Women can climb the ladderUntil recently, only a select number of women strove to succeed in Korea’s male-dominated society.
Those days are over. Young, talented women these days line up at the management level here and there, and the keyword isn’t survival ― it’s success.
Go to bookstores and you’ll find titles with words like “success,” “victory” and “leadership” on the bestsellers shelf. Women’s universities offer lectures on women’s leadership; Ewha Womans University on Sept. 17 will open the Ewha School for Leadership Development. Sungshin Women’s University falls into line with a new graduate department of women’s leadership. Sookmyung Women’s University was there first, however; it swung open the doors of the Sookmyung Leadership Center late last year.
Books that serve as road maps to success include “I Build My Career Path,” by Kim Nam-hee, the first Korean woman executive at a foreign company. Ms. Kim, who took the less-traveled road at Motorola to become an executive in the human resources division, is now a board member and director of Asia-Pacific regional development and education at EMC Computer Systems, a division of EMC Corp. In her book, Ms. Kim talks about her long, winding but successful road to self-advancement through 15 global firms such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard.
Park Hyo-sin, an executive director at the Korea Advertisers Association, has kept abreast of the trend. Ms. Park recently published “Women, for Beautiful Success,” a guide for young, professional women. “I was startled to see women in their 20s and 30s facing their limits and getting depressed and full of despair,” Ms. Park says. In a quiet yet powerful tone, Ms. Park gives her piece of advice.
“Succeed Fairly and Truly as a Woman” is another guide, written by Kim Hyo-seon, president of Women’s News, a weekly newspaper focusing on women’s issues. Ms. Kim, who was drawn early to the issue of female leadership, suggests, “Make the best of your womanhood as a source of new leadership.”
Another noteworthy book is “She Wins, You Win” by Gail Evans, a former vice president at CNN. Ms. Evans, who achieved success three years ago with “Play it Like a Man, Win Like a Woman,” now discusses the importance of team spirit among women. Her persuasive style is based on rich experience.
These books share the same goal, but their authors’ viewpoints differ. While Ms. Evans stresses cooperation among women to break the omnipresent glass ceiling, Ms. Park of the Korea Advertisers Association declares, “When women bind together, it does not help each individual to develop.” Ms. Park says that she reached that conclusion after a long, eventful career.
Kim Nam-hee says, “When you’re having a job interview, make an impression that you are a human being before you’re a woman.” Ms. Kim’s philosophy is that her plain appearance helped her get along well with others at work. “Sometimes, you have to build the image of yourself as a tough cookie,” Ms. Kim adds. Kim Hyo-seon, on the other hand, pays attention to femininity. “Being a woman is like an added value in this world,” she says. “Feminine qualities like maternity, devotion and sensitivity are no longer weaknesses.”
One thing these successful women agree upon is the universal truth that “to be successful, you should breed yourself to be talented.” There is, however, a trap, they say.
“Women work hard, but that’s it,” Ms. Park says. “To reach a goal, you should have something more than just pure enthusiasm. You have to grasp how power shifts and be able to deal with it properly.” One example Ms. Park offers is when a new boss comes aboard.
“For the first three months at least, you should hold yourself back and adjust yourself to the new boss until you win his or her confidence,” Ms. Park says. Kim Hyo-seon agrees, saying, “Women should have power sensitivity.”
Kim Nam-hee shares her experience: “Once, my senior told me that not everything is fair at work, which helped me understand the system a great deal. Make your move totally based on how your company earns its profits.”
Even when a young woman is ready for all this, the authors agree, her efforts can fall through when she does not have a mentor. Behind a successful woman, they say, there is always a mentor; man or woman, it does not matter, if the person can give you advice and lead you in the right direction. Last tip: Don’t be lazy when it comes to forming a support network, both inside and outside of your organization.
by Moon Kyung-ran