Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Master’s visit to Asia and Australia 6th -12th May
Just returned from a hectic whirlwind visit to Singapore and Sydney (6 days). I spoke to the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore on the topic of British business, brands and the current issues relating to the economy. I was pleased to learn that since I was based in Singapore as HR head of Cable & Wireless, SE Asia, some significant further advances had been made in respect of welcoming senior women with partners (it was previously considered somewhat non-Asian for a professional career woman relocating to Singapore to expect to be accompanied by her husband and something the authorities strictly forbade until I introduced them to the modern realities of business and employment in the West and managed to change the conservative minds of the East. Even then they continued to insist on marriage as the basis for recognising any partnership – forcing one or two C&W couples into marriage in order to relocate). I also learned that the famous Cricket Club at last admits lady members – for long an embarrassment especially with the growth of women’s cricket! It was also interesting to return to the exclusive Tanglin Club after a number of years – traditionally the social hub of British Colonial power. Singapore is a fast expanding city state and development continues apace with many British following successful careers there or else establishing thriving enterprises. Apart from the climate – very hot or torrentially wet – it remains a good place for Brits to do business with a supportive British High Commission and British Chamber of Commerce.
After an eleven hour stop over and meeting with former business colleagues I flew on to speak at a major conference in Sydney, whilst there appearing live on Australia's Sky Business TV who were intrigued about the City Livery Companies and their well known philanthropic approach to offering their respective skills to help other. Also variously interviewed by the press. I also spoke to the conference on the vital topic of encouraging more senior women on to the top company Boards in the country - www.womenonboards.org.au . Women can play an important role in the dynamics and thinking of Boards and relatively little success has been achieved in this area down under, even compared to the UK and Europe. And this despite having a female Prime Minister!
I managed to squeeze in a couple of days with my son, Freeman Jonathan Williams, who is now head of Product Marketing for Google Australia and New Zealand. He will be returning to UK to receive his Freedom of the City of London on 16 July and to catch up with Sarah Speake, our guest speaker at the Spring Dinner, who encouraged him out to Australia in the first place!