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Standard Chartered Korea's JiHye Bae on what it takes to lead equality efforts inside a corporation

Lianna Brinded
·Head of Yahoo Finance UK
·8-min read
JiHye Bae, head of credit card, Standard Chartered Korea (SCBK). Photo: SCBK
JiHye Bae, head of credit card, Standard Chartered Korea (SCBK). Photo: SCBK

JiHye Bae, head of credit card, Standard Chartered (STAN.L) Korea (SCBK) is the winner of the 2020 HERoes Future Female Leaders list, which celebrates 100 inspirational women who are not yet senior leaders in an organisation but are making a significant contribution to gender diversity at work.

All of the future leaders — who must identify as a woman at work and can be of any nationality and based in any country — were nominated by peers and colleagues, or put themselves forward.

Bae has an expansive impact inside and outside her organisation. She is a senior leader for the SCBK D&I council gender charter, where she takes the lead in implementing gender diversity programmes, and has organised a special Balance for Better lecture series for staff and has also run programmes on career development, mentoring, and a lecture series linked to external institutions.

Externally, Bae has conducted economic education and cultural events for migrant women from multicultural families in conjunction with SCBK and the Jongro-gu Multicultural Family Support Center. She has also been instrumental in the implementation of the Women’s Venture Scale Up Programme, in partnership with the Korean Women Venture Association.

Yahoo Finance caught up with Bae on her achievements and what more needs to be done in order to bring about change in the workplace.

Q: Why is it important to have these kind of lists?

A: I believe this is an opportunity to share and recognise the examples of women leaders from various global companies striving to increase gender diversity and inclusion.

It is an honour for individuals, and for companies, it will be a driving force to promote more valuable strategies and activities by recognising the importance of strategies and activities for building a D&I culture.

Q: How does it feel to win it?

A: Above all, I am pleased to be selected for the honourable HERoes Future Leader list. There were moments when I wondered whether the activities I tried to contribute within the organisation were the right thing to do, and whether constant effort and execution were driving valuable change. However, through this opportunity, I am convinced that my activities and efforts have helped make the organisation more flexible and build a positive culture.

I believe that a balanced gender ratio at the leader and executive levels within the organisation not only enables innovation but is also an important value of an organisation that can derive diverse and rational decision-making processes.

From now on, I will focus on leadership that embraces diversity within the organisation, embrace the differences of individual members of the organisation, and support them to demonstrate their potential.

Furthermore, through external activities such as the Korea Women’s Finance Network, I will pursue gender diversity of leaders in the financial sector for sustainable growth and organisational development and will contribute to building a culture where women and men naturally harmonise.

Q: What has been one or two of your most stand out moments in your career AND when it comes to helping others

A: As a member of the Bank's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Women's Network, I have had many opportunities to learn and discuss inclusive leadership. In particular, there was a workshop that made me think about my attitude as a woman leader in the organisation.

With the theme of 'Growing in Diversity,' I experienced lectures and discussions on how to support diversity within the organisation from a cultural point of view, how to develop leadership that embraces diversity, and how we can get rid of our unconscious bias.

Among them, the passage of breaking the unconscious bias within us prior to discussing diversity was the most impressive, and it was an opportunity for me to think that I should support the differences of each member of the organisation and help them show their potential.

Since 2019, the Korean Women Venture Association and SCBK have been jointly conducting the Women Venture Scale-up Program (WVSP), and I am leading this. The focus is on supporting female venture CEOs to revitalise business capabilities and networking.

In addition, in connection with the local community where SCBK's headquarters is located (Jongno-gu Multicultural Family Support Centre), I have provided holiday folk culture experiences and financial education for migrant women from multicultural families.

In this way, I am trying to carry out activities in connection with the local community, lead the participation of employees of the company, and support women's active economic activities and expansion of social participation. And as I take on this role, I have the opportunity to learn and realise myself, and I am rewarded with activities that influence someone to change.

Q: How do you approach intersectionality — it's been clear that women of colour have it infinitely harder at work — what steps do you take to address that?

A: In fact, I think the concept of intersectionality is unfamiliar in Korea. This is because Korea is not a country with various ethnicities and languages. Nevertheless, the importance of a culture in which members of the organisation harmonise without prejudice against gender/country/disability based on the concept of “inclusiveness” is being emphasised.

I am working at SCBK (Standard Chartered Bank Korea), the regional market of the Standard Chartered Group, so I am experiencing the high level of global D&I culture and strategies pursued by the Standard Chartered Group. So whenever there is an opportunity to interact with colleagues from various backgrounds, I try to communicate with them with an open mind.

Q: What do you think is the most crucial thing that someone can do daily to help make an environment more inclusive?

A: Open communication must be possible within the organisation regardless of position, gender, or difference, and this is to be practiced in everyday life. I believe that open communication means that all employees are willing and confident to share their opinions with colleagues, and change and innovation in the organisation should be based on open communication so that employees can empathise and participate.

Recently I read a book named “The Fearless Organization” and there were a lot of great things about it. The book emphasises that an environment in which members of an organisation can communicate freely and feel a sense of psychological stability within it can be the driving force of innovation.

And I believe that the empathy and support of male leaders is essential to sustain positive change that emphasises diversity and inclusion. I think that they must have sufficient recognition in the organisation so that they can experience and support that the gender balance of various positions in the organisation contributes to the development of the organisation. From this point of view, this list of Advocates you are presenting will be of great help in spreading an organisational culture based on diversity and inclusion.

Q: As a leader, how do you see change manifests itself in the workplace?

A: In the global financial market, women's social participation is already high, and activities for the growth of women's rights have been continued. However, in a conservative Korean society where a male-centered culture has been established for a long time, I think that there are practically many restrictions on developing female talent and the appointment of female executives.

But what is encouraging is that within the last few years, tangible changes are underway with a shift in awareness about developing female talent and leaders, especially in the Korean financial industry.

And also in my workplace, we operates systematic education programs such as career development mentoring programs and training in connection with external organisations so that female talents can grow into world-class financial talents. As a result, the number of female managers and executives continues to expand, and I am sure this will have a positive impact on the next generation as well.

Q: How do you bring allies along with you?

A: As I have experienced, I am trying to make involvement for the female junior group and the middle manager group to change self-awareness by participating in many activities and exposing them to an environment that naturally becomes a leading group.

And I support team members and colleagues to experience how valuable and enjoyable it is to foster a culture of gender equality and to exert a positive influence on the community.

Q: What are your aspirations in your career and the extra work you do to help foster better diversity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond?

A: I want to be someone who has a positive influence around me.

On 8 September, an international conference for female financiers in Korea was held, and the implications that the gender diversity of the leadership group within the organisation not only contributes to enhancing management efficiency but also enables sustainable growth were emphasised.

I also empathise and feel responsible for that point. As a women leader, I will continue to share positive experiences with our colleagues through internal and external activities and practice leadership that embraces diversity.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: Fortunately, at SCBK where I work, the proportion of female executives, including outside directors, is 21%, and through them, I was able to experience many success stories. In particular, I received meaningful advice from outside director Son Byeong-ok, who recently joined SCBK.

The story and journey of her making choices and concentrations at that time for work-family balance, rather than giving up something unilaterally for success in the organisation, was most touching. Her strong driving force and delicate leadership are important factors that impress many colleagues, and I want to learn this kind of generous leadership too.