International Women’s Day and ESG have long been synonymous with promoting the values of inclusion and diversity, recognising that diverse perspectives and experiences drive innovation and are good for businesses. Research shows that companies with more women on their boards outperform companies without by a significant margin.
Over the years, there has been significant progress in promoting gender diversity in senior management, with global progress recording a 32% growth in 2022. Despite so, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions.
This year, in honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrate 6 inspiring Women leaders in ESG and Tech, as they share with us their experiences on starting out in tech and their journey towards where they are today, as leaders championing sustainability and making a difference in their various fields.
Dr Darian McBain — Chief Executive Officer at Outsourced Chief Sustainability Officer Asia (OCSO), Former Chief Sustainability Officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore
Dr Darian McBain is no stranger to many in the ESG and tech scene. As the inaugural Chief Sustainability Officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, she has been instrumental in engaging with the ESG FinTech ecosystem and contributing to the growth of Singapore’s sustainable finance ecosystem. The environmental engineer’s background at the Thai Union also provided her opportunities to work on a multitude of technology solutions, from the likes of satellite connectivity and imagery to traceability and blockchain-enabled payment systems.
In her pursuit to help organisations in Asia meet the rising demands for sustainability leadership and compliance, Dr Darian founded Outsourced Chief Sustainability Officer Asia (OCSO Asia) in January 2023 where she now serves as CEO, as she saw the need for scaling up solutions by harnessing technology with local knowledge. Looking ahead at the future of ESG and tech, she hopes to see more “dynamic collaboration for the greater good.” Ending off, Dr Darian imparts her advice for fellow women: “Believe in yourself and others will too. Be brave, be fierce, but be kind to people and nature.”
Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer at City Developments Limited (CDL)
Kickstarting City Developments Limited (CDL)’s sustainability journey since 1995 is none other than Chief Sustainability Officer Esther An. Over the past 2 decades, Esther has been a true pioneer in leading sustainability, actively driving the company’s initiatives around applying green building design and technology. Interestingly, during the pandemic lull period in 2020, she led the expansion of CDL’s Sustainability team, doubling the headcount by setting up a dedicated Green Building Technology Application team to focus on innovation for decarbonisation. “This strategy helps us to future proof our business for a stronger recovery post pandemic.” Aligned with the company’s ethos of ‘Conserving as we Construct’, Esther’s accolades spans far and wide, successfully leading CDL to rank top amongst real estate companies on Global 100 most Sustainable Corporates in the world since 2020 and achieve “’AAA’ on MSCI ESG Index since 2010.”
Esther shares that the building sector is often male-dominated worldwide. While she has witnessed evolvement with more female leaders in the industry in Singapore, she hopes that the industry can continue to “step up on removing bias and offer stronger presence and voice to women executives to maximize their potential.” On the future of ESG and tech, she emphasises the importance of collaborating and making the best out of the current opportunities: “We are living in a revolutionary era where tech and sustainability agendas converge as mainstream for business resilience and future growth.”
Maisie Chong — Head, Transaction Banking, Singapore and Head, Trade and Working Capital, ASEAN, Standard Chartered
As a technologist with a Master’s in technology and communications, Maisie Chong has always sought to bridge the gap between “tech geek speak” and business. In her day-to-day, she heads Standard Chartered’s Transaction Banking in Singapore, as well as Trade and Working Capital, ASEAN, working closely with clients to optimize their working capital and cash management solutions. That includes advising them on sustainable financing to complement their commercial goals. Her foray into banking saw her constantly marrying tech and traditional banking solutions to strengthen the client value proposition. In her role, she is also an ESG champion, constantly challenging her team across the region to take conscious action to advance sustainability both internally and externally.
“Whilst ASEAN, the region I focus on, is most exposed to climate risks, it is also uniquely placed to address climate challenges.” said Maisie. She is excited about the opportunity to help clients drive their sustainability agenda with the ESG financing solutions the Bank provides. Maisie envisions a future where ESG is the “business-as-usual”, where sustainability “becomes part and parcel of the way we work and live.”
