IWD 2021: DHL’s women warriors are choosing to challenge

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 theme is #Choosetochallenge. Here’s how these DHL employees have been living that ethos.
05 March 2021 •

Men and women working together simply make better decisions. At Deutsche Post DHL Group, women make up 35 percent of the total workforce, and currently form 15 percent of the board of directors, with these numbers growing steadily.

The proportion of women sitting on other supervisory boards has moved from 30 percent to 40 percent in the past five years, which is an encouraging development.

The overall percentage of female managers and executives within the Group currently stands at 22.1 percent, and programs such as its Women’s Network continue to encourage and empower women to succeed in the workplace, and reach top management positions.

The program has been successfully launched in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

The company is also an official supporter of the International Women’s Day 2021.

To celebrate the significance of International Women’s Day (IWD), we spoke to a few female leaders in DHL who constantly choose to challenge, in both their personal and professional lives. Here are their stories and life lessons.

Marta Olina Harahap, DHL Express

What does IWD and its theme this year, #ChoosetoChallenge, mean to you?

Olina: For me, the IWD showcases how great and powerful women are, and how we can take charge in the world, without fearing our weaknesses compromise us. It also drives me to challenge myself outside my comfort zone.

What are some pivotal moments in your career and personal life where you had tough and challenging decisions to make, and how did you resolve them? 

Olina: In 2019, I moved to Timika, also known as the Land of Gold, to take up a DHL Express management role. Timika is in the easternmost province of Indonesia called Papua. It takes a five hour plane journey to reach Papua, and then more than 3,000 kilometres by land to reach Timika.

Some of the challenges I have to resolve aren’t easy, like managing conflicts and tensions between local tribes (there are seven), as well as long journeys from point to point for work. Safety and well-being of our staff and customers is also a constant concern, due to sporadic violence in the region.

In addition, leaving home and family to take on this role was a tough decision. Still, my innate spirit of adventure meant I couldn’t pass this opportunity up, given the beauty of both the region and the people that inhabit it.

Who is one person you admire, and why?

Olina: Chut Nyak Dien, who was a female leader during the Aceh War. Despite being born into an aristocratic family, her strength, confidence, and belief over 25 years leading local resistance forces is a real inspiration. In 1964, she was posthumously awarded the title of National Hero of Indonesia by the Indonesian government. 

 

Piyanuch Nimnual, DHL eCommerce Solutions

What does IWD and its theme this year, #ChoosetoChallenge, mean to you?

Nimnual: To me, IWD is a day all women should take a moment to recognize and celebrate their achievements, no matter big or small. We should be proud to be part of a beautiful and strong gender. The theme #ChoosetoChallenge is for us to challenge ourselves. We should take opportunities to discover how powerful we are, seeking equality and living our best life.

Do you believe women’s mentorship in the workplace is important, and why?

Nimnual: I do believe that diversity in the workforce can help the workforce perform better. It can also increase overall achievements and profitability.

Many global and local companies look at their gender balance, giving men and women the same access to opportunity. When it comes to mentorship, both the choice of mentor and mentee should depend on attributes such as quality, performance, and trustworthiness, as opposed to gender.

What advice would you give your younger self?                           

Nimnual: Life is short, live it to the fullest. #ChoosetoChallenge for the best day, every day, and there’s always something good along the way.

 

Deepali Gulati, DHL Supply Chain

What does IWD and its theme this year, #ChoosetoChallenge, mean to you?

Gulati: My first time challenging myself, was during a country move from India to Singapore, followed by another three years ago, when I moved from Customer Solutions and Innovation, to DHL Supply Chain to take up a leadership role.

We women need to stop second-guessing ourselves, and suffer from what they call an ‘imposter syndrome’, thinking we’re not good enough. We need to believe that we can successfully juggle senior regional leadership roles, the work travel that entails, and our familial commitments. Together, we women are unstoppable.

Do you believe women’s mentorship in the workplace is important, and why?

Gulati: Yes! In my two decades with this company, I’ve had many mentors that have helped me grow, and gave me the flexibility to follow my passions, balance my life, and be a part of many amazing teams.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Gulati: Don’t let others validate you, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. I would tell myself to stand up to every bully, and ignore people judging me.

 

Yvonne Lee, DHL Global Forwarding

What does IWD and its theme this year, #ChoosetoChallenge, mean to you?

Lee: For me, it is about us women taking the responsibility to challenge ourselves. It is easy to complain about the system but there has to be a willingness to change as an individual, to effect change in others and our communities.

I have always had an ethos of being willing to throw my hat over the fence to stretch myself to become more, as well as follow my own heart and calling. In 2000, I left the company and took a sabbatical. I went to work in a church, running its non-pastoral administrative operations and managing the volunteer database for an NGO. Time away from the rat race was also, in hindsight, a real blessing, as my father was diagnosed with lung cancer a year later, giving me more time to spend with him.

