Grab Malaysia's Iris Chang on the imposter syndrome

Country marketing head of Grab Malaysia, Iris Chang (pictured) entered one of the biggest ride-hailing company three years ago.  Joining one of the most competitive industries, as deputy country marketing head, Chang says that she was always aware of the challenges that comes with her role. But as a manager she always held on to the belief of empowering her staff.

(Read also: Grab’s evolution from MyTeksi: Its fight to rise to the top)

Here's her story.

A+M: What has been the toughest thing about being a female boss?

Chang: Regardless of gender, there will always be challenges as a leader or a people manager. Personally, what challenges and inspires me is how I can empower each of my team members to step out of their comfort zones to embrace new challenges in their work and grow to be competent leaders of tomorrow.

Each person is different, and they respond differently to situations and challenges, so it’s quite a learning process for me to watch them grow into their individual leaders.

A+M: Staff members aren’t always the kindest to opinionated female leaders. How do you deal with this?

Chang: I cannot speak for other organisations or female leaders, but I am very proud to say that women make up more than 40% of Grab’s workforce with many of them holding top management roles in the company. We have a great working culture whereby everyone is welcomed to share, exchange and feedback on ideas. Discussions and debates are held with mutual respect with the shared desire to always do better for our customers and partners.

I have come across many of my own team members as well as colleagues within the organisation who have strong opinions, I take time to listen, understand and have conversations on how we can come to a mutual agreement and move forward. Where necessary, we may agree to disagree but the most important thing is to always put the needs of our consumers above our own personal opinions.

A+M: What are some of the biggest challenges women on top in the ad/marketing world face?

Chang: There will always be many ideas and also a lot of noise in the market, therefore, our challenge is firstly, to discern what matters most. And secondly, how do we solve customer’s problems as an organisation and actually deliver that brand experience that we promised them.

A+M: A tip for ambitious women?

Chang: Women have come a long way and we have earned our seat in the boardroom. So in today's world, everyone gets equal opportunity, but only if YOU SEIZE THEM. Be confident; put yourself out there, embrace the journey and you may discover yourself.

Many women (and men) suffer from "imposter syndrome" and this handicaps them from embracing opportunities and celebrating their achievements. But it’s okay to fail, it’s through failing we learn. Ralph Waldo Emerson says it best, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

A+M:  Last year, the #MeToo movement took the world by storm. Do you think the #MeToo movement had an impact in the local marketing industry?

Chang: The #MeToo movement has raise a lot of awareness globally. However for us as Malaysians, I believe there are other issues that needs to be addressed. For example, I recall the comments that came about from our GrabFood billboard that was highlighting the fact that mothers no longer needed to cook, now that GrabFood is available in their area.

We wanted to emphasise that in this New Malaysia, mothers are no longer assume that stereotyped role anymore. We were delighted to know that many agreed and resonated with it. However, an equal proportion of Malaysians still believe that women are still expected to cook, clean, take care of children and tend to their home. This showed us that Malaysians are still very much polarised in our opinions about gender equality, and more needs to be done to reach that social awareness.

This is part of an International Women’s Day series by A+M, featuring female leaders in the industry and their views on being a female boss.

Read also:
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TBWA Malaysia’s Yee Hui Tsin on owning decisions and throwing punches
‘I continue to be authentic and remain who I am,’ says VMLY&R Asia’s Tripti Lochan
Wavemaker Malaysia’s Michelle Achuthan on surviving a boys’ club
‘Opinionated doesn’t mean aggressive or masculine,’ says Pos marketer Schrene Goh
Grey Group Malaysia’s Irene Wong: ‘For me, taking charge feels natural’
‘Find your voice, not just to speak but to be heard,’ says M&C Saatchi’s Lara Hussein
Facebook’s Nicole Tan on mentoring women and creating opportunities around it
Ex-AirAsia marketer Kathleen Tan shares her personal challenges as a female boss