Robb Report Singapore and its Thought Leaders talk about women leadership in 2020

Amrita Banta, Carolyn Kan, Samir Ahad

Is International Women’s Day still relevant in 2020?

How do we celebrate International Women’s Day without dragging in the #MeToo movement or overplaying the victim card without finding concrete solutions to issues such as equal pay? While we might be one step closer to the answer, especially in a society such as Singapore’s, it never hurts to open the floor to discussions, especially when you throw in an evening of fine wines and a four-course meal created by one of Singapore’s top female chefs. And that’s exactly what we did.

Together with Coriander Leaf and The Straits Wine Company, Robb Report Singapore invited our community of Thought Leaders and their friends to an intimate get-together on 12 March 2020.

To start the evening, we enjoyed a splendid repast put together by Samia Ahad, chef-founder of Coriander. Accompanying our meal were four 2017 Domaine de Chatillon wines. We learnt from Indra Kumar, consultant for The Straits Wine Company, that one should pair wines based on the flavours of the dish rather than the type of meat served. Eschewing conventional wisdom, Ahad’s Charcoal-Grilled Fish Tikka with Harissa was paired with a red instead of a white. The acidity of the Domaine de Chatillon de Savoie Gamay cut through the spiciness of the harissa, with the wine’s savoury character lingering on the palate long after the course was cleared away.

As dinner came to a close, Karishma Tulsidas, editor-in chief of Robb Report Singapore, invited Ahad, Amrita Banta, managing director of Agility Research, and Carolyn Kan, founder of Carrie K jewellery, for a panel discussion.

The night started on a business-led note: How did these successful women get to where they are today? A thread that bound the narratives wasn’t simply having a group of close-knit girlfriends, but instead, how a supportive partner and family was, and still is, a key pillar of success. In Ahad’s case, she and her husband agreed that he would look after their children.

“It’s not about feminism,” Ahad insisted. “I couldn’t have done it without him, particularly in this field of work because I’m working when everyone is socialising. I’m working every major holiday and weekend.”

Banta agreed, having only opted to start her own company when she turned 41 and was already a mother to two young children.

“Even if we receive the support we need, women need more confidence. We need to know we are able to make a difference and get up and do it, regardless of whether we’ll be successful or not,” she shared.

Other guests also took turns to share their journeys and the sacrifices made to get them to where they are today. “When my husband had to relocate for his job, we agreed to support his career. Years later, I received a terrific job offer in another country. This time, my husband moved to be with me. It’s really an ongoing partnership; about making the best decisions for the marriage. It can’t be a one-way street,” recounted one of the guests.

Before the evening ended, we tackled the age-old question: Do women make better bosses than men? Perhaps Kan nailed it with a quote she keeps close to her heart. “Being a good leader is not about being your best. It’s about bringing the best out of the people around you.”