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A Journey to Leadership

In the realm of leadership, a new chapter is about to unfold as YWLC welcomes our 8th executive committee. In this interview, we delve into the journey and aspirations of Yvonne Mak, our 8th executive committee's chairperson, exploring the trajectory she envisions for YWLC and the profound impact she aspires to achieve during her tenure.

Could you share a bit about your personal journey that led you to becoming involved with YWLC? What inspired you to take on the role of the incoming chairperson of the 8th executive committee?

I joined YWLC for its mentorship programme in 2017. I was just starting out in my career as a lawyer, and was looking for a female mentor to help me navigate my professional environment. Through the mentorship of former-Member of Parliament Dr Fatimah Lateef and Minister Grace Fu, I observed their heart for the community, and was inspired to do more within my sphere of influence.

I became more involved in YWLC as a subcommittee member in the Recruitment Subcommittee, first helping out in events, then leading the annual Future Women Leaders Forum with Google. Having been given so many opportunities through YWLC, I felt it was important to give back. I then ran for and held positions of Recruitment Director in the 6th Exco, and the Strategy & Partnerships Director in the 7th Exco.

Over the years, YWLC gave me a platform to learn new skills, form deep friendships with like-minded women, and develop my own style of leadership through leading teams and working with different women. I decided to take the plunge as Chairperson this year because I felt there was more that I could contribute in respect of a cause that was meaningful to me.

Envisioning the Future:

As the new chairperson of YWLC's 8th executive committee, what are 3 key things you envision the team to achieve in the coming 2 year term?

We have a very driven Exco and there is a lot we would like to achieve! When I first joined YWLC, it operated very differently to how it does today. The past Excos have done an excellent job in developing and growing our organisation through innovation and fine-tuning our key offerings. These are the most important areas I would like to work on:

First, building a sense of belonging in our community. I hope to create a culture within the organisation where members feel connected to YWLC. We want to create a safe space for members to share ideas, grow, and support one another on their journeys. It is also important that our community is diverse, well-represented and inclusive.

Second, creating a YWLC-model of leadership. YWLC’s initiatives and programmes should continue to be mission-focussed: to build up women leaders. To the 8th Exco, we envision a “YWLC leader” to be one who is empathetic, authentic, collaborative, a changemaker, and has grit and resilience. I draw from my experiences “growing up” in a girls’ school and having a reference point of the type of values we should embody. A model of leadership will provide a compass to our members, while still being a safe space for them to experiment with their leadership style.

Third, tracking impact and ensuring sustainable growth. YWLC is 15 years old and has seen over a thousand members pass through our doors. We have witnessed former members (alumni) join the ranks of management, and become grassroots and industry leaders - and who are now mentoring others. We have developed our programmes and processes significantly through trial and error. The 8th Exco will be thinking about what impact means to us, how we will stay relevant for members, and how we can continue to innovate.

Embracing New Changes:

What are some key changes done to the 8th executive committee?

I will be retaining the three-limb structure of our Exco created by our immediate-past Chairperson, Kelley Wong: (a) Community, comprising our membership-related portfolios, (b) Functions, comprising strategic and operational portfolios which are the backbone of the organisation, and (c) Events and Programmes, comprising the portfolios that run YWLC’s key programmes.

After assessing the present needs of YWLC, I have made the following changes to the 8th Exco portfolios:

  • Combining the Member Journey and Data Innovation portfolio, so that one Director can focus on developing the membership lifecycle strategy through data-driven insights.

  • Separating the former “Strategy & Partnerships” portfolio to two separate portfolios: (a) the Strategy Director will focus on the organisation internally, and (b) the Partnerships Director will focus on our external partnerships. As YWLC becomes a larger and more mature organisation, it is important to dedicate resources towards developing organisational policies, building up capable subcommittee members, and ensuring effective strategic direction across the organisation.

Values Driven Leadership:

How do you plan to harness the collective strengths of the 8th exco members to create a unified and impactful approach towards achieving YWLC's goals?

Our 8th Exco comprises women from different backgrounds with different experiences. We know that diversity is key in any healthy leadership and high-performing team. It is important for us to continue executing our core programmes well, while having space to be creative. I believe that the mix of our different skillsets will enable us to carry out true innovation.

At our Exco Retreat and Workplanning Session, we went through an in-depth training session to understand each other’s working and communication styles, as well as how we collectively operate as an Exco based on our strengths and blind spots. Our 8th Exco Strategic Goals, which are mission-focussed, will drive us towards our common purpose.

We also discussed the values that we want to hold ourselves and each other accountable to. Some of the values we as an Exco have committed to are: Respect, Curiosity, Empathy, Supportiveness, and Dynamism. We hope that this will translate into the way we lead our subcommittee teams and our organisation.

New Strategies and Goals:

YWLC has been at the forefront of empowering women leaders through its programs. Could you share more about the 5 strategic goals you have in mind for the 8th Exco.

Our 8th Exco Strategic Goals are:

  1. Leading the Charge for Women in Leadership

  2. Creating a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Community for Women of all Backgrounds

  3. Building a Sense of Belonging in our Member Community

  4. Developing a Strong Ecosystem of Mentors and Partners

  5. Ensuring Sustainable Growth and Impact

Our 8th Exco Strategic Goals track our mission, our values, our members, our ecosystem and our growth and impact.

As mentioned, YWLC must be mission-focussed and remain true to our values. We aim to be a platform for women to achieve leadership excellence, and to be a safe and collaborative environment for different voices to be heard.

Without our members and ecosystem, we will not be able to run our programmes and initiatives. We want to create a closely-knit community that helps women achieve their goals, and maintain a strong YWLC ecosystem that is aligned with our mission.

Finally, in order to remain relevant and sustainable, we must look towards the future on our growth and impact. We aim to ensure consistency in our programmes, while continuing to innovate in order to make our initiatives better.

Inspiring the Community:

Community engagement is crucial for YWLC's growth and influence. What excites you the most in the next 2 years, and how can our YWLC members play a role?

YWLC, as a volunteer-led organisation, is nothing without its members and their contributions. I am looking forward to seeing more women being impacted by our work. It really inspires and excites me to hear stories of women coming into YWLC, learning to lead and mentor others, then going on to do great things in their professional lives and society. I want to be able to witness our members’ growth and celebrate their successes.

To our YWLC members: I encourage you to lean into everything the organisation has to offer. Use YWLC as a platform to learn from women similar and different to you, and drive projects that you feel passionate about. I always say that you get out of YWLC what you put in: the more involved and plugged in you are, the more you will receive in terms of opportunities, relationships and growth.

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