Career Advice

Women, Diversity, and Work

min read
Natalie Lee

Belinda Esterhammer, CEO of Springboard Group, shares her experience with succeeding in the corporate world!

Being a woman in a man’s world can be tough, especially with succeeding in the corporate world! There often exists a lack of gender equality and diversity in the workplace, placing women or minority groups at a disadvantage. However, Belinda Esterhammer, Founder & CEO of Springboard Group, has shed her insights into this longstanding issue, to hopefully empower you.

Landing your dream job is a big challenge, and even after that, there is still a long winding road ahead of trying to advance yourself in a corporation. Moving forward in corporations is something everyone will struggle with, especially for women. Having worked in numerous companies globally, ranging from small boutique ones to big corporations, Belinda is able to give some advice to young women trying to advance themselves. First of all, Belinda advises that we must know our value. Once you recognise your value to the company, it will open so many doors! Belinda also urges you to know your ‘why’, or in other words, your mission. It gives what you do a purpose, which will not only help you excel, but also help you reach your goals faster, whether it be getting a promotion, or becoming a partner at your firm.

Belinda’s mission was always to start her own company, so she took steps throughout the years to achieve that, such as getting a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Her last tip for young women trying to build their brand is to attend startup weekends or hackathons. They will provide you with a more holistic and in-depth understanding of what it really takes to build a company from the ground up. While these tips largely benefit women, it is applicable to everyone — all genders, races and ages. However, something that is more specific to women is gender differences in climbing the corporate ladder.

There is still a huge disparity between men and women climbing the corporate ladder. Belinda highlights how there is a disproportionately higher number of men in executive positions compared to women. As a result, corporate social responsibility is beginning to be implemented in some companies, such as quotas being put in place to ensure equal opportunity between men and women. However, there is still a long way to go before equality is achieved. Additionally, there is an immense lack of diversity in the corporate world. As said by Belinda:

“If you look at a lot of conferences or panels, you see a lot of white, old males, where’s the diversity there?”

Belinda suggests that mentoring in companies is an effective and efficient way to tackle the lack of equality and diversity in the corporate world. Top-down mentoring — bosses mentoring their subordinates, and bottom-up mentoring — young professionals mentoring their seniors, are both effective in accelerating the process of eliminating gender differences and boosting diversity. With that said, the aforementioned strategy of mentoring can be quite difficult to actually implement, as it requires cooperation from several parties. So, how can women directly take action to empower themselves?

An outstanding method of empowerment for women is addressing the gender pay gap, which is very much still prevalent. Belinda urges women to do their research because knowledge is power. More specifically, women should find out what the mean salary is for their role, to assess whether their salary is an acceptable amount. Belinda recommends websites such as Glassdoor. Another way to find out is by asking people. However, salaries are definitely a sensitive subject, especially in Hong Kong culture, so you have to be strategic about it! Find someone who isn’t competing against you, or just ask someone in your industry for a mean ballpark figure, so they don’t have to lay down their own salary. Another very useful method to obtain information about your salary is through recruitment agencies. As Belinda highlights, there are many recruitment agencies that have their client in mind, and if you think from a corporate perspective, it is also in their favour to help their candidate receive a higher salary. From her personal experience, Belinda affirms that getting a fair salary is all about knowing your worth and knowing the market standard. She says:

“I've been in situations before where I felt like I’m not getting paid enough, but you just have to do your research, know your worth, and know why you deserve a higher wage. And then, go to HR or your boss and present your case.”

Make sure you’re consistent, persistent and clear with your concerns. Communication really is key to getting your dream job, and the dream salary to go with it. If all else fails, Belinda suggests asking this key question:

“How much are males getting paid here?”

However, tread carefully. You should only ask this question if you’re sure men are being paid more than women in your company.

As highlighted previously, succeeding as a woman can be tough. Sometimes, women will have to take extra steps to reach their goals that men might more easily attain, but don’t let that discourage you! Belinda highlights that there are numerous ways in which you can empower yourself, including becoming more informed, taking action to challenge existing systems, but most importantly — knowing your value and your worth.

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