Sylvia’s favourite quote:
“You are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product of your decisions”.
– Stephen Covey
Retail in Asia selected a women empowerment ambassador for today’s newsletter to explain how every day could be Women’s Day at the workplace. We talked with Sylvia Chim, Corporate communication and Sustainability Director for Shiseido in Asia Pacific and she shared with us how it is to work at Shiseido.
SEE ALSO : Shiseido’s plan to empower women
Sylvia is very much involved into women empowerment campaigns for both Shiseido and her private life. We have asked her to share with us what Shiseido is doing not only for its employees, but also for its customers and all stakeholders.
RiA : Sylvia you are a women empowerment ambassador, can you explain to our audience your role at Shiseido and your latest appointment?
Sylvia : I joined Shiseido because the company’s definition of beauty is not just skin-deep; women are the heart and soul of our business and there is an incredible opportunity for Shiseido to be a force for good in Asia Pacific.
I am fortunate that my day job and the sustainability programs that I spearhead within the company play a critical role in achieving this goal, as we look to equalize access to education, opportunity and mentorship for marginalized women across Asia Pacific.
Our new Shiseido Life Quality program empowers not only women, but also men, and children with significant skin irregularities to return to an active social life and more importantly, truly live the lives they want to live.
RiA : Shiseido has placed women empowerment at its core, can you give us concrete examples of the activities you have in place?
Sylvia : Shiseido has a strong, longstanding partnership with UN Women in Japan, and this continues in Asia Pacific.
I recently joined the UN Women Innovation for Impact Ideathon that was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2018, where I had the honour of being a judge, mentor and speaker.
The i4i ideathon, the first of its kind organized by UN Women, was a 3-day innovation workshop where over 100 young women from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar gathered to generate, develop and communicate new ideas and solutions for women’s empowerment and to eradicate gender inequality in their countries.
It was absolutely inspiring to be a part of this great event, which encouraged and ignited a passion within these young, talented women to find innovative solutions that challenge gender stereotypes and negative social norms imposed on females in their communities and countries.
This is only the start, and we are looking to extend our partnership with UN Women further as we continue to bridge the gender gap.
We will soon officially launch the Shiseido Life Quality Center in Singapore this year. The center and its specialized makeup range was developed to empower women, men and children with significant skin concerns (such as burn scars, vitiligo, acne or side effects of cancer treatment).
For some of our consumers, their skin concerns may sometimes prevent them from active social participation, or significantly affect their self-esteem and lives. We hope that through this specialized makeup range called Perfect Cover, we would be able to support them in regaining their confidence, and achieving a better quality of life.
Empowering women is also a personal mission and passion for me, so I was part of the Her Planet Earth expedition team that trekked across the world’s largest cave, Han Son Doong, in the heart of Central Vietnam in Feburary 2019.
The objective of the expedition was to raise awareness and funds for UN Women Vietnam, with all proceeds funding projects for the advancement and economic empowerment of women in the rural areas of the country.
There is still an opportunity to donate to this great cause here:
RiA : Women represent the majority of your customers, what do they want nowadays and why do they pick your brands over others?
Sylvia : Well, I cannot speak for all women! But from the feedback and comments that some have shared with me, there are a couple of reasons why.
As one of the oldest beauty companies in the world with over 145 years of history, Shiseido is well known for our strong Japanese heritage as well as cosmetics and beauty products that are of the highest quality, innovative and safe to use – it is a trust and confidence that our consumers have in us and our products that we are truly grateful for.
Shiseido’s brand portfolio also continues to grow from strength to strength – most recently with our acquisition of NARS and Laura Mercier.
Finally, at Shiseido we are known for our ‘omotenashi’ – a Japanese word that is hard to define, but roughly translates to a uniquely Japanese approach to hospitality.
I believe that our omotenashi – the customer experience, care and concern – that our beauty consultants provide our consumers at our boutiques is one that will leave them wanting more, and is the reason why we have many loyal customers that love Shiseido products and continue to support us for many years.
RiA : Shiseido, more than simply relating to women empowerment, has a strong commitment towards diversity. Can you elaborate on this?
Sylvia : Women are deeply significant to Shiseido’s business, as well as to us as an organization. We believe a key part of encouraging gender equality is celebrating diversity as a competitive differentiator, which leads to diversity in perspectives, talent, experiences and values, which ultimately enables our business to perform better.
At Shiseido we have initiatives aimed at increasing access to learning, and promote our employees based on qualifications and merit to ensure equal opportunity. We also make strong investments in training our employees, with one such initiative being our Inspirational Leader Program.
Shiseido believes forging gender equality at all levels begins at the top; and we continue to promote leadership diversity and local expertise. We have put that into practice with our Asia Pacific leadership team being 49% female, and with our Asia Pacific regional headquarters in Singapore championing our diversity efforts with over 120 employees from 14 nationalities.
RiA : In a broader sense, there is a lot of discourse about women in leadership and empowerment within the cosmetics industry and retail specifically. What’s your thought on this? What can be improved?
Sylvia : It is well known that the cosmetics industry in general employs a large number of women, however, the percentage of women in senior leadership positions within their company and the industry is still not at a level considered desirable.
At Shiseido, we believe that it is our people that will drive our global growth. Creating opportunities in which employees, regardless of gender, can significantly enhance their intrinsic capabilities and potential is an important corporate mission of the company. We believe that diversity is multi-faceted, and that we need to promote diversity in a wide range of areas – including gender, nationality, age, work experience.
We will continue to provide educational and learning opportunities to employees who are motivated to continue to learn and grow, and in return we expect employees to demonstrate international leadership skills, enhance their current specialized skill sets and show the ability to be adaptable and agile in a VUCA world.
I also fully believe in having strong mentors, and as a woman, having strong female mentors to look up to that act as your ‘north star’ – someone who provides good counsel, but also challenges you to help you grow both personally and professionally.
Depending on the industry you are in, the workplace can sometimes be an intimidating environment for women that have to work twice as hard to achieve half the results as their male counterparts, and I think women everywhere need to stand together and support each other in their growth journey if we truly want to break the glass ceiling.
RiA : What brands can do, besides what you are already doing?
Sylvia : Before tackling the ‘what’, I think it is more important to think about the ‘why’.
Brands and companies today need to be very clear on what their purpose is, and what they truly stand for. It is no longer enough to only focus on turning a profit year on year. Employees, customers, shareholders and society expect so much more from corporations today. Employees want their work to be meaningful.
Customers are seeking brands that inspire them. Society is demanding that companies be responsible for delivering a positive impact in the communities in which we serve and operate. Knowing what is your purpose is profoundly important – because from there, it would be easy to think about how you will deliver the positive change that you want to see.
At Retail in Asia we believe that everyone plays an important role in people’s life, and each contribution is fundamental to reshape the cultural discourse, we are all exposed because it frames the way we see the world.