10 May 2017 10:52:26 AM

Chua Chai Ping: My mother taught me resilience

Mother and daughter, Helen and Chai Ping in the 1980s
What lessons can working mothers pass on to the next generation? We caught up with Chua Chai Ping, who shared how her mother taught her to be more resilient at work and in life.
Chua Chai Ping remembers many nights of seeing her mother, Helen Loh, attending to household chores after a full day's work.

"She would only go to bed after cleaning the house past midnight, then waking up again in the wee hours of the morning to prepare us for school," Chai Ping shares as she recollects growing up in the 1970s with a full-time working mother. 

Chai Ping comes from a family of strong, astute and determined women. Her own grandmother, though illiterate, knew the value of education especially for women. She was instrumental in ensuring Chai Ping’s mother complete her GCE O-level back in 1957. As it happened, Helen Loh was the first person in their village to obtain a full Malayan Certificate of Education.
Archived - a news feature on Helen Loh's retirement from the police force
Upon graduation, Helen joined the Royal Federation of Malayan Police (RFMP) as part of the RFMP's second intake of female police officers. Becoming a policewoman was an unusual career choice at a time when women typically worked as telephone operators, teachers, or nurses.

Chai Ping explains, "My mother had always wanted to be a lawyer. But she was not able to study law because she never had the financial means, so she decided to join the police force to be a prosecuting officer."

Throughout Helen's 35-years in the force, she managed her personal and professional life without stopping for a career break. She eventually rose to the ranks of Chief Inspector and Assistant Superintendent, and was awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara (A.M.N.).
How did she raise her family while keeping to her work commitments?
We would follow her to work, where the staff, from magistrates, lawyers to interpreters and clerks helped keep an eye on us.”
Chai Ping shares as she recounts their informal, early version of day care. "They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that was truly it."

Her mother's determination and success inspired Chai Ping to persevere in her own journey. Armed with a bachelor's degree from the University of Western Australia and a MBA from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, Chai Ping went on to carve her own career path in consulting and Human Resources in organisations such as Deloitte and Accenture, before joining Mondelēz Malaysia as the Human Resources Director in 2015.

As a full-time working mother of two children, Chai Ping understands all too well the challenges that come with juggling both family and career.
For each role that we play – be it a career-driven woman, wife, daughter-in-law, or mother, there are high expectations not to drop the ball. It can be hard to keep up with these expectations.”
Helen Loh and her late husband (Chai Ping's father), on vacation together

There is also the constant guilt that working mothers are all too familiar with. Chai Ping acknowledges that she struggles with this guilt, which comes from her own expectations.

"However, growing up as my mother's daughter, seeing how she managed to juggle her various roles has built up my resilience," said Chai Ping, calling her mother her source of inspiration. "She also had a good support system, including a very supportive spouse, my father, to look after us when she was at work." 

Chai Ping also shared that her purpose at work is to enable and encourage those around her, and this drives her to move ahead, because "It's a higher purpose than just working to earn a salary."
My mum always tells us this: The more you achieve and the higher you go, the more you should be charitable, gracious and forgiving. As you go up the ranks, you should bring people up with you, to help and to enable them.”
Chai Ping (second from right) together with Norlida Azmi of UEM and Rajeev Peshawaria of IClif
A firm supporter of women returning to work, Chai Ping believes that women should take full advantage of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) offered by many employers, something that may not have been available before.

"Today’s variable workforce gives working mothers choices beyond the traditional 9-to-5 schedule," she said.

At Mondelēz Malaysia where 40% of its leadership roles are held by women, the company’s human capital policies clearly mirror a shift from diversity and inclusion as mere standalone programmes, to being a vital part of its business strategy. In March 2017, in conjunction with International Women's Day, Mondelēz Malaysia officially launched their FWA policy in their workplace.

"Leaders value working mothers in their organisations," said Chai Ping. "The diversity of backgrounds, experiences, thoughts and points of view greatly enrich teams, and can positively affect the organisation’s success."

As a TalentCorp Diversity Advocate, Chai Ping champions the Career Comeback Programme, lauding it for encouraging women back into the workforce and incentivising employers to rehire women.
From what I have seen working at Mondelēz, Deloitte, and Accenture, I am convinced by this: if more women return to the workforce, organisations will benefit, the country will benefit, but more importantly our future leaders will also benefit.”

Chua Chai Ping is the Human Resources Director at Mondelēz Malaysia. A TalentCorp Diversity Advocate, Chai Ping was also awarded Champion of the Accenture Global Inclusion & Diversity Excellence Award in 2013.

To learn more about Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) and how to implement FWA in your workplace, download a copy of our report, "The Winning Formula".