International Women’s Day: Q&A with Karen Cheung
Karen Cheung is a Partner and the Asia Head of Consumer and Retail at BDA Partners in Hong Kong. Karen also leads WomenBDA, which is an initiative to encourage female colleagues to support each other whilst they navigate their careers in investment banking.
Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been around for more than 100 years with the aim of celebrating the achievements of women, closing the gender gap and fighting for the rights of women and girls everywhere. We are now in 2023 and we still have so much more work to achieve gender parity. IWD is a platform that raises awareness and enables action that will bring about a better future for women, and, for everyone.
How are you participating in IWD this year?
To support gender equality I have made a donation to a local charity whose goal is to prepare girls to be future ready leaders by providing them access to the right education, giving them the technology and digital skills and the mindset to build a better future. This is very close to my heart as I have a young daughter and I hope she has the opportunities to learn and develop the best she can.
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
Although banking is typically seen as a male-dominated sector, the women I know in the field are extremely capable and successful. The challenges are more related to the nature of the job and one’s own perception and less so about your gender.
The longer I work in this field, the more I think women can contribute great value and bring different perspectives to all discussions. I have come across many intelligent and highly-regarded women in my career and I truly believe that women gain respect by just being themselves.
Also, I have two young children myself and I fully understand the challenge of being a working mother. This has made me especially empathetic to what other women may need in terms of support and flexibility in the workplace, and, as a leader, I always empathise and understand their struggles.
How has BDA Partners supported you in balancing your career with starting a family?
I’ve been with BDA Partners for over ten years and during this time I’ve had the opportunity to lead many cross-border transactions, build a sector in Asia, as well as be a mentor to some of my colleagues.
However, one of the biggest changes during this period was becoming a mother. Whilst juggling work and family life is not always easy, BDA provides flexibile working arrangements when I need it.
I feel very fortunate to work in a company that values work life balance and has not only provided me with career opportunities, but also understands the demands of being a working Mother.
What advice would you give to your women entering the banking sector?
Something very simple and which is constantly being repeated would be ‘just be yourself’. I think this is so important especially in the current times when we are flooded with stereotypes and social media which plays a big part in influencing the way we think and act. In the context of women – it is so important that women don’t shy away from being themselves as I do believe we can offer so much more to the workplace, to our communities and societies to bring about a brighter future.
How can we encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship or senior leadership roles in their career?
Firstly, by building awareness of each others opportunities and success. When people hear or see what is possible, then they have more confidence or belief in themselves. This confidence and believe is what drives you to get past your fears or challenges. Secondly, I strongly believe that “empowered women empower women”. Building a strong community will encourage women to be their best selves and realise, that women are stronger when we come together.
How are women empowered at BDA?
We have an initiative called WomenBDA, which is a platform for women to discuss both work and non-work related matters, share ideas and form a community. We also have a mentorship programme which I have been involved in a number of times. I hope through this process I’ve provided guidance, helped colleagues have a positive experience and achieve their professional and personal goals
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
- Michelle Obama for being a role model for women. I know she could give me not only inspirations but tips on being a better woman and person.
- Beyonce for empowering women and girls through music and showing how to be strong independent female. She could also teach me a few dance moves.
- And finally, my grandmother, who is no longer with us, but her strength and toughness to endure hardship and so I can thank once more for all that she did in supporting and loving me.
About BDA Partners
BDA Partners is the global investment banking advisor for Asia. We are a premium provider of Asia-related advice to sophisticated clients globally, with over 25 years’ experience advising on cross-border M&A, capital raising, and financial restructuring. We provide global reach with our teams in New York and London, and true regional depth through our seven Asian offices in Mumbai, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo. BDA has deep expertise in the Chemicals, Consumer & Retail, Health, Industrials, Services and Technology sectors. We work relentlessly to earn our clients’ trust by delivering insightful advice and outstanding outcomes.
BDA Partners has strategic partnerships with William Blair, a premier global investment banking business, and with DBJ (Development Bank of Japan), a Japanese Government-owned bank with US$150bn of assets. bdapartners.com