressed by societal expectations of the “perfect woman.” That can be disheartening at times – I still experience it from time to time – but I hope that more women will realise what they deserve and are capable of.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Staying true to myself and the core of what I stand for, both at work and in my personal life. I always find it easier to please others so that peace can be maintained. I guess most of us, especially women too, are taught to be less assertive and put the comfort of others’ ahead of our own. It’s something I hope to work on – that it’s ok to speak up and share your thoughts no matter.

Case in point – I recently went for an event and had a chat with someone. I put up with some of his opinions out of courtesy, but in turn felt “harassed” by his words, because he said he could “see my chest from his point of view.” (I was wearing a collared shirt with full coverage.) I wish I had said something and made a stand instead. And I believe so many women go through these scenarios so often, we sometimes forget that we don’t actually have to put up with it.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

This is hard – I have tonnes! But Björk has been one of my idols for years, and she deserves a homage of sorts. I’ve been a big fan of not only her music and style, but also her free-spirited attitude. She gives zero f***ks about what people say or think of her, and consistently does whatever she deems fit. She’s truly ahead of her time, and always steps ahead. And I find there’s a beauty about women and people who live out loud, just as she does.

Evangeline Long

17.

Evangeline Long, emcee, host

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Remarkable will be the word to define it all.

We are given the spotlight to express ourselves and embrace our lives by changing our role as time goes by. Example from a fresh grad to a career woman and from a lover to a Mother. With this in mind, we have so much to offer to people around us and the world.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

At this point, I think be it personal or career, the challenge would have to be “how can I improve myself,” in order to be better and happier.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Yes I do. In fact he is not any idol but my best Friend and lover. Brian is someone who is able to hold his ground well. Eventhough he has a busy schedule due to his business and family, he never fails to be the listening ear and helping hand to his peers and people around him. So I’m thankful to have him as my partner and a mentor.

Angela Lee

18.

Angela Lee, mixed martial arts fighter

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

For me, being a woman today in the 21st century is empowering. I feel like I can do anything that I set my mind to. I am determined, I am strong, I am resilient. While there are still a lot of challenges that women face in this day and age, I am confident that we are strong enough to push through these barriers and limitations together.

All over the world, women, myself included, have broken down barriers and have shown that this is no longer just a man’s world.

I have been fortunate and blessed enough to be a figure for women’s mixed martial arts, while others have managed to excel in their own chosen fields. Women today have become elite athletes, politicians, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, businesswomen, basically anything that they believe they can achieve, and it’s really a beautiful thing to see.

Being a woman in 2019 is amazing, and I plan on using my platform as a way to advocate and champion women empowerment.

I want to be able to show girls around the world that we can be anything that we want to be and we can do whatever we want to do, just as long as we believe in it.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Challenges are what make the journey so much sweeter. In my 22 years of existence, I have faced quite a lot of challenges and I know that I’ll be facing even more, but that is what makes an individual strong. Knowing how to take  those challenges head on, being fearless and finding ways to overcome those difficulties, being relentless. These are the most important things that a person, not just a martial artist, but anyone can learn.

In my career, there are many challenges but the greatest ones are  the ones that you have no control over. In just the past few years, I’ve recovered from a horrific car accident and a disk fracture in my lower back. I’m extremely lucky that I’m still here today and able to continue doing what I love.

These adversities were very unfortunate but I always believe that everything happens for a reason. My injuries didn’t make me weak, they made me stronger. I now know that I am a much stronger person for going through all that.

As from a personal standpoint, life will always throw challenges your way. It’s all a part of the journey. Mindset is key. Adversities are bound to happen sometime or later but how you deal with it, that’s what makes all the difference.

At 22, I’m a married young adult, full time MMA fighter and world champion. That comes with a lot of responsibilities. While at times, life can get overwhelming, it’s also very exciting. Life is like a rollercoaster ride with a lot of ups and downs and crazy left turns but like my parents always tell me, learn to enjoy the ride.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I wouldn’t call them mentors or idols because they are so much more than that. I would call them my inspirations, my greatest teachers and biggest supporters. My parents are all of that and more. I can’t thank them enough for the amazing role models they are. They have taught me everything! From how to speak and how to walk to how to “adult” and how to become a world champion. I owe it all to them. They are the dynamic duo that shaped me into the woman I am today!

