Celebrating International Women’s Day

Challenging the status quo to pave the way forward for others

This International Women’s Day, Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) spoke to three of its senior leaders to find out their sources of inspiration, what drives them and how they achieved their successes. We also asked what lessons organizations should learn and the steps they must take to promote women in the workplace.

Young woman wearing a hijab playing basketball

This International Women’s Day, Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) spoke to three of its senior leaders to find out their sources of inspiration, what drives them and how they achieved their successes. We also asked what lessons organizations should learn and the steps they must take to promote women in the workplace.

For Joan Collar, MMB Asia Pacific Leader, it’s the women around her that are most inspirational when it comes to bringing her best self to work.

On dealing with adversity

This starts at home with her daughter, whose resilience and strength in overcoming adversity has energised her to be a better manager and cope with whatever work throws at her.

She explains: “My daughter has been through a lot in the short 15 years of her life, but how she deals with adversity with such grace and resilience really energizes and inspires me. Because, if she can do it – I can too. She says I'm her role model, but she's also my role model and my mirror in terms of how I want others to look at me.”

On empowering others

As part of her career, Joan mentors people in the workplace, something which she says is another source of inspiration. In particular, she says seeing colleagues and mentees grow over time and overcome obstacles one of her greatest sources of professional pride.

Joan says: “One of the women I’ve mentored was someone I hired. When she joined the organization, she was finding her voice - she would practice presenting in front of a mirror, and she felt that she did not have enough self-worth. When I see where she started and where she is today, I'm the proudest in terms of her journey and how she's been able to grow from strength to strength. For me, that's been incredible.”

On resilience and growth

In many ways, Joan confesses she is paying forward some of the support she’s had from senior leaders in her own career. Indeed, she says understanding bosses have helped her dig deep and overcome personal challenges such as premature birth, family deaths and periods of ill-heath.

She explains: "Motherhood, my father dying and coping with cancer all really changed me. The person that I am today is someone who is kinder to herself and the team around her, a person who listens more. And I think that's really important. Of late, I tend to react a lot more slowly because I want to understand what someone is trying to achieve and how I can help them accomplish that. I never understood how giving is more rewarding than receiving until I started mentoring and coaching – it just opened my eyes! Now I want to pay it forward."

On leadership

"During times of crisis, I had an incredible boss who said: "Take the time you need, and I know that you're going to be back stronger. It's OK to be vulnerable." To have leaders providing you with that council and empowering you with that decision is incredible. I like to think that I'm a much better leader because I want to make sure I pay that forward to my team and the people around me."

On managing physical and emotional well-being

“I think it’s really important that we’re able to get support in the office, whether that’s flexibility to deal with stresses, mental health provision, or even a mentorship program that helps women thrive, as this is critical for diversity in the workplace.” “Our Health on Demand research showed that organizations are getting much better at putting systems and policies in place, even though there is still much more that can be done.”

For instance, we found that 58% of women report they are comfortable discussing their mental health challenges with family, friends or healthcare professionals and 73% are confident they can afford the healthcare they or their family may need.

There is also recognition of where employers can do more in meeting these challenges. 63% of women say they find flexible working practise extremely or highly valuable, and 52% value support with mental health, resilience and personal relationship concerns. A further 57% said they “highly” or “extremely” value the ability to customize their benefits package to meet their personal needs.

On breaking the bias and being accountable

Joan adds that women themselves have an important role to play in calling out inequity in the workplace and being agents for change. She urges all women to seize the moment and use initiatives like International Women’s Day as a springboard to hold businesses to account.

She concludes: "What's important is to call bias out - to recognise it, be alert to it, and use our voices to challenge the status quo. We are at a time when organizations are starting to hold themselves accountable for gender equality, but it's also incumbent on us to make sure that we're not a silent voice. It only takes one person to make a statement and pave the way forward for our daughters."

Related articles