Kellie Twigge is the vice-president of people & culture at bp. Since 2019, Kellie has been on the board of the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, recently stepping into the role of secretary. She is an active member of MĀIA, a key part of the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce’s network that supports NZ women working in Asia. The New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (Singapore) is a non-profit organization established in 1983 with the purpose to “connect, promote, and grow” opportunities for their members both in Singapore and regionally by extending their networks and promoting business relationships.
KrASIA (Kr): What does MĀIA mean? And what does the network do in Singapore?
Kellie Twigge (KT): MĀIA in Maori is an adjective meaning “brave, bold, capable, and confident.” It’s our network for New Zealand women to connect and receive support. We do this by bringing together professional, like-minded women operating in Singapore and across Asia. It’s supported by the NZ Chamber Singapore and the NZ ASEAN Business Alliance.
Kr: What are some of the most common challenges women in MĀIA face when coming to Singapore?
KT: Some women arrive in different countries without any support. MĀIA provides a network to counter that. Sometimes women in leadership positions require others for support. Understanding how business and culture work in Singapore can be a daunting experience, even if exciting. Having people to reach out to can be helpful.
Kr: How have you personally grown by being part of MĀIA yourself?
KT: Access to professional women, especially in leadership roles, has been excellent. The diversity of experience, backgrounds, age, and ethnicity has been really helpful for me. I have really benefited from being able to learn from the others, have their assurance, support, and seek their input and ideas.
Kr: How can women use these support initiatives to help shape their own careers and leadership aspirations?
KT: MĀIA offers great networking opportunities and a community to reach out to. Often, women find out about new roles through informal routes and MĀIA is a way to build those enabling relationships. We also hold development programs where women can learn new skills, approaches, and tips in areas that are common gaps like negotiations or building resilience.
Kr: Who have been your biggest allies in your life and career? And why?
KT: I have had some great role models and leaders who have supported me. They pushed me to put myself forward and believed in me when I didn’t. I have also had a ton of leaders who have taught me what I absolutely do not want to be! My biggest allies have often been men who have called out something inappropriate when they’ve seen it, or have already had a seat at the table and have pulled the chair back for me to sit down. I have had the privilege of some reverse mentoring, where I received feedback on what works for my team, which gives me confidence in my leadership. Their courage is very much appreciated.
Kr: What sort of allies do women need more of?
KT: It is important for my success to have access to a varied network. Occasionally, I need a different perspective. We need to surround ourselves with allies who have experience we can draw from and who are in our corner.
Kr: Could you tell us more about the event MĀIA ran recently to celebrate International Women’s Day?
KT: With support from the Singapore Tourism Board, we were able to hold our first live event in over a year—our flagship International Women’s Day event. The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2021 was #ChooseToChallenge. We hosted a panel of international leaders working in Singapore to discuss how 2020 changed the game for gender equality; the topic was “How can women seize the COVID-19 moment?”
With the safe distancing measures, unfortunately, we weren’t able to network; however, the panel’s insights provided the audience with a variety of perspectives. They covered a range of topics such as working from home, the multiple roles women play, mental well-being, and equality in the workplace. It was great to have an opening address from Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s minister of foreign affairs, and our high commissioner in Singapore, Jo Tyndall.
Kr: What other events do you have planned for 2021 now that things are starting to become more relaxed?
KT: We would really love to hold more networking events as well as continue with our development program in the year ahead. The New Zealand Chamber and MĀIA are doing an excellent job planning future events that can be held safely.