As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia.
In this story, we speak to Dione Song, Chief Commercial Officer of Love, Bonito and one of LinkedIn’s Top 30 Power Profiles in Singapore. She shares the most common stereotypes that she’s had to battle at work, staying positive despite the odds, as well as the playlist that keeps her going on the running track.
Q: How do you empower and engage with others?
For me, the first thing is always trust. When you’re building a team, you need to take the effort and recruit the right people. However, after they are on board, it is on us, as leaders, to ensure that we trust them and are giving them enough autonomy to build teams of their own.
Q: What kinds of obstacles or biases have you experienced along your journey as a leader?
In the very first company I worked for, I was given a promotion three or four years into the job, and it was for quite a senior position. I was one of the few women in the management team. My predecessor, who was also a female leader, told me before she left, ‘Hey, I think the men working in the same role within this organisation are being paid more.’ She also gave me a tip. She told me to ask, or at least try to have that conversation when they do promote me. I am very thankful that she gave me that heads up. Maybe it was not just a gender thing, because I happened to be one of the youngest on the management team also. Anyway, so I negotiated and eventually got what I asked for — the same as those in the same executive roles.
Q: Is being a female leader what you imagined it to be like?
I don’t think I saw myself as a leader when I started my career. I definitely stumbled into this. My first role was in a startup, and being in a very high growth environment, I was immediately tasked to manage a team of three people. Even then, I didn’t think of myself as a leader. I didn’t know if I had to delegate work, manage resources or think about workflow. Nowadays, though, it’s not just about checking off a list. One has to do much more. You’re actually a coach, and you really have to think about the future of your team, how they will progress and how each member fits in. It’s not about having one superstar, but how individuals complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses.
Q: What are some stereotypes or biases you have experienced?
At Love, Bonito, the majority of the people working here are women. People come in and they have preconceived expectations because it’s a room full of women, and that it is going to be catty and bitchy and gossipy. Sometimes, even we have preconceived notions of our own. But also, as a female leader, people do believe that you think differently. If you’re firm, they say you’re fierce; if you know what you want, they say you are bossy. A male leader, on the other end, might be perceived as being decisive.
Q: How do you practise bravery at the workplace?
When it comes to decision making, it begins with viewing things from a positive lens. This doesn’t mean that you are not doing your calculations or thinking about a safety net. Rather, it’s about approaching something with a sense of optimism.
Q: How do you unplug?
I like running. I enjoy being out in the sun. It energises me. Especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, I really discovered my love for running outdoors. You get to think about what you have achieved for the day and absorbing nature is also great. Having good music piped into my ears doesn’t hurt, either. I am currently listening to a lot of oldies, like The Beatles and The Carpenters, as well as new artists like Billie Eillish and her brother, Phineas. The rest is a mix of house, indie and pop.
Q: What’s on your to-be-watched list on Netflix?
Just last weekend, I was watching the latest season of Queer Eye. Aside from being good and entertaining, it teaches you about kindness and the goodness of humanity. It covers many key pillars about love, relationships, how to be more confident with yourself, and I think they are great lessons to have.
Q: Despite the odds, what motivates you to stay positive?
I think it’s about working the mind and training it to stay strong. That’s half the battle. It’s about starting the day right, having control of your time, so that you’re not just obsessing over a lot of negative thoughts. If something is bothering you, then it’s about how you put things into action. If you can’t fix it today, note it down and deal with it another day. Don’t brood over it because it’s not healthy. It’s the same at work.
This interview was conducted by Jonathan Goldstein, Head of Page Executive in Southeast Asia. He has more than 14 years of experience in connecting women of the C-suite to both Asian businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Being the son of a mom who speaks 5 languages and received her masters in New York after immigrating into the country through Ellis Island in her teenage years, Jon was exposed to female leaders early in his life and was deeply influenced by them and their leadership styles.
He envisions himself to be part of the Gender & Diversity revolution in Asia Pacific and hopes to give prominence to women executives and the important elements they bring to senior leadership teams for companies to grow holistically.
Partner with Jon to strengthen your senior leadership team, discuss about your next opportunity or contribute to our Leading Women series to inspire others.