In this upcoming International Womens’ Day, the Oasis team seeks to celebrate not only the achievements of women but also the allies who have helped us to reach our potential in any way. On the journey to success, many of us don’t walk alone, and personally, I have many people to thank for extending a helping hand to me along the way. Hence, I’ve decided to reach out to our Oasis Team again to find out:
- The biggest ally they’ve personally had? And for men, how have they been an ally to women in their lives?
- What they think we can do to give women more opportunities to grow in their respective places?
Here’s what our team has to say:
Emily Fang, Community Lead in Singapore
I had a manager who really encouraged me to step up and just take up space. I used to work on a very technical, male-dominated team, and he always gave me the platform to speak up and share my ideas with the team. By doing this, he ensured I had a voice and was growing as a professional. He was an incredible collaborator, as well as an ally. There were many things I shied away from, like speaking publically or presenting projects, but he really encouraged me to always sit in the front seat and be bold.
He rallied for my conversion to full-time and for my raise. Most importantly, he always highlighted our team’s efforts and genuinely cared about us as human beings. Not only that, when I came to him for guidance, he would not prescribe an answer, but help ask the hard questions that would guide me there with my own thoughts and strategy. He was an incredible manager.
What we can do more: To listen first, rather than prescribe.
Joanna Ng, Community Coordinator in Singapore
When I was studying abroad in China, there was one year where I decided to stay for an internship. Everyone had gone home to spend time with their family, and I was alone. Unfortunately, it was also a terrible period for me because I was almost broke, but also that the internship didn’t turn out right and I left just in 3 weeks.
A Singaporean uncle I met there from the community became my biggest ally during that time. He heard about my predicament and offered me an internship. What I predicted to be the worst summer of my China life turned out to be the best – I ended up planning and hosting one of the biggest Singapore National Day dinner, and learnt so many skills from the internship. I was so grateful for the opportunity that I stayed on to help the community for another year.
It wasn’t just the opportunities he provided, but also life advice. I remember those days where I was still very lost about my future as a student, and his advice stayed with me forever, “Don’t limit yourself to one thing. Exploring other things outside of your passion might enrich your passion in itself.”
What we can do more: I think personally, one of the most important things that we can do is not to limit women’s opportunities with expectations or pre-formed concepts of gender differences. For example, a woman could excel in science and not languages, or they might not fit societal expectations of how a woman should be, but she is still a successful individual. Not binding them to any stereotypical beliefs and allowing them to explore their interests freely is the best thing we can do for women to grow.
Julianna Wu, Reporter based in Beijing, China
I feel extremely fortunate to say that the biggest ally of my life so far is my husband. We haven’t been together for long (only around one year) but the amount of help and support he has given me has made me a better, stronger person in life.
Considering the short amount of time we’ve been together, people would always ask me what’s behind my decision of marrying him. The answer is somewhat straightforward: if our partner is the only family we can choose out of our own will, I choose him because he’s a great partner for this business called “life”.
Moved from Hong Kong to Beijing in late 2019, I was freshly out of a painful period in my life and was not ready to fight again. Life seemed to be an endless routine I was pushed to follow, and all my goals and pursues were fading away from me. That was also the time we started dating. I remembered sitting on a bench in a park in Beijing last March, the weather was just starting to turn warm, the beautiful sunlight was something I hadn’t seen for months of stay-at-home. While trying to impress me with his awkward jokes, he saw my depression and say: “Great things will happen to you, and you have my support. Even if that means one day I would end up being your stepping-stone, I won’t regret it.”
This is somewhat exaggerating even to a low self-esteem me at that time, but his faith in me, the recognition and encouragement, was just what I need to pick up myself and regain my passion for life. Just like a good partner in business, he understands how significant my career is to me, he believes in me with his full heart, and also helps me to reflect on my weaknesses and mistakes from time to time. More importantly, he made sure that I have something to rely on when I fall.
Unlike many romantic couples who got married relatively quick, we didn’t start off with a dramatic first-meet, neither did the process full of sparks and narratives. But everything feels natural with him. He didn’t come into my life riding a white horse or have a gold mine in his family, but he relit my passion for life and gives me a bright future to look forward to.
What we can do more: One thing I feel strongly as a women in Asian society is the that they’d often been looked down upon, not necessarily in a bad way, but that would constrain what women can achieve. There’s always cases that people may think, “she may not able to handle the pressure well, I need to care for her more”, or “what she can do as a women is limited, I need to step up and take more responsibilities”. Treat a woman with care and respect doesn’t equal to looking at their abilities with assumptions. Often times women works extra hard, just to fight the underlying bias so that they can be placed at the same starting point with others. But some may see this as women need to work extra cause their abilities are not there. I’ve seen women doing great job in the car factory, in kitchen, in every practises out there, I’ve also seen men afraid of bugs, couldn’t life heavy goods, or breakdown under pressure. Everyone has pros and cons, I think it’s time to stop associating abilities with gender.
