Managing teams at work, orchestrating change, leading the way, breaking the glass ceiling in a very male-dominated world, making key decisions, inspiring young women along the way – empowered women, empower women – truly, no better time to reflect on those words than today, on International Women’s Day. With the theme #breakthebias, Gafencu shines the spotlight on eight influential, powerful women who are truly working to make their fields more open, inclusive and accessible to all…
Co-founder of EcoDrive
On a crusade to fight the burgeoning rise of single-use plastics, Yolanda Choy has made it her mission to to educate the public on the environmental damage of single-use plastics and hopes to create a greener, more sustainable future. With roots in fashion and Marketing and PR, she connects with corporates to provide solutions for sustainability and encourages lifestyle change on both the individual and community level through campaigns that promote sustainability initiatives. She also co-founded Central Weddings, a luxury bridal salon.
“Education plays a big part, because, by and large, many people might be throwing away things that contaminate the entire collection bin unrecyclable and sent to a landfill instead…We educate people different ideas on how they can make a difference to create a better, more sustainable world for future generations.”
Founder and CEO of JIA Group
For the thousands of foodies and discerning diners in Hong Kong, there is high chance you have dined in one of Yenn Wong’s many establishments that embrace an array of culinary concepts. As the owner of multinational F&B company, JIA Group, the continuously growing vibrant and diverse gourmet flavours have Yenn Wong to thank for. Especially, during strict social distancing rules, JIA Group has spearheaded bringing fine-dining and Michelin-star menus to the comfort of patrons’ homes through its digital platform JIA Everywhere.
“We pride ourselves on providing a range of gourmet experience, ranging from casual to fine dining, all of which place equal emphasis on the quality of the cuisine and the dining environment. Our outlets not only aim to satiate a customer’s appetite, but also deliver a visual feast. It’s a formula that resonates with our guests and one I take a great deal of pride in.”
Brand and Product Transformation Director of Plaza Premium Group
It’s no secret that aviation has been the hardest hit global industry in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, but Mei Mei Song exemplifies what rising from adversity looks like. She took the tumultuous Covid period to revamp, regroup and reinvent the brand, making travel better with initiatives such as opening their first pay-per-use lounge in Africa, introducing pet-friendly services, valet, baggage-wrapping, buggy and a plethora of other convenient amenities at key international airports, and tapping into new markets such as train lounges in China and launching their first zero carbon footprint lounge in Helsinki. Song is creating a new benchmark of sustainable, convenient, premium hospitality in the travel sector – her team aims to increase their current 230-plus global lounges to be at 550 by the year 2025.
“Founding a successful business is not enough. How you conduct that business and the strength of your vision and values are key.”
Architect and Founder of Collective Studio
With a degree from Cornell University and a masters from Harvard University and stints in prestigious global design firms like Herzog & de Meuron and OMA, Betty Ng is Hong Kong’s leading architect and has already amassed an impressive body of work and founded her own Hong Kong-based firm, COLLECTIVE Studio, all before her late 30s. A diverse amount of local and international work can be credited to her name including the “Things, Spaces, Interactions” exhibition space in the new M+ museum, all four Kapok lifestyle stores, and is currently working New World Development on their twin tower and commercial podium project in Cheung Sha Wan. Having only started COLLECTIVE Studio six years ago, they have already been awarded a MIPIM Asia ‘Best Futura Project’ Award in 2021, for the King Lam Street commercial development. Betty strongly believes in giving back and inspiring the next generation of architects through her work, she teaches at the prestigious Chinese University of Hong Kong, and hopes that more young women will follow in the future.
“Personally, I don’t think too much about whether I am female or male – I am an architect. I focus on the designs I create. In return, fortunately, I am surrounded by people who see me for what I bring to the table rather than my gender. I hope to inspire the younger generation and remind them that in 2022, disrupting the state of play is certainly possible.”
Socialite, Entrepreneur, Mom
For a girl discouraged by her father to work, Helen Ma blazed a trail in fashion, beauty and catering. After a slew of successful businesses which range from launching a magazine, Helen Ma Loves Muse, running a successful F&B venture and introducing the French-influenced Japanese luxury skincare brand Evidens de Beauté to Hong Kong – the style guru and beauty goddess has done it all. But no venture comes close to the gratification of being a mum to 9-year-old, Shymie. Currently running her lifestyle e-commerce platform, One Plus One, Ma is eyeing yet another successful, quality lifestyle venture with the idea of creating healthy food, sustainable trends, home styling and engaging experiences. Her advice to the modern-day career woman juggling family and home:
“Balancing a thriving career and a blissful family will take too much of your strength and resilience. Try to live guilt-free [and] happy.”
Executive Director of DS Regenerative Medicine
Having started her career teaching from Zhejiang University’s Faculty of Science, followed by a stint in its School of Management, before pursuing other passions such as designing Chinese jewellery, and following her lifelong passion for beauty and skincare by leading the DS Regenerative Medicine business in the field of regenerative beauty and medicine. Recently, she has gone back to her teaching roots and started a new youth education venture to raise awareness of artificial intelligence for young minds. Her company, DS Regenerative Medicine was listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2017.
“Our company currently helps more than 200 primary and secondary schools across Hong Kong, training them to develop requisite skills within this sphere. We also host activities to increase awareness and encourage development, be it annual competitions or even international conferences. I believe it’s something that fills an unmet need, and that’s very meaningful to me.”
Executive Director of Big Honor Entertainment
Daughter of Lam Kin-ming and successor of Big Honor Entertainment, Veronica Lam is an innovative promoter of musical talent, even co-founding Hardbit Music with her brother, to put a new light on alternative music and DJ events in the city. Despite the hard hit that the entertainment industry took throughout the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, her response has been confident and resilient. She launched B.Live app to bring the experience of live music and theatrical shows to audiences in the safety of their won home; allowing people to enjoy music while interacting in chat rooms. All the while pursuing her own passion in photography work through VL Visuals.
“At a time when in-person musical events are all but non-existent, we have to keep creating new spaces for musical acts within the entertainment industry. B.Live is a streaming app that offers viewers multiple angles during broadcasted events, so they can decide how they take in their favourite acts.”
Skin Formulator, Founder of Skin Need
A major in biochemistry at the University of California, Christal Leung had a natural inclination towards the science of beauty. Growing up, her mum ran a beauty centre where she spent her weekends. Seeing her mum’s approach to skincare – customising products with fresh fruits and vegetables – and watching the way she brought joy and confidence to her customers, sparked a keen interest in beauty. Skin Need, her hugely successful line of skincare with an exceptionally attractive, minimalist packaging was launched with the same childhood passion of simplifying beauty, customising products according to the need of the skin and bringing joy from within. A firm believer in sustainability, clean products and bespoke products, Christal credits her accomplishments to a loving family, a brilliant team and the loyal customers.
“Our philosophy evolved from the experiences and skincare problems that my mother encountered over her career, and how she felt beauty products should actually be addressing those needs.”