Carolyn Kan

19.

Carolyn Kan, founder of Keepers Studio, Carrie K. jewelry

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I think that it is a great age for women, especially in Singapore. I am living in an age and a country where gender is not a factor in one’s success as girls have the same high level of education and opportunities as boys. I was 29 when I was made Managing Director of M&C Saatchi, the Singapore arm of an international advertising network. And at 37, I started my second life as a designer and entrepreneur, and founded Carrie K. jewellery.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

As an entrepreneur starting a small business, I faced the same issues as all small businesses such as a lack of resources, and marketing muscle. But I have always believed that challenges are the catalyst to great solutions. Because I consequently  started Keepers, a collective that brings together independent designers, artists, and craftsmen from diverse disciplines from fashion to furnishings to food, to spotlight and grow appreciation for Singapore creatives. By pooling resources, our collective events would reach a wider, More complimentary audience. We started with quarterly events featuring 5 to 6 brands, and it grew to our biggest beacon event last year in 2018 where we took of the National Design Centre and filled it with over 150 Singapore designers, artists, architects, chefs and mixologist. And it attracted over 47,000 guests who discovered a whole host of designers and creatives there were discovering for the very first time.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

My mother is my inspiration, mentor, and my moral compass. She is a great role model as she is fearless, curious, honest, genuine and guided by a simple principle to do good. She will always do what she feels is right, even if it is unpopular, and has the courage and tenacity to see it through. When I was trying to re-design how people wear the classic pearl necklace and was hitting a wall, she said “Just because it has never been done, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” I dedicated that first Carrie K. Pearl necklace design to her and called it “Pearls of wisdom”, after the advice she gave me. She has never let gender be a barrier to her successes or the blame for her failures. Both are attributed to her personal effort. I believe that was my grandmother’s doing. She was a very strong minded woman who believed in the importance of educating her daughters. So although my grandparents were not wealthy, they sent my mother to the uniShe was the first female optometrist in Singapore during a time when it was unusual for girls to have a university education. My grandparents were not at all wealthy, but my grandmother believe it was important for girls to be educated.

At 82, she is still as curious as child and has an huge appetite to learn and experience new things. She recently started learning to play the ukelele and signed up for a class to learn how to use all the apps in her phone. I always know where I stand with her, because my mother is brutally honest. So if she says she likes a design, she is not just saying it to be supportive. She gives fabulously funny insights. When I told her I wanted to become a jewellery designer, she said that that was a good business because what I could not sell, I could melt and make something else. Thankfully, I have not had to melt anything down.

Amandae Baey

20.

Amandae Baey, institutional sales NYC

What is it like to be a woman today in the 21st century?

A 21st century woman has the world at her feet.  Today, women have many more options and are able to make more informed decisions.  Society has become less judgmental and more accepting of unconventional lifestyles, such as: being a single mom or dad and less traditional partnerships. A 21st century woman can be her most authentic self in today’s world. That is a powerful paradigm shift, definitely helped by the rise of social media influencers and supportive male role models. We will always struggle with balancing multiple roles, however, society is open to discussing more creative solutions.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it's personal or career growth?

This does not answer the question which says “at this point in your life” At this point in my life, I have the benefit of hindsight, maturity and a better perspective of the levers in building my own career. I contribute the majority of the building blocks to learning from others and establishing strong mentor and sponsor relationships in helping me navigate my career. I am now in the position to help others as they begin their own journey. I truly enjoy working with my junior colleagues in giving them sound advice and perspective and hopefully helping them avoid some of my own mistakes. Moreover, I am a strong believer that my career is a work in progress and I will always be a “continuous learner/mentor.”

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

As cliché as this may sound, my Mum is my idol. She worked hard to give my brother and me a much better upbringing than she had. She grew up poor in Singapore and didn’t have the opportunities and access to education, travel, recreational activities that I was afforded. She’s a realistic idealist and does not mince her words. I appreciate that if your family can’t be honest with you, then who can? More importantly, I saw what kind of leader, manager and mentor she was to the people who worked for her. I learned that leadership was about empathy and compassion, even when having to make difficult decisions. The best career advice she gave me: “Manage yourself with your mind, manage others with your heart.”

Bebe Ding

21.

