From a very young age the value of education and academic achievement has been deeply ingrained in me by my parents. Being eighth of ten siblings, I watched my brothers and sisters achieve academic credentials, so it was just natural for me to follow in their footsteps. For all of them as it is for me now, success financially and professionally in our chosen areas of expertise could not have been achieved without solid academic training.
I have seven brothers—perhaps it had been easier for them to succeed because of their gender advantage. For a woman of Asian descent, living and working in a supposedly meritocratic society and the highly-competitive financial industry, achieving senior leadership position would have been virtually impossible without my academic degrees. I was very fortunate that my employers over my entire working life have put tremendous value on this qualification.
My education in a highly-reputable academic institution had been the necessary condition to launch my career in finance, although I didn’t know what I was getting into at that time (going to Europe and being on my own), but I trusted the judgment of my finance professor who persuaded me to apply for my PhD in finance at London Business School. Having attained my degree, it opened the door for me to start my career in a senior position, i.e. as a director in a bank. My strong quantitative academic training qualified me for the responsibility to build up and lead a quantitative research team in the asset management operation of one of the major Swiss banks.
The value of education is universal in any society. Advancement of the humankind, male or female, will not be possible without a good system of education. It is necessary, albeit not sufficient, for long-term sustainable development of the society.
While academic record is a strong signal of your capabilities, it will go a long way towards overcoming institutionalized biases that make it difficult for women to succeed in the work place. One cannot dispute the stark empirical fact that in large corporations the advancement of women to high senior leadership positions faces a lot of structural, institutionalized, and cultural impediments. This has to be addressed because there is also strong empirical evidence that gender diversity makes economic sense. I am convinced, from personal experience, that an edge in academic training goes a long way towards reducing the friction to women’s career advancement.