09 May 2016 12:40:48 PM

Dr Elizabeth Lee: My success is thanks to my family

Sunway Education Group’s Senior Executive Director, Dr Elizabeth Lee, is a woman of many achievements. Despite the multitude of accolades under her belt, the latest being an honorary doctorate conferred by Victoria University, the mother of three remains down-to-earth and highly approachable. Dr Lee also smiles a lot, evidence that this is a woman who is clearly very happy to be where she is.

Dr Lee’s bubbly and optimistic view of life comes from her very public passion for education. “It is true that my passion lies in my profession,” said Dr Lee in an exclusive Mother’s Day interview with TalentCorp. “I enjoy what I do so much that I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

A career-driven woman all her life, Dr Lee’s work schedule is jam-packed with public engagements and business meetings. She also travels for work, often going away on overseas trips for days at a time. Yet her three daughters, now 21, 19 and 17, have grown into well-rounded and articulate young adults. (You can read her second daughter’s views on life growing up as ‘Dr Lee’s daughter’ here.)   

Dr Lee maintains that all this is possible because of one thing – support.
“I am able to do what I do because I have an amazing support structure on the home front,” she said citing the key contributors to this support structure as her children’s doting grandparents, her husband’s ability to work flexible hours, reliable domestic helper and an empathetic work environment. 

Dr Lee candidly revealed that she breastfed each of her three children for at least a year – no mean feat for a full-time working mother. Whenever possible, her children were brought to her at the office during lunch so that she could nurse them. On some occasions, with the help of a speaker phone, Dr Lee would participate in teleconferences with colleagues while breastfeeding her child in a separate room. 

She explained that from the start, her parents, both working parents themselves, were supportive of her ambitions and contributed a lot to her three daughters’ early education.
“I am very blessed that my parents helped my girls’ homework when they were much younger, as they were in a Chinese Type Primary School and both my husband and I are English-educated,” said Dr Lee. “My mum had previously been a school teacher, my dad was a book publisher. They made wonderful tutors.”

As the children grew older, her husband, who enjoyed flexible working arrangements and was able to work from home, stepped in. He saw to the children’s extra-curricular activities such as KUMON, drama and art classes, driving them from one class to another. By the time the children had entered their secondary years, they had become fairly independent, referring directly to their school teachers for guidance and educational support. 

Dr Lee believes that it was this support system and a touch of divine providence that allowed her to juggle the two roles she plays: as a full-time professional at work, and as a mother to her children.  
“I am able to attend every important event in my children’s lives, never missing a performance nor a graduation,” she said. 

While Dr Lee is glad to observe that there is less gender segregation and discrimination in general today, she warns that this also means that women are still expected to pull their own weight and rise as equals to men, despite being lumbered with children and primary care on top of their career responsibilities. 
As such, they seriously need more support, which I hope they will not be afraid to ask for or set up for themselves."

Dr Elizabeth Lee is also a mentor in the Women in Leadership Malaysia (WIL MY) 2016 run by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and TalentCorp, an eight-month leadership development programme for Malaysian women professionals.
*Photo Credit: Dr Elizabeth Lee & Sunway Education Group