Michelle Yeoh has been making history for her remarkable performance in the film Everything Everywhere All at Once. Among her many accolades, she is the first Asian to win Best Actress at the National Board of Review Awards, the second Asian to win Best Actress in a comedy or musical at the Golden Globes, and the first identifying Asian to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category. She is also the recipient of the first-ever SeeHer award at the 2022 Gold Gala, for defying gender stereotypes throughout her career.
Michelle Yeoh’s well deserved recognition is a win for women and Asians everywhere. As she noted in one of her acceptance speeches, “This award proves we can tell our own stories on our own terms.” But her hard-won reputation as one of Hollywood’s most talented actors also makes her an outlier, and exposes the deep-seated stereotypes and biases that still pervade the entertainment industry (recently highlighted by the Brit Awards gaffe of an all-male nominee line-up after abolishing gender specific categories the year prior). Whilst lone female role models set a precedence for others to follow and normalise women’s experience in these spaces, they also invite us to engage in rethinking and rebuilding the broader structures and systems in place that have excluded, ignored or discounted the roles of women and minorities.
This is why TWF chose the theme of Outliers | Groundbreaking Women for our International Women’s Day Lunch next Friday and are featuring three incredible outliers in their own right: Lily Cheng, Hubel Labs Founder & Public Board Director, Gigi Chao, Cheuk Nang Holdings Vice Chair & LGBTIQ advocate and Dr Angélica Anglés, planetary scientist and astrobiologist. It is vital that as a society we showcase success stories of women who have cultivated legacies in male dominated spaces. Not only does hearing their stories debunk the myth that women’s ambitions and experiences are monolithic, it also invites women and people of all genders to forge their own paths in spaces where no one has imagined them.
Like elsewhere, Hong Kong’s systems, structures and organisations were not constructed with women and minorities in mind. This is problematic when we’re looking at addressing current complex issues such as poverty, workforce participation and retention, as well as boosting the overall well-being of our city.
At TWF, we are deeply aware of the immense efforts needed to build inclusive systems and organisations. We advocate for detailed gender disaggregated data to understand exactly where the inequities lie. We advocate for targets to address these gaps and accountability in meeting gender equality goals. Inclusive leadership is a cornerstone of all of our pipeline initiatives curricula because we need leaders who model inclusive mindsets and who ensure that the full spectrum of diverse voices are included in creating equitable processes and policies. And we seek to develop safe spaces for open dialogue on critical topics around gender equality and inclusion. We do this through our Male Allies Influencer Circles and Mentoring Programme Alumni Lean In Circles so that each person understands their role in the ecosystem and recognise their own agency in creating a society that normalises the experiences of women and minorities in all spaces.
In our workplaces and daily lives, take inspiration from the stories of these women outliers and consider what behaviours and practices we each can adopt to make a more inclusive city.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.
PS If you’re not able to join our IWD Lunch, we plan to record the panel discussion and will circulate the link later.