Bebe Ding, founder of boxing studio CruBox

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Better than ever! Women are rising to become important public figures in all realms: technological, medical, political, athletic, etc. Of course there are still cultures in which women are sidelined to taking care of home matters but overall, career choices are increasing. Women are increasingly seen as equals, resulting in equal pay as their male counterparts. Female empowerment is being highlighted in many campaigns all over the world. I feel that social media has played a great part in this movement. Even I am learning a lot from just casual browsing on Instagram, for example, of what other women are doing in their communities to become leaders.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

I co-founded CruCycle before I even finished college. That was a huge challenge for me, being so young (twenty two years old) and just beginning the process to even figure my life out. At the same time I was trying to manage employees and earn their respect. It was not easy. It has now been five years and I’m still only twenty seven. So the process continues. We have just opened our third store, and not only do I know more about being a leader and a business owner but also a professional fitness instructor (I teach at all studios). I know more about my passions and what I specifically want to accomplish but I’m very much still figuring life out and simultaneously making sure I am being a leader by putting in the hard work and getting my hands dirty along the way.

Sasha Wijidesa

22.

Sasha Wijidessa, Bar Manager / Sous Bartender, Operation Dagger

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Being a modern woman in this day and age, we have it much better in comparison to say when my mum was in her 20s, or even when her mum was in her 20s and for that I feel lucky.

Today, I am entitled to my own choices, I am my own person, and no longer have to conform to traditional roles or gender norms and am in the position to take on things that are of my interest. We have a voice, we are allowed to vote, we have a place in politics and every day, more and more, we are considered equal to our counterparts.

I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, but my work experience from day one has always been about how well we do our job, and how hard we work towards your next step. It was never about your gender, your sexuality, your race, or your religion but rather how you work – regardless of who you are and what walk of life you are from. If you put your head down and work hard people will notice that and you will be rewarded for it. For that equality across the board, I feel lucky.

In society, the movement to empower women has actually been going on for decades, notable figures championing this are the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis and campaigns such as Equal Pay for Equal Work and HeForShe. Right now, we are starting to reap from the ongoing efforts, and while I understand that more needs to be done, and inequality still exists, I am happy with how much we have progressed and I am excited for the future. I am excited for the generation after mine, excited to have children in the future to live in a world where equality is a norm and not a privilege.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Some challenges I face at this point in my personal life is quite similar to any other 23 year- olds, still navigating my way through adulthood, nothing too out of the ordinary.

Some challenges I face in my career, I guess, would probably be learning to handle people. This refers to both our guests and staff at Dagger.

With guests, it is the little things like handling someone who’s had too much to drink, or defusing a situation, or even just handling challenging requests; it all requires tact and a cool head. And because everything happens in “real time”, they need to be solved then and there, and you do not have time to process the problem, or dwell on it. You just have to be quick on your feet and come up with a solution not knowing if you made the right call, and that to me is something that I am still learning.

With staff it is mainly because everyone has different personalities, skill sets and weaknesses, so it is all about organising everyone and being able to capitalize on their strengths but also helping them to grow and improve where they are not as strong.

Other than that, because my role in Dagger is always evolving, that change itself poses as a challenge as well. But I have come to realise that it is the experiences that scares me the most initially, that I grow and learn the most from. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a challenge! but now I try to embrace it as much as I can.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Definitely Luke Whearty (Owner of Operation Dagger & Byrdi), more affectionately known as Dad, and also Juan Yijun (Formerly Operation Dagger). Everything that I am today is attributed directly from both their guidance, teaching, nurturing and patience (so much of it!). When I first started working at Dagger four and half years ago, I have never worked before and they both took me under their wings and have been nothing short of exemplary role models and mentors. What I have learnt from the both of them combined will always be a part of who I am today, and part of who I will become in the future. For that, they will always be my mentors no matter where our individual paths take us.

Someone I have always looked up to and respected since day one would definitely be Aki Nishikura (Owner of Operation Dagger & Byrdi). Aki has this really incredible work ethic with talent and knowledge to match. She is disciplined, organised, hardworking and so down to earth! She does what she does for the sole reason of passion. I cannot think of a better person to look up to other than Aki.

Bannie Kang

23.    

