Leanne Yong is the Managing Editor of women’s business website Leaders in Heels – leadersinheels.com – rated #1 Top Site for Women Entrepreneurs to Love [2013, She Owns It]
You’re the managing editor of Leaders in Heels, how did you end up working for an award winning women’s business website?
I was first involved with Leaders in Heels about two years ago as a regular contributor for the technology section. I’ve always loved writing and my best friend knew the then-Tech Editor of the site. So I offered to contribute because I loved their values and how they wanted to connect women in the business world, and that’s how it all started. It seems they liked me, because something like six to eight months down the road, the site’s founder Kasia offered me the role of Tech Editor when the current one stepped down.
I actually turned it down the first time. There was a lot going on in my life at that point, and I didn’t think I’d be able to handle the extra responsibility. So Kasia found someone else. Then another six to eight months later when the new Tech Editor stepped down as well, she offered me the role once more. My life was in a less overwhelming place then, so I accepted. And then another few months after that, when the managing editor decided to step down to pursue her own business, I was offered that position.
I’ve found that opportunities like this aren’t so much about suddenly appearing in a blazing flash of glory and blowing everyone away. It’s about being consistent, reliable, and above, all, determined. I’m not the best writer or editor out there by far, but I’ll stick at it and deliver what I say I’ll deliver, when I say I’ll deliver. I think it’s really easy to forget that although there will always be geniuses or wunderkinds that get splashed all across the media, us ordinary people who keep on doing what we do and slowly work toward our goals will still be there in the long haul.
Is Leaders in Heels a full time gig for you? If not, what else takes up your time?
Not at all! Everyone at the site is a volunteer, and we work on it in our spare time. I work full-time as a business analyst and software developer. I love the challenge of adapting programs to suit a business’s needs—it’s almost like a logic puzzle at times, figuring out what piece would fit where.
But my real passion is for writing. Whether it’s articles for Leaders in Heels, reflective posts on life in general for another site, or the novels I’ve been working on the past few years, I’m fascinated by the potential beauty and power of words—and on the flip side, the ugliness as well.
I love how a good story puts you in another person’s shoes, makes you cry with them and laugh with them. It opens your eyes to other views on life that you may not have considered and makes you re-think your preconceptions. And did you know, children who read a lot tend to have more empathy toward others than those who don’t? I love fiction because it takes people on a journey outside themselves, lets them escape this reality for a while and live in a world where people overcome despite their flaws, where all the sacrifices of good will overcome evil in the end.
When we’re taken on such a journey and end up rooting for others, especially those we’d dismiss straight off the bat as ‘bad guys’, I think that’s the first step towards real change in the world.
What inspires you to promote women in business and women’s leadership in general?
I did an engineering degree and worked in a more technical IT field, so I’ve always been in what most people would consider a ‘man’s world’. Much as I don’t really like using that phrase to describe those environments, it’s true—men dominate them by sheer force of numbers. In my particular branch of engineering (robotics) I was one of three females in my cohort of sixty or so. On my first project at work, I was one of two females (later three) in a team of thirteen.
I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always had very supportive people around me, but others aren’t so lucky. There are so many studies that show women are less confident and assertive in their roles, and less likely to ask for things if they believe their chances are low. This means that when they’re up against men, especially in male-dominated fields, it tends to be the males who get the higher pay and promotions.
Although I do think that females can do better when it comes to confidence and assertiveness, I also want to start changing the culture in business so women don’t have to act like men to get ahead. I’d love to see a culture where emotion can be a sign of strength, where dogged determination and endurance are as highly looked upon as assertiveness and (at times) being the loudest voice in the room.
I believe that the more women we can get into business and leadership who are willing to disrupt that status quo, the closer we’ll get to real change. – Leanne Yong
The other thing is that women can be our own worst enemies. I know it’s been said so many times, but it’s true. Because in many cases, we’re more likely to feel insecure, we then project that insecurity on to others. Perhaps it’s those who seem more uncertain and vulnerable than ourselves, or those who seem to have it all together—because we feel we don’t. We tear them down, or we hide our own issues behind a carefully crafted facade. In doing so, we miss the chance to connect with another person who may be going through (or who has gone through) the same struggles we’re facing. We might even miss the chance to meet our greatest ally.