Sara Mandagie, Reporter based in Jakarta, Indonesia
I think I am fortunate to be surrounded by women who have dreams and do not limit their potential, and thrive on making them come true.
My mother was a successful bakery business owner. Most of my mentors in my career are women; I witness how they juggle mothers and career women’s roles. My BFF girl tried several times to get a full scholarship in one of the Ivy League universities; she got rejected two times but didn’t give up and finally made it the third time. I’ve recently joined a traditional dance community where most of the members are women over 40 and 50; we are women who want to continue to preserve Indonesian culture for the next generation. Lastly, some of my friends left their career so then they can have more time with their young children and dedicated all their time taking care of the household; I personally think that is a tough job. I am grateful to learn from these women; they are all my allies.
What we can do more: It’s as simple as giving women unlimited choices; and learn to respect their choices when they don’t match ours. Applies from woman to woman too.
AJ Cortese, Reporter based in New York, USA
To be an ally is to support someone during difficult moments, such as when they have to defy societal assumptions in order to fully express themselves. It is about actively combatting gendered stereotypes which permeate too many aspects of our culture. What we can do more: Everyone deserves to be treated with equity and respect in social, professional and personal settings, so it is important to reflect those values in your everyday behaviour, and be bold enough to stand up to denigrating viewpoints when possible.
Stephanie Li, Reporter based in Myanmar
My mother has been one of my biggest allies in life. As a single mom, she has made many sacrifices and endured many hardships to guarantee my and my sister a better life. From cooking the best home meal to managing a small business, she has balanced it all with spirit, grit and grace.
What we can do more: I strongly believe that woman and minorities are one of the driving forces in the tech landscape worldwide. Creating a safe space to talk through the issues of diversity and inclusion is fundamental.
Taro Ishida, Startup Community Lead in Singapore
Being an ally to women is to be someone who listens and helps when needed. Actively lookout for anything that pushes stereotypes and call it out. But most importantly try to be informed and educated about the challenges women face in order to have a better awareness.
What can we do more: There are a lot of fragile males who feel threatened when they see females step out of their self-defined image of what a females role in society is. They then lash out by downplaying their achievements or going out of their way to stop progress. This needs to stop and one way is to expose children to educational material around this from a young age because these prevalent attitudes are taught from generation to generation. Despite the growing amount of support channels and initiatives for women, there needs to be even more. Attitudes and habits are hard to break so it requires a huge effort.
Nicole Teo, Community Intern in Singapore
To put it quite matter-of-factly, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with toxic masculinity. As a result, I’ve always been cynical to the idea of men as allies of women. However, throughout my time in University, I made a friend who was not only sensitive by nature but unabashedly so. Not only was he the first one to cry in cinemas watching Disney movies, but he would also constantly remind me that feelings are not a sign of weakness. They are and always will be valid.
I do believe that men and women have a special role to play in supporting one another, and I’m incredibly lucky to have met someone who has shown that to me. With this fresh perspective, even though from time to time, I still meet people that prove me wrong, I know I have at least one special ally by my side.
What we can do more: I think the first and most important step would be: To accept the fact that women and men are of equal calibre. Women should not be accessed with any greater scrutiny than their male peers. And by adopting this mindset, I believe this creates a space for more women to reach out and take opportunities that come their way in aiding personal growth.
Aastha Srivastava, Community Intern in Singapore The biggest allies I’ve had are my friends. It’s common for women to be put down or to be underestimated in both school and work settings. Often times, it was my closest friends that really inspired me to be the best version of myself. They’re the ones who pushed me into leadership positions when I was afraid to be “bossy”, the ones who encouraged me to speak my mind and the ones who taught that every woman is valid in her own right. I am incredibly fortunate to have found such a supportive group of girlfriends that have supported me throughout my life.
What we can do more: It is so important for women to support fellow women. Society has cultivated culture to be one wear women tear other women down for reasons that are beyond our control. Patriarchal values have built a toxic culture of pitting women against each other. The way to allow women to grow is for all of us to have a wider understanding of intersectionality and societal dynamics. Only with mutual understanding can we grow.
Joanna Ng is the Community Coordinator at Oasis, by KrASIA. Her time in Shanghai has broadened her horizons and inspired her to share personal stories of not only herself, but others as well. When she’s not hearing stories, she’s usually pursuing her passions in the Chinese Language and Culture, and writing her thoughts on the world reflected in her eyes.
If you’d like to contribute an article to Oasis, you can apply here.