Malchutar Jasmine Kingnet — Head of Renewable Energy Business Section at Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)
Malchutar Jasmine Kingnet’s background in pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration, and subsequent programs in Marketing and Communications, demonstrates her thirst for knowledge and sets the precedence in her journey toward pursuing growth in her career. As the Head of Renewable Energy Business Section in EGAT, she is responsible for various aspects of business development around renewable energy, decarbonisation, technology, and energy innovation at EGAT with regulators and other stakeholders. At EGAT, she has the opportunity to “support people with access to electricity which contributes to improved education and better life”.
On ESG, Malchutar Jasmine Kingnet is a firm believer in “walking the talk”, and she wishes more can be done to improve on the implementation, tracking, monitoring, and reporting of ESG and Carbon Neutrality Goals. She shares that her mantra is to always be open, honest, and trustworthy, as “what we get done as a team surpasses what we get done individually.”
Semun Ho — Chief Executive Officer at Singapore Fashion Council
Semun Ho’s career first flourished when she worked in Motorola Electronics (ME) for 10 years, and led roles from Business Operations, Strategic Planning, Product Marketing for the Mobile Device Business in SEA as its Regional Director. She has an impressive track record with her 11 years helming SGTech as Executive Director. Driven by her curiosity about the user environment and a desire to make a difference, she made the leap to become the CEO of the Singapore Fashion Council in April 2018, where she kickstarted the organisation’s focus on fashion sustainability, at a time where sustainability was still finding its footing in the region and in the local industry. Semun is proud to share that the organisation has since made inroads in the scene, expanding their reach with programme partners such as STACS.
Her tech background enables her to explore how technologies and innovation can be a game changer for the fashion industry. Collaboration is key, as Semun Ho actively leads Singapore Fashion Council’s work with partners on various sustainability initiatives, such as pathways to certifications, workshops, and the development of resources and tools to help consumers and businesses take the first step in sustainability. Ending off, she wishes to spur change in the fashion ecosystem by continually marrying sustainability with innovation and technology.
Sharon Yuen — Chief Commercial Officer at STACS
Driving the heart of STACS’s business team is none other than Sharon Yuen, our Chief Commercial Officer. Her vast experience working in fintech over the past decade has enabled her to merge her background in banking to address the challenges in green finance today. Sharon shares that she is honoured to work with an incredibly intelligent team at STACS, dedicated to helping clients mobilize capital to sustainable projects, monitor commitments, and measure impact. STACS provides a common ESG data registry that is built in partnership with the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Project Greenprint. The team’s shared commitment to making a positive impact is what drives her forward daily.
“Innovation is one of the most powerful tools for fighting the climate crisis.” She firmly believes that technology and better ESG data are vital in enabling informed decision-making for a better future. This International Women’s Day, Sharon acknowledges the amazing women leaders she has witnessed and crossed paths with in the ESG and Tech space. “Women who support women are more successful,” she comments, and those women that are supportive are “often the most successful and represent the kinds of examples we need to set for other women.”
#EmbraceEquity: Moving beyond equal opportunities
Aligned with this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity, we believe this is a reminder for us to be inclusive not only in gender diversity, but to continuously forge positivity and to fight for equal and fair work opportunities. We also concur with the importance of forging allies and supporting other women.
With that, we are deeply appreciative of the opportunity to uncover the remarkable stories of the female ESG and tech leaders around us. It is our sincere hope that their journey will inspire and encourage more women to believe in themselves and rise as leaders in the ESG and tech industry. Their stories serve as a powerful reminder of the incredible potential of women in tech, and we are honored to share them with the world.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today and beyond, let us continue to advocate for greater gender diversity in leadership roles, and create a supportive environment that enables women to thrive and make a positive impact in the world of ESG and tech.