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The W Suite | Being a woman doesn’t mean you have to do everything: Erin Chao, Oath

Diversity in the workforce has become a necessity today, and more so in the leadership positions. It can’t be denied that women bring a high level of creativity and empathy while solving problems and handling crises. Women leaders bring to the table a different level of dexterity. 

AdGully’s ‘The W-Suite’ series features interactions with influential women leaders in India, who share some deep insights on what being a woman leader means in India’s business landscape, the mantras to succeed, achieving work-life balance, pay parity and much more. 

Erin Chao, Head of Platforms, APAC, Oath, is tasked with leading the continued growth and success of Oath’s* advertising platforms and supply across APAC. Prior to this role, Erin was the Senior Director of Ad Solutions, Insights and Platform Development for Yahoo APAC, and has worked for the company for 11 years. Earlier, she was based in the US as a Senior Product Manager for Yahoo, responsible for developing and growing reach of Yahoo’s advertising products across the globe. *(Yahoo+ AOL are combined under Verizon to form Oath) 

How would you define today’s woman leader?
For me, I have always been in an organisation where women leaders are common, especially for the APAC in Yahoo, where 50 per cent of the leadership is made up of women. In my career, seeing women leaders is not something special. I’ve always been in IP, software, advertising and digital, and women leadership and women team members is still common. I don’t think that it’s a specific issue. 

What are the foremost attributes that a woman leader in this business ecosystem must possess?
This applies to everyone I work with. Think of everyone as equal and don’t set any boundaries. Don’t hold and back express yourself as anyone else. There may be difference in gender, but don’t be afraid to use that – For example, most women might be people caring, and in a work environment we need to be professional and people are a big portion of our work as a leader. I think we should consider that as one of our strengths. Of course, I don’t mean men don’t have this quality, but in some cases I do find myself caring more about people and definitely utilise that as people are a big portion of work. 

Despite the qualifications, attitude and experiences why don’t we see more women in leadership positions and taking boardroom decisions?
There might be differences in industries, but what we can control is whether we are giving ourselves the same opportunities, courage and options to pursue that. I think everyone has different priorities in life and in some countries, like say Saudi Arabia, women might be influenced to make their life imperatives different. Also, I have to say that in a lot of cases women also choose their own priorities like having a family and pursuing different interests. That could be the impact of society, how it makes individuals prioritise their lives differently. The second thing I want to say is that we shouldn’t hold ourselves back on something, we should always be proactive and show how much we want something so that people will think you are serious about it and you actually want it. 

What are the qualities of women leaders that make them more suitable for leadership than men?
The caring part and how we are able to see the bigger picture like the environment, community and the sensitivity and empathy towards others. It is not always necessary that women always think from this point of view, but I think this is always part of the consideration when they think about what decision to make or what to do or how to act. 

What are the five most effective lessons that you have learnt as a woman leader?
Even though I don’t feel any difference in my work environment, in society there are different expectations from women versus men. I have learnt that you cannot do everything, that you have to prioritise things, family cannot always be the priority, and that it is okay to get the resources and support to ensure you have success in any area and also success in life. You deserve all the resources, being a woman doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Don’t feel guilty. 

Does a gender wage gap exist?
Because I know my company the best, I don’t see a difference. APAC is definitely where I have the visibility. I have heard from research that for the same job there is pay parity between genders, but for our company and especially in my team, I never use gender as a consideration. 

What are the challenges in maintaining a work-life balance?
Just as I mentioned before, don’t feel guilty and ask for help to support you to get the life you want. I am always utilising all the resources to make sure that I get what I want and I get what’s the best for the family. The most important thing is that this is a choice of mine. 

How proactive have corporates been in addressing serious issues like sexual harassment at work?
One of our corporate values is diversity and inclusiveness. This is the foundation of the company, because we want all sorts of diversity to make the company work. This has been a key value to the company to address any issues proactively and not just when there is an event. We talk about that all the time and we promote that, although, I haven’t heard of any yet. I don’t think other companies talk about that every day as part of their core values, but we do that. We always talk about that.

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