Leadership is an important vehicle for enabling organisations to thrive. The hallmark of a great leader is the ability to lead and inspire others to challenge the status quo, make a real difference, and reach greater heights. Hear from Kelley Wong, newly elected Chairperson of YWLC’s 7th Executive Committee (Exco) and previously Vice-Chairperson of the 6th Exco, on her vision to bring YWLC forward.
1. What energises you about YWLC?
The people in it and the people who run it.
A YWLC mentor once expressed surprise that the organisation was entirely volunteer-run, and suggested that we hire a secretariat given the scale of members and activities going on. Then Chairperson Lynn Er’s response remains etched in my mind till date - “YWLC would not be the same if we were run by a professional secretariat, she said. “The camaraderie and close friendships built from working on events together simply can’t be replicated if we were to be operated by a secretariat!”
2. What’s helped you build confidence?
Having a strong support system. A couple of years ago, YWLC held a leadership development workshop on “Building Your Personal Board of Directors” that taught how one should have different sources of support in life.
I’m fortunate to have a support system that keeps me going and lifts me up. While they may not always know it, the different ways in which they support me at work, with YWLC and in my personal life have allowed me to step forward where I might hesitate, and move forward with confidence in the choices that I make.
3. What have you learned in your previous role as Vice-Chairperson that has better equipped you for the current role?
Being able to channel the voice of a leader. Managing a team is not easy, much less a team of volunteers. Working with YWLC’s 6th Exco, while very fulfilling, brought its own set of challenges. For one, I was the youngest in the team and that often made me uncertain whether my opinion was valid or if I had overstepped my boundaries in a way. This was made even more difficult by the need to navigate different working styles and balance the varying expectations within the team.
Looking back, the past two years have taught me to speak with firmness and, more importantly, kindness. I’ve learnt a lot from Wong Jia Yun, the 6th Exco’s Chairperson in this regard, from the way she navigates difficult conversations with poise and compassion, especially at the peak of Covid, that threw us curveball after curveball.
Stepping into her big shoes with the 7th Exco, I hope to channel such a voice that inspires confidence within the team, and with our members, mentors and partners. This will then allow us to make the right or best decisions for the organisation.
4. What is your vision of YWLC for the next two years? What are your plans for YWLC?
During the Biennial General Meeting, I shared a short reflection on how the YWLC experience is defined by our community - who we interact with, what we learn from one another, the relationships with our mentors, and the experiences we share together. My vision for the next two years is this - to strengthen this community further and allow more women to be empowered by it.
This will be done through the following guiding principles and focuses that the 7th Exco will work towards in our term:
To keep our members first, always
To build an inclusive community for all industries, ethnicities and backgrounds
To stay relevant in changing times
To create opportunities for strategic and sustainable growth and impact
To lead the charge for women in leadership
As a start, there has already been a slight rejig of the YWLC portfolio structure to cater to the changing needs of our community and create a more streamlined experience, while maintaining the fluidity and magic of the organisation.
First, we have introduced the new Member Journey and Member Engagement portfolios (previously Membership and Special Projects) to cater to our growing member base. The former will guide the member experience with an emphasis on helping new members integrate into the community, and the latter will connect members and build strong relationships between them through shared experiences.
Next, the Community Engagement portfolio has been renamed to Social Impact with the intention of placing emphasis on YWLC's overall vision to drive positive impact in the wider community.
Finally, the functional portfolios - Data & Innovation and Strategy & Partnerships (formerly Business Development) - will look to develop an innovative, diverse and representative culture that will allow YWLC to stay relevant for the modern women in this next phase.
The team is already working on exciting new projects to bring this vision to life. Some of them are actively looking for volunteers for these projects and I encourage members to keep a lookout for such opportunities!
5. What do you think are the most urgent issues facing young women in Singapore right now? And how do you plan to tackle it in YWLC?
The default work from home mandate has taken away opportunities at the workplace to connect with others and makes the challenge of building a support network even more difficult. I’ve felt this personally as well, having onboarded to a new firm shortly after the Circuit Breaker last year. A Harvard Business Review article had actually identified the loss of access to informal networks and critical assignments as one of the reasons why work from home isn’t necessarily good for women. Adding on to the article, the confidence gap and imposter syndrome that many young women face exacerbate the setbacks that this brings to their careers.
This is why joining and being plugged into a network like YWLC is all the more important at a time like this. Over the past year, we’ve had to shift gears from hosting traditional networking events to creating avenues for members with shared backgrounds or interests to connect and build relationships through, for example, our Member Circles. Moving forward, we will continue to provide more opportunities for our members, mentors and partners to engage meaningfully.
Kelley is the Chairperson of YWLC’s 7th Executive Committee (Exco). The Exco roles are voluntary, and Exco Members run various portfolios within YWLC, including Member Recruitment, Mentorship, Social Impact, and Leadership Development. As part of YWLC’s goal of nurturing young women leaders, the Exco roles offer a chance for members to step up and hone their leadership skills while driving change for women in Singapore. Click here to meet the 7th Exco and find out how you can get involved as a subcommittee member of the various portfolios here.
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Interviewee: Kelley Wong
Author: Joey Ong