Supermamapreneur Sighting: Claire Chiang, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts Co-Founder

An original Supermamapreneur

When you meet Claire, you know right away that you’ve met a Woman of Substance.

And it’s not because of her many awards or that she is the better half of one of Singapore’s high profile power couples.

Claire possess what many people don’t: a fire-in-the-belly type of passion for what she believes in, a presence that will make you sit up and pay attention (you’ll know she has arrived when she walks into a room) and a contagious, fun energy – the kind of energy that only comes with being truly interested and wholehearted about what she is doing in and with her life.

Claire Chiang and Lise Chew

 

Google her and you’ll find countless articles on who she is and the things she has done.

Claire has been at the forefront of many things, like being the first woman on the Council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry and helping AWARE set up their helpline.

She’s married. Has 3 kids. Was former Nominated Member of Parliament. Her World Magazine’s Woman Of The Year 1999. Amongst many other things. Business. She is by all counts an original Supermamapreneur.

One of her businesses is Banyan Tree Gallery, which retails art from indigenous artists and Asian botanical blends. The idea behind this business was to retail items to empower local communities and their trades. I thought this was an excellent idea, given their already established platform that is Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts.

I finally got to meet her at the Shirin Fozdar Programme Annual Lecture At The Frontlines of Change: Women Who Dared (By Dr. Noeleen Heyzer) last Friday. She invited all her mentees to this event and I must say it was thought provoking.

Claire speaks with conviction and it is clear she is an ambitious woman.

And when she pulled all 4 of her mentees in for a photograph with Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, she said to us, “You better be on stage in 15 years!” She’s even ambitious for us.

When I went up to her and introduced myself, she received me with a warmth and enthusiasm that I didn’t expect. And when I mentioned that my mother used to be her neighbour, and when she realised who it was, she started speaking to me in Hainanese like I was long lost family.

I am so very lucky to have her as my mentor and I’m looking forward to learning from her.

 

 

FabFriday: Dr Noeleen Heyzer – Women Who Dared

Social Scientist & Former UN Under Secretary-General.

I have taken many things in Singapore for granted.

And until last Friday, I wasn’t aware of the many things that were done for me by women who have gone before so that I didn’t have to fight for it.

Did you know polygamy for non-muslims was still legal in Singapore until 1961 when the Women’s Charter was passed? This meant that many women did not have fundamental rights prior to that. A lady named Shirin Fozdar was instrumental in pushing for such change in Singapore.

Before my mentor, Ms. Claire Chiang, invited me to attend the Inaugural Shirin Fozdar Programme Annual Lecture at the Singapore Management University, I had never heard of her. But now that I have, I wonder why they didn’t teach us about her in school!

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Ms. Claire Chiang giving her welcome address
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Q&A session moderated by SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong.
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From Left to Right: Ms. Claire Chiang, Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Professor Lily Kong and Professor Arnoud De Meyer, President of SMU.

The topic of the Annual Lecture was At The Frontlines of Change: Women Who Dared By Dr. Noeleen Heyzer. Dr. Hayzer is a Social Scientist and Former United Nations Under Secretary-General. She was the first woman

  • to serve as the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and
  • from outside North America to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) becoming its longest serving Executive Director for 13 years.

Her lecture highlighted the contributions of well-known women leaders around the world like Hillary Clinton, who could possibly be shattering one big glass ceiling in November, and local ladies like war heroine, Elizabeth Choy, and issues of inequality that women still face in parts of the world today.

Dr Noeleen Heyzer and Lise Chew

Lise Chew and Ho Kwon Ping
Me and Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. He also sits on the Board of Trustees for SMU.
Lise Chew Briget Choy
Left to Right: Myself, war heroine Elizabeth Choy’s daughter, Bridget Choy, and some lovely ladies who went to St. Margaret’s too.

 

Claire Chiang and Lise Chew

Here are 3 points that resonated with me:

  1. “If you teach a woman to fish, she’ll not just learn how to fish, she will change the whole fishing industry.” – Dr. Noeleen Heyzer

  2. When asked what are the conditions we need to have in Singapore to have a female Prime Minister, Dr Heyzer said there need to be firstly more women on boards (only 9% in Singapore) and in Cabinet; and secondly, women will need the men to support them and push them into positions of power.
  3. For there to be any kind of sustainable change, everyone at all levels of society need to be stakeholders to push change forward. Whenever people use the word “stakeholders” I’m always a bit befuddled because why does it sound like a corporate governance lecture and nothing to do with me? But then I’ve realised that for anyone to truly care about anything, they need to have some skin in the game.

Hence. Thus. Therefore.

Psst…

Here’s what’s to come!

Y’know things happen in my life a lot faster than I can write. Plus, it was Birthday Week a few weeks ago, so I’ve been a little drunk on too much Moscato D’Asti. (I have not found a Champagne that I would drink over Moscato D’Asti. Though I do appreciate the different purpose of these 2 beverages. And yes the “D’Asti” is important. A moscato without “D’Asti” is N’Asti. And now I bet you won’t ever forget that I said this LOL.)

Anyway, here’s a summary of what I’ll be posting in the next few days, not necessarily in this order:

  1. Birthday FreakingAwesome Week
  2. Galboss Asia where I met and learned from the best. It was also held on my birthday so that was super! Look out for interviews with:
    1. Celebrity, actress, businesswoman and Co-Founder of Galboss Asia, Andrea De Cruz;
    2. Beauty industry disrupter, Skin Inc Global Founder and Co-Founder of Galboss Asia, Sabrina Tan; and
    3. Founder of iconic streetwear brand, 77th Street and serial entrepreneur, Elim Chew.
  3. My first Meet & Greet at CRIB with Co-founders Tjin Lee and Mei Chee
  4. Meeting up with Bandwagon Founder, Clarence Chan.

Stay tuned!