A rare accolade for prominent achievers
HAVE YOU EVER met someone truly inspirational? An individual who remained in your memory long after your meeting? Or someone you really respected because of his or her contribution to the local community?
Chances are that this remarkable individual might have been a woman trying to juggle the demands of family and work expectations of her bosses and peers.
With so many women striving to balance work goals and personal commitments, it is rare for them to look back and think about their achievements.
It was this yearning for recognition that made a group of American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) members institute an award to honour such outstanding women. While acknowledging the remarkable achievements of women in business, the award provides an opportunity for winners to stand out as an example to other women.
It is the first accolade of its kind focusing specifically on women achievers in Hong Kong. Now in its third year, the award is being organised in conjunction with the South China Morning Post for the first time.
For this year's Women of Influence Awards, the organising committee is inviting applications from all quarters.
The award is divided into four categories: Entrepreneur of the Year, Professional of the Year, Young Achiever of the Year and the Best Company for Women.
Each category has a set of criteria that must be fulfilled by applicants before they can be considered finalists.
The entrepreneur award will go to a woman demonstrating outstanding success in running her business.
The professional honour is aimed at influential women in corporates or a specific field.
The young achiever award is for women under 40 who have attained inspirational business success.
The best company award recognises an organisation that has shown remarkable achievement in supporting the development of women in business and provided innovative work-life programmes to enable women to pursue their professions.
Candidates can either apply directly or be nominated by friends, family or colleagues by June 30. During the summer, a panel of eight judges comprising community and business leaders will scrutinise the applications and assess the candidates on a point-based system.
Candidates will be awarded points depending on how well they meet the standards set in each of the categories. Winners will be announced at a function on October 16.
'You don't have to be a superwoman to do well,' said Maura Fallon, one of the members of the award's organising committee. 'The awards are about an ordinary person who can successfully juggle everything in her life.'
While the awards give the winners' careers a boost and public exposure, they also highlight certain individuals as role models for younger women.
'It really makes a difference to young women to be able to see older women do everything and have a whole life and realise that they don't have to be superwomen to do all that,' Ms Fallon said.
'Younger women will see that the winners are really not that different. The awards-related conferences also give them an opportunity to network and older women [get a chance] to informally mentor younger ones.'
But being awarded does not merely imply that someone is great at her job.
According to Paula DeLisle, vice-president of Watson Wyatt, Asia-Pacific and member of the organising committee, the individual should be more than just a role model. She should be a person who has overcome hurdles and obstacles successfully, served the community well and can inspire the younger generation.
'Successful people realise that part of the social fabric is to be responsible in terms of giving something back to the community whether you are reading a story to a child or influencing a public policy,' she said.
It is this combination of community service and career success that will work in favour of potential winners.
Ms DeLisle, a working mother, said Hong Kong offered greater opportunities for working women because childcare was available at affordable prices. This made it easier for women to advance their careers.
While the best company award has always gone to multinationals such as General Electric and IBM, Ms DeLisle said other local organisations too had a strong chance of winning it.
'Multinationals are more likely to have a formalised programme that demonstrates their women-friendly policies more clearly than smaller companies but there is absolutely no reason why local companies can't win it,' she said.
According to Ms Fallon, even the mere idea of applying gives a sense of empowerment. At the same time, awards also give women the chance to think about the kind of things they have accomplished.
'We don't often step back and reflect on the fact that we are doing well and go ahead and boast about it.'
'The awards give women an opportunity to recognise what they have achieved and document it during the application process. Of course, ultimately getting recognition for it is even better,' she said.
Previous winners included former Equal Opportunities Commission chairwoman Anna Wu, Catherine Weir, head of Greater China for Citigroup Global Corporate and Investment Bank, Christine Loh, CEO of Civic Exchange and Michelle Garnaut, managing director of the M Restaurant Group.
How to apply
For further information, go to www.amcham.org.hk/events/woi2006.php
Applications must be submitted to Mimi Shih at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at 2810-1289 by Friday, June 30.
For inquiries, please contact Mimi Shih at 2530-6918
Entrepreneur of the Year
Professional of the Year
Young Achiever of the Year
Best Company for Women