Over the years, platforms enabling ambitious women to rise to high positions have emerged. One such is the ASEAN Women Entrepreneur’s Network (AWEN). Its chairwoman is Khunying Natthika Angubolkul and she speaks enthusiastically about the network’s purpose. “It is a platform through which businesswomen and women entrepreneurs can exchange knowledge and experience.”
As an inter-governmental entity established around five years ago by the ASEAN Committee on Women, AWEN seeks to represent women in all economic sectors while creating a favorable environment for female-led enterprises. “This year we have also initiated the Women CEOs Summit,” the Khunying says. “This is the first time business policy related issues and other pressing development problems that impact businesswomen in the ASEAN region will be addressed. When you do something it has to be sustainable. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to we get various parties involved—the public, governments, and NGOs and regional associations—in order to foster wider impact. It’s about turning policy into action.”
Khunying Natthika has spent a great part of her life helping society, particularly advocating female-related issues. In addition to her role as CEO of Eastern Sugar Group, she is a former president of the National Council of Women. Having worked for numerous social causes her experience has convinced her that while much of the gender imbalance at the boardroom level is to do with entrenched male perceptions, it is the mindset of women and their self-perceptions that need working on.
“We are lucky to be part of a very open-minded and forward-thinking society when it comes to the role of women,” she says. “That said, I truly think a lot of women need to believe more in themselves and put themselves out there to showcase their skills. They need to learn as much as they can from other women’s successes and failures. Both our strengths and weaknesses can be of use in some way. So many people don’t even know how talented they are. ”
Currently Khunying Natthika is also president of the Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Association of Thailand under the royal patronage of HM the Queen. Since she was a young girl, she has had much interest in giving back to society. More specifically, she saw the need to focus on development and on women and children. Throughout her many years working to improve the lives of women and increase opportunities for them, she believes that Thai women still have less chance to showcase themselves at the international level and hopes to see this change. For this reason, much emphasis will be placed on opportunities for collaborative networks among not only the Asia-Pacific members of AWEN and the participants of its Women CEO Summit but also on connections between businesswomen in other parts of the world. Khunying Natthika hopes that more countries with platforms like AWEN will continue to push forward—as examples to other nations of the advantages and benefits of women entrepreneurs.
It goes without saying that all of these women have roles as mothers and/or wives in addition to their full-time jobs. Not that any one of them would use that as an excuse for easing off at work. Rather they’ll tell you it all comes down to being able to manage one’s life. For Wasna, being a mother and businesswoman isn’t easy but she says, “I am lucky to have a husband who has always supported me in my endeavours and a son who understood that my business is important to me.” Today the business is important to son Pasin too. Now in his early 20s, he works for the company on the e-commerce and marketing side of things. Patcharapimol’s two daughters are also helping her with her business in the design department, while her son, who will soon graduate in Italy, will be contributing to the brand’s imminent shoe line.
Although Somruedee has no children, she has been married for 23 years and plays a big role in taking care of her nephews, ensuring they have access to a good education. For her family is all-important. So much so that when she was offered the CEO’s hot seat at Banpu she discussed it with her family before accepting. Meanwhile Khunying Natthika thinks it all boils down to balance. “Life cannot be all about the drive for success,” she says. “All aspects of your life have to be in balance. You could be the prime minister but if you have neglected your family, well that is not success to me.”
For a while now women have been widely identified as increasingly important contributors to economic growth and social wellbeing, in particular in developing nations. Generally speaking, Thai women seem to fare better than their counterparts in other countries where cultural or religious constraints persist. But let’s face it, after such a long time in the making gender bias will hardly be reversed anytime soon. Khunying Natthika recalls her days studying in America, when she arrived at her first accounting class to discover she was the only female student among a pack of boys. It wasn’t long before one of them asked in a mocking tone if she was sure she was in the right class. He would get short shrift asking the same question today but such attitudes sadly still exist.
Which is why it is important that the women of Thailand and the world continue to climb not just the corporate ladder but also to play pivotal roles in the development of nations. “No matter where you work and regardless of your position, you have to remember that you matter,” Somruedee reminds us. “You are significant.”
This article started here: She Runs The Board (Part 1): Patcharapimol Youngprapakorn, Founder Of S’uvimol
(Read more: These Are The 10 Richest Women In The World)