To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, FOCUS is profiling female business leaders in the UK and China to hear their tips on correcting gender imbalance and discover how they got to where they are today. Here, Robynne Tindall speaks to Adele Ma, Chief Representative in China for Jardine Matheson
Prior to joining Jardine Matheson, Adele worked as a diplomat in the China Mission to the European Union and Special Commissioner of Chinese Customs to the World Customs Organisation, where she was mainly engaged in diplomatic work.
What inspired you to get into your current industry?
My diplomatic experience made me deeply aware that international relations largely depend on economic and trade relations between different countries. It also inspired my interest in business.
Have you ever experienced a tough time that made you want to give up?
Well, this is an interesting question because some of my colleagues around me gave me the nickname the “iron lady.” They know that I like the word “give,” and I like the word “up,” but in my dictionary, there is no such thing as “give up!”
How important is it to have a role model or mentor? Who is your role model?
I think it is super important to have a good mentor. One of my supervisors who is still working for the Chinese government is my personal role model, however, I can’t reveal his name due to his special status, unfortunately.
What is one thing people can do at work to help eliminate gender bias in the workplace?
Gender bias against women in the workplace is widespread, but to varying degrees. This naturally places higher requirements on women in the workplace. Fortunately, there has been no obvious gender bias in the places I have worked. Gender differences reflect strengths and weaknesses in different jobs.
If you could sum up your best bit of business advice in one sentence, what would it be?
Firstly, make friends and build trust. Then you can develop business partnerships with those you think could be your friends. I believe wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing, relationships mean everything.