Later, I pursued a Master’s of Science in Industrial and Systems engineering at the National University of Singapore, eschewing the usual MBA-route my peers were taking, because I was passionate about learning more about how to combine both theoretical, and experiential knowledge. My course included subjects such as Systems Approach to Project Management and Decision Analysis, which helped me work with colleagues with different career backgrounds and expertise, to reach common ground and action.

None of these events and growth would have happened if I hadn’t challenged myself, of course.

What are some pivotal moments in your career and personal life where you had tough and challenging decisions to make, and how did you resolve them?

Lee: In 2010, there was a position open in Hong Kong. It was my first overseas posting. The way I saw it, if I didn’t exercise courage to pursue Hong Kong, which is culturally similar to Singapore, a city-state, I certainly couldn’t cut it anywhere else. It was a stepping stone for other overseas postings in later years, including Thailand, two short stints in Germany, and now the Philippines.

These overseas roles opened my eyes to preconceived notions I had about people, cultures, nationalities, and work-styles. It was only when I embarked on these new journeys that I’ve realized it’s too simplistic to pigeonhole people and work off preconceived notions, if you haven’t walked in their shoes!

 

Michelle Dong, DHL eCommerce Solutions

What does IWD and its theme this year, #ChoosetoChallenge, mean to you?

Dong: My team is mostly women and they demonstrate a great attitude, confidence, loyalty, and dedication. IWD and the theme reflects their ethos, and I am proud to work with them.

What are some pivotal moments in your career and personal life where you had tough and challenging decisions to make, and how did you resolve them?

Dong:  In my personal opinion, whether in my career or personal life, when decisions need to be made, it is tough to make everyone happy. When in doubt, I usually stick to the following principles:

  • Family is most important
  • Always respect people
  • Consider the company’s interests
  • If there are no better options, compromise is sometimes necessary
  • Always stay on track, and focus on the bottom line

Do you believe women’s mentorship in the workplace is important, and why?

Dong: As a woman, I’ve always regarded things from a positive perspective. People are inherently good and perhaps there are some rough edges, but we can iron these out with respect and care. When done right, women mentorship can be positively nurturing, and bring out the best from team members.

 

Pang Mei Yee, DHL Consulting

What does IWD and its theme this year, #ChoosetoChallenge, mean to you?

Pang: #ChoosetoChallenge for me is about going out of my comfort zone and learn/ do something new every day!

What are some pivotal moments in your career and personal life where you had tough and challenging decisions to make, and how did you resolve them?

Pang: I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 when I was managing two roles in DHL, while the innovation center was about to be built. I had to shift focus back to my own health and well-being. This entailed learning to accept help, and take a step back for almost a year! I did want to continue working, as it helped take my mind off the whole treatment process. As such, I continued work, only taking Fridays off for treatments.

It helped that my team was supportive! My direct reports stepped in where I was not available, and my assistant made sure I was not overly committed to meeting schedules. My then-bosses were very understanding, and also took up responsibilities where I couldn’t, giving me assurances that I could take as much time I needed during my recovery.

Do you believe women’s mentorship in the workplace is important, and why?

Pang: Absolutely, although women tend to be a tad more reticent to reach out. I have benefited from having the right mentors throughout my DHL career for different topics! Whether it is career decisions, or situational problems at the workplace, I always encourage colleagues to identify their mentor network to aid them find their own path.

 

Noor Aisyah, DHL Express

How would you describe yourself?

Aisyah: “I am enough” – this is a phrase that I look upon, especially when I’m feeling insecure about myself, my abilities and my worth.

I have to continually remind myself that despite the gender stereotypes, I am enough for my loved ones to accept me for who I am. I am enough to be able to achieve the career goals that I’ve set up for myself.

I believe in my worth and I hope other women do too. This belief helps me a lot in challenges that I face.

What are some pivotal moments in your career and personal life where you had tough and challenging decisions to make, and how did you resolve them?

Aisyah: I am currently working and studying simultaneously, so juggling these responsibilities isn’t as easy as it looks. Sometimes, the days get overwhelming, as my role at DHL Express requires shift work. Catching up on assignment deadlines and working the night shifts can be quite exhausting.

That’s where prioritization and time management plays a part.

The hardships that I may be facing now are temporary, and better things will come, once I am done with the sacrifices I’m making now.

Do you believe women mentorship in the workplace is important, and why?

Aisyah: Yes, it is very important! We need more women mentorship in the workplace, as it allows other women to grow and lead. It helps to minimize the gender gap in leadership around the world. Having women supporting one another will help them be more active in taking up challenging roles too! Generally, women are more empathetic and make good, nurturing mentors.

Therefore, they can be good leaders, as they can communicate effectively.

Who is one person you admire, and why?

Aisyah: My sister is the reason why I decided to take my degree while working. She started with an advanced diploma, and then went on to complete a double degree.

I look up to her as she decided to make sacrifices for herself and her family. Due to the sacrifices she made, she has had better career prospects and better wages.

She was able to enjoy the fruits of her labor through her life choices, and provide for her family as well. I always seek her advice as she understands what I am going through now.

How do you think we can improve similar articles in the future?

Please select a feedback option
Please leave a comment
Thank you for leaving your feedback