Meet the first lady of Iberia.
We’re turning our attention to the Iberian Peninsula to catch up with GM of Spain and Portugal, Evan Lai, to hear her perspectives on business and balancing the professional and personal.
Before we dive in, can you tell us a bit about the professional background of one Evan Lai?
My professional background is diverse, with over 11 years of experience working with MNCs and start-ups within conglomerates. My experience has been around building structures and teams. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in the hospitality, travel, retail and health & wellness sector.
And what was it about FOREO that made you want to join the team?
The opportunity to help build a brand that is essentially the pioneer of its sector and driven by innovations and endless possibilities. In doing so, I am able to be a part of something that can ultimately make an impact on different people!
As one of FOREO’s female leaders, how would you characterize the corporate culture for women in the Iberian market?
Despite the progress since the days of Franco and an increasing number of women in managerial positions in Spain, unfortunately, the corporate landscape is still predominantly male driven.
Women in Spain, like many other countries, are still needing to fight the societal stereotypes of being female. Stereotypes that are reinforced at a very young age, from the roles we should assume, the princesses we all want to be, to the colours we want to wear and the career paths we want to take.
The corporate culture of a company is increasingly important for fighting these stereotypes and can be used as a tool to encourage, empower and support women to fight and shatter any preconceived notions or labels.
Even though women have been fighting this since the new era of democracy, we are really only starting to see changes, with more awareness and exposure of the topics such as women executive representation, gender pay difference, treatment of women in the workplace, and very recently with historical appointment of 11 (out of 17) female ministers in June 2018.
There is still a lot of work ahead for us here in the Iberia market, and it is no longer just about women having a seat at the table, and more about levelling the field.
What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in a leadership role and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me and I am sure for a lot of women in leadership is having to actually get the job done and defying stereotypes every step of the way.
Do you think women feel intimidated in business?
The women that I have in my business networks do not feel intimidated in business. However, what I have seen goes back to the stereotyping of women, their roles, behaviours and abilities. Even if we are consciously addressing these issues in public, a lot of the behavior and mentality has become self-fulfilling prophecies.
How do you achieve the ever-elusive ‘work life balance’?
Work life balance? What is that? I am kidding. I used to always think “sleep when you are dead” but in hindsight and with a few years of experience that has very quickly changed to “if you don’t sleep, you will be dead”.
We are in a high growth phase, where team members are needing to be agile, flexible and have the ability to grow with the speed of the company. This requires commitment, additional hours and being available to the team as needed.
With that being said, I also know that work life balance is a vital contributor to high performance, success and sustainability of any organization. It is about knowing yourself and your 3R’s, what you need to relax, recharge and rejuvenate, physically and mentally. I actually schedule my downtime, like a meeting, in my iCal!
Scheduling downtime – there’s an inspired idea! Do you have any female role models you look to for inspiration?
I have many female role models! From inventors such as Grace Hopper and Nancy Johnson to women in sports such as Serena Williams and Becky Hammon. Female executives role models include the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Indra Nooyi. Other inspirational female figures include Malala Yousafzai who is so young and stood up and literally took a bullet in the name of education, something that so many of us take for granted… and of course there is my mum!
Last, but not least, do you have any advice for women looking to advance their careers? Or, any gender for that matter!
Do not underestimate yourself, know your value and worth and don’t believe anyone ( male or female) who tells you it’s impossible. Surround yourself with the right people, that allow you to grow and of course never stop learning.