Bannie Kang, Head Craftsman, Anti:dote, Fairmont Singapore

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

Women in this 21st century are much more blessed than women of the yesteryears, and for that I am extremely grateful to be a woman today with abundant opportunities.

As we move towards a more liberal society, modern women have adapted to the changing world, taking on more responsibilities, in addition to their traditional roles; becoming more independent and empowered in the process to pursue our goals and fulfil our potential. Despite gender discrimination that may still exist in the modern society, women today have become more ambitious and driven, striving to live a fulfilled life; no less inferior to men.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

My career journey has not been a walk in the park. I started out as a waitress in the hotel when I first moved to Singapore in 2010. Having struggled with language barriers on unfamiliar ground, I just polished cutlery at the back-of-house. I was thankful to meet my former manager, who encouraged me to transfer to the hotel bar where I had more opportunities to improve my English. I learnt on the job, communicating with co-workers and guests, and self- taught using language books and even videos of English word pronunciations. To this day, learning English is one of the biggest obstacles I have had to face.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Kim Bong-ha – a leading Korean mixologist whom I had the privilege to work alongside during a guest shift last month. Bong-ha is a true drink master, one of the extraordinary multi- talented mixologists with endless creativity and enthusiasm. His cocktails are fascinatingly complex, yet comprising the simplest of mixes and finely-balanced recipes.

Bong-ha shares new ideas and inspirations selflessly, providing self-development tips, and always encouraging me to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. He is one of few who has left a lasting impression on me, like a big brother to a sister.

Tia Louise Rozario

24.

Tia Louise Rozario, track and field athlete, winner of the first Joseph Schooling Sports Grant

What is it like to be a woman today in the 21st century?

To be a woman is to be strong, to be proud, and to be unstoppable. It is a privilege to be born in this era where there has been a stronger emphasis on female empowerment in recent years. Opportunities are made equal and awareness is being raised through campaigns and events like the Women’s March and International Women’s Day, which has grown significantly in popularity internationally. In the 21st century, nothing is impossible for a woman to achieve.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

A challenge which lies ahead would be starting my university education at Princeton this year. It was a pleasant surprise to be accepted into this school and allowed me to prove to myself that I can excel on the track as well as in the classroom. There is no doubt that it will be a steep learning curve, having to balance sports and studies, especially during competition season. However, I will persist and do my very best.

Being the first recipient of the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant Award is a blessing in itself. It means more than just financial support, and is also a source of motivation and a commitment on my part to fulfill my dreams of competing at the Olympics. I am greatly inspired by the sacrifices that Joseph Schooling had to make to develop his talent and will persist to achieve sporting excellence. Moreover, his passion and dedication for swimming shows his ability to push himself to a world class level and there is so much I have to learn from athletes like him.

Dreams can be put on hold but should never be compromised. As I chase my Olympic dream, I will maintain a positive mindset and minimise my self doubt by looking back at the successes which have brought me to this point, my country which I represent with pride and of the people who have been supporting me through it all. I am ready to embark on this journey, embracing each day as it comes.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I am fortunate to have many positive role models around me who inspire me to become a better version of myself everyday. Dipna Lim has always been someone I have looked up to not only for her amazing athletic achievements but even more for the way she carries herself outside the track. She has a heart for the community, starting the ‘In My Shoes SG’ movement to make sports shoes accessible for more Singaporeans. Seeing how she chooses to spend her time engaging with young athletes and going the extra mile to encourage greater participation in sports shows how much she cares about track and field beyond the medals and achievements. She is encouraging and humble, and I strive to be the olympian Dipna Lim is today.

Kamini Ramachandran

25.

Kamini Ramachandran, storyteller and director of MoonShadow Stories

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I can only compare my life to that of my mother and grandmothers who are from a different era. I have been able to follow my dreams and succeed in my chosen artistic pursuits while raising a family. Women today have more choices and the biggest difference to our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generation is our ability to make these choices ourselves.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Turning 50 very soon means I am learning to pace myself and to listen to my body.

The world of an arts practitioner is not a typical nine-to-five life. In order to adjust to the multiple demands and requests happening now in my career, I have had to expand my team of talents. It is definitely a challenge to run two storytelling companies and produce an annual international festival – but I have never been shy to ask for assistance when I need it.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

The women in my family have always inspired and motivated me. They are strong, capable and not afraid to express themselves. There has always been a sense of positivity in them, no matter what the situation, that translated into a message of possibility. It is this role modelling that supported my decision to make my love of reading, books and literature into a storytelling career.

Saiyidah Aishah

26.

Saiyidah Aishah Mohamed Rafa’ee, Singapore’s first Olympic rower

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I feel lucky to be in this era where women are embraced for their strengths. Being a sportswoman isn’t being shunned by society to be unrealistic or too “manly” anymore because of what the female athletes have achieved. And on top of that, we’ve seen female athletes who win games during pregnancy, who give birth and make a comeback in their sports, women in their golden age completing marathons around the world, we’re seeing more and more women-focused sports and fitness facilities and best part of it all, we’re seeing more women helping other women become stronger.

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

I’m at that phase in life where I’m going to get married and eventually have kids and in the meantime doing my graduate studies to further my professional career and still considering pursuing my athletic career. There are so many big changes going on in my life and honestly, it is kind of scary taking that big leap into this new chapter, but I guess this is what life is about, isn’t it? If I don’t step out of that comfort zone, I will never be able to grow.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

One of the first few people who inspire me to become an Olympian was a Thai rower, Phuttaraksa Neegree, who I used to compete with in the same category. She is now a 4-times Olympian, when she competed at the Rio Olympic Games, she was 42 years old. She was fast and fierce on water, but on land, she was always this kind and friendly lady, who was generous on her tips and advice and even once put a wet towel over my head after we both finished our race to prevent me from getting a heat stroke. When I was training in Thailand, she shared her home with me and she is so passionate about growing the sport in her home country that she dedicated most of her savings to setting up her own rowing facilities and built a home for the young athletes. When I managed to beat her in the 2013 SEA Games, it made me realised that if I can beat an Olympian, I can be an Olympian. She’s my idol because no matter how good she was, she was never arrogant and is always willing to help others. That is who I aspire to become- someone who is exceptional in her field of expertise that what she does inspires others to want to become the best versions of themselves but never forgetting where she came from and always willing to give.

Silvia Teh

27.

Silvia Teh, fashion designer and winner of Harper’s BAZAAR Asia New Generation Fashion Designer Award 2015

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I think I’m lucky to be a woman in this era, as we have a more open-minded society. Women now have more platforms and support to climb the corporate ladder and to pursue a leadership role.  

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

Growing my fashion label is the biggest challenge thus far. On the growth stage, I face different challenges everyday and most of the time not knowing what are the right solutions. So experiencing the trial and errors are as dreadful as it gets.

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

I don’t have a specific role model in mind as I think there are plenty of people to be inspired by. When I see women who are passionate and with unbreakable will to pursue their dreams, they are instantly my inspiration as they gives me the motivation to keep on going.

Vanessa Han

28.

Vanessa Han, illustrator, entrepreneur, fashion designer at @crudddddy (Cruddy), www.cruddy.co

What is it like to be a woman today in this 21st century?

I genuinely feel that it is not my place to speak on the behalf of all women, but personally I am happy and grateful that I am treated equally and given opportunities to pursue my dreams and goals in the creative field, without being afraid to do what I want to do. I am surrounded by so many strong-willed women who empower me and reassure me that I have a voice in this world and I shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for myself!

What are some of the challenges you face at this point in your life, whether it’s personal or career growth?

I’m currently in uni pursuing my bachelors in communication design to sharpen my design thinking skills. I am at a crossroads in my life where I am unsure of what I want to pursue after my studies. As much as I love the creative process of running Cruddy, I am still learning the ropes of being a good entrepreneur, as owning an independent business can be pretty risky at times!

Do you have a mentor/idol you look up to and why?

Oli! (@elkantlers) My former director, life coach and friend. When I was working with her at Ask & Embla, she taught me so much—from graphic design skills to life lessons. My biggest takeaway from her is to think objectively and to always stay positive and look forward. She also taught me to be kind and patient with myself as I am with others!

I’m also constantly inspired by my friends and budding artists and designers who are working hard towards achieving their personal goals, while keeping it real. Just to name the few of the many artists that I look up to: Beng (@feedbeng), Gigi (@rreikemon) and Joon (@sawdako). Seeing them come up with new original ideas and being recognised keeps me motivated to want to create work that impresses myself and the people around me.