Take Banpu for example, one of Thailand’s leading power producers. Recognised for its commitment to generating greener and smarter energy, since 2015 the company’s reins have been held by Somruedee Chaimongkul. She stands out among a handful of females who have risen to senior executive roles at large corporations in the industrial sector.
Joining Banpu in 1983 as a fresh-faced university graduate, the scope of her responsibilities has increased immeasurably during the 30+ years it has taken her to reach the top. Setting the corporate culture of the company, she says, “I think women have more leadership opportunities now. You see many more women prime ministers and presidents in the world today and this is reflected in the corporate world too. Women have a lot to offer. Men may have the brawn but women are extremely strong in terms of methodical approach and willpower—a very useful combination in business. Aspects of womanhood that were once deemed weaknesses—the display of emotion, for example—can today be strengths. Being caring and sensitive can be to our advantage.”
Somruedee is certainly grateful to have been able to forge a rewarding career with a business that actively encourages its female employees to progress. “I am fortunate to be part of the Banpu family,” she says. “I pretty much grew up with the company and I’ve worked in every department. It has always had a corporate culture that promotes equality and facilitates a better work-life balance for everyone. Things like our work-at-home programme and flexi-time benefits particularly help our working mums. In truth, I have never felt any different from my male counterparts and I’m grateful for the support and guidance I have received from them throughout the years. Even now, with the backing of my team and those who mentored me, I feel there’s always wind beneath my wings. I need it too because my role involves a lot of travel to our 10 offices the Asia-Pacific region.”
While it is easy to acknowledge that the success stories of these ladies shed light on gender advancement in society, it is also important to note that many young women will never get similar opportunities. Sadly this is often down to the mundane—a basic lack of recognition for their skills or simply that their talent is overlooked. The chance for women to rise to top executive positions remains problematic within industries. In this regard, Somruedee believes that enhancing education for young women in Thailand and ensuring career avenues for them is vital.