Joy Jinghui Xu, CHRO Asia & Head of Global Learning, Manulife on DE&I Global Challenges

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Tone from the top is important – a vision that encourages inclusion of all forms of visible and invisible diversities.

Joy Jinghui Xu, CHRO Asia & Head of Global Learning, Manulife on DE&I Global Challenges

Joy is Chief Human Resources Officer, Asia and Head of Global Learning of Manulife. Joy is also on Manulife’s Asia Division Executive Committee and Global Human Resources & Communication Leadership Team.

In her role, Joy works in partnership with Manulife’s business and Human Resources leadership to drive culture transformation and to ensure the company attracts, develops, and retains a high performing global workforce in order to fulfill the bold ambition, the most digital and customer-centric global leader in the industry. In her additional role, Joy is leading the company’s Global Learning to future proof the organization.

Prior to joining Manulife, Joy worked for Novartis as Global Head of Human Resources for the company’s Sandoz business, based in Germany since October 2015. Prior to that, Joy was with PepsiCo for almost ten years, holding senior leadership roles in Asia and globally. Joy started her career at Procter & Gamble in 1995. At P&G, she had increasingly broader leadership roles in both China and the US. Joy has significant experience in HR strategy & transformation, talent & leadership development, Diversity & Inclusion, organizational engagement and digital HR.

Joy graduated from the South China University of Technology with a BA in English.

Q- How do you see the role of gender-inclusive leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Last year took a tremendous toll on many people across the region. Many countries have experienced varying degrees of social uncertainty, as well as typhoons, earthquakes, and wildfires. Then, of course, we have all seen the economic turmoil in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. All of these factors compound the levels of personal, health, and financial stress that families are feeling across the world.

This has affected both men and women, but in slightly different ways, highlighting the disproportionate burden that women carry. In Asia, while men still tend to be the main if not sole breadwinner in most families, women tend to have an equal or dominant responsibility in terms of family finances and running the household – a clear majority of Manulife policyholders, for example, are women. In addition, many or most of the workers at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, such as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organisers and retail workers, are women.

This experience has deepened our awareness of the gender impacts of work. This has been reinforced by the rapid switch to working from home. Nearly all of Manulife’s near-20,000 workforce in Asia worked from home for some or most of 2020. This has helped produce a shift away from legacy assumptions around certain roles being for specific genders and towards recognising the individual purely by the value they contribute.

At Manulife, we are seizing this moment to accelerate gender inclusion in the workplace.

Q- What are the challenges Women Leaders face and how to overcome them?

Whereas some years ago the main challenge was about acceptance, today the primary challenge is to demonstrate we’re adequately prepared. We’re accepted as players and choose to challenge the status quo.  

The overall progress is very positive, and we need to push further. We need to support women through coaching, guidance, sponsorship and experience-building to help them develop their talents and move into higher positions of leadership.

Looking at my home market of Hong Kong, with a population of 7.5 million, women outnumber men by about 600,000.[1] Most other Asian markets are similar with an even balance or slightly more women – the main exceptions being mainland China and India. Just from a proportional point of view, we should raise our sights in terms of the share of leadership positions held by women. Even if the imbalances were the other way round, having more women in leadership and decision-making roles is really just common sense if the benefits of that talent pool are not to be missed and, of course, women’s perspectives are to be represented.

Whilst we women need to help each other to pursue the vision of equal leadership, we must not underestimate the power of our male allies who are standing by us, supporting us and empowering us to achieve that dream. It’s important to embrace the support that comes your way and work together with your male allies towards that common goal in the workplace and in the community.

Q- What are your ideas to make the workplace more diverse, more thriving places?

Our community and our customers are extremely diverse in every market, so all the more reason to have diversity-friendly workplace. A diverse workforce sparks creative ideas that would encourage a better customer experience and help us reach out to even more customers. Clearly, from a business economic standpoint, it’s the right thing to do.

Tone from the top is important – a vision that encourages inclusion of all forms of visible and invisible diversities. This in turn is a positive influence on a range of key drivers, including hiring decisions, employee awareness, engagement events, talent development, and sponsorship and community outreach. When leaders speak the language and perform the actions of inclusion in everything that they do, they help build a culture in which everyone can bring their whole self to work.

Manulife has embarked on a large-scale global diversity, equity and inclusion programme where we are striving to create a more diverse and balanced workforce. All leaders are mandated to participate in awareness and education programmes, and are also measured in their individual performance goals to ensure inclusion and adherence to the strategy.

Q- What are your views on Racial Equity and how to address the problem of racism in the workplace?

The Asia region is the most racially and culturally diverse in the world, with over 2,000-plus languages and cultