Tan Le, Founder and CEO of EMOTIV speaking to the audiences on the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit 2017. Photo: Fortune
Tan Le, Founder and CEO of EMOTIV speaking to the audiences on the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit 2017. Photo: Fortune

For International Women’s Day this year, Asia Times interviewed two women leaders who have blazed trails in different fields – public relations and telecommunications.

Katryna Mojica, Chief Executive Officer of Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong, has been helping building brands in Asia for more than 20 years.

Tan Le, Founder and CEO of EMOTIV, who migrated to Australia as a refugee with her family from Vietnam, is now a telecommunications entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

They shared their views in our Q&A on gender-related barriers in the workplace, and what the younger generation of women need to do to create a better, more equal future.

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Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Katryna: Hi everybody, my name is Katryna Mojica, I am the CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong and I’ve been in the communications business for more than 20 years. I moved around Southeast Asia throughout my career. I’m originally from the Philippines, and about 10 years ago I ran the office in Vietnam, and then I moved to the office in Indonesia, and recently I moved to Hong Kong. At Ogilvy, we focus very much on building brands, on how we can make brands matter, and that’s really how we work with our clients.

Tan: Hi, I’m Tan Le, Founder and CEO of EMOTIV, a tech start-up that specializes in electroencephalography headsets.

What do you think is the most significant barrier for female leaders today? 

Katryna: There are many female leaders today, but I think generally if you look at it from a global standpoint, you will see there are more men in leadership positions by far, and women are also not paid as much as men. So it’s really about shifting away from the status quo every year, and really working in many ways, big and small, to build much more equality. Besides, people tend to hire people who are like them, that are similar, so it really makes it much more difficult for women to be in leadership positions when the workplace is dominated by men.

Tan: I think there are many specific challenges as a female executive, but I think the problem is bigger than just having women on boards or women in high-profile executive positions.

I think the biggest challenge, as someone who is a pioneer in technology, is that we have a gap in women and girls wanting to take up science, technology, engineering and maths. STEM, to me, is probably what we need to address most. Because there’s just not enough women and girls. I think it is very important for us to encourage women and girls to participate from a very young age, into STEM, and to keep them, to an extent that we can, in those fields and professions.

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Have you had any important mentors throughout your career? 

Katryna: I’ve had very important female mentors, but also male mentors, I kind of think of every boss as a mentor really. When I came into Ogilvy, the head of the company globally was Shelly Lazarus, she is a women, it was very inspiring for me that we have a very big global company, and a women is leading it, and that was 20 years ago.

My first boss at Ogilvy was also a woman, Tina Coscolluela, and now we have become close friends. There are a lot of women in our industry, so it’s really important to mentor young talents and mentor women as well, to make them able to move into leadership positions.

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Tan Le: I have a lot of mentors in my life. It’s difficult to do anything without having someone that you can trust, that you can ask questions of. I’ve been very lucky to have some incredible mentors in my life. As a young technology entrepreneur, I had a wonderful female mentor in Australia who really was so honest with me, she gave me a lot of phenomenal advice.

And in the past couple of years, I had two amazing mentors from Disney, one is Bob Iger, who is the CEO of Disney, and the other one is Zenia Mucha, the Chief Communications Officer at Disney. They both provided me with an incredible amount of insights, with experience and advice, on so many parts of my career and different aspects that I had been struggling with, both on a personal and a professional level. So it’s very important for us to, for anyone really, men or women, to have mentors throughout your life.

Read: Women must dare to be different – State Bank of India chief

Do you have any advice for the younger generation?

Katryna Mojica: I do have advice for young women. It’s very important that you have a sisterhood of women who are supporting each other. Sometimes a lot of people feel that women can be competitive with other women, and men kind of have a support system and they can support each other. So I think it’s very important that you support women as well.

I think women also have a lot of challenges, and its important not to be distracted and to be very focused. Even from a family standpoint, you have more issues to deal with compared with men, and women usually don’t get as much support in the work place as men do. So I think it’s very important to be supportive with each other, to share and to mentor others as well.

Tan Le: I think the most important thing, for me, is to recognize that the world is what we create, and we have a lot of potential and opportunities to create the world that we want, and the best way of predicting the future is to actually invent it yourself. So why not take the control in your own hands and be part of the creative process?

I think there’s a huge amount of potential and opportunities for young women and men to take part in really fundamental science because the world of the future is going to be driven by these pillars. There are so many disruptions going on in the world today, but we have to recognize that the biggest drivers of change in the future is going to be fundamentally shaped by science and technology, and unless we invest a lot of time and energy and effort into these areas, we won’t have the big part to play in creating the future that we want. So I think that’s the most important thing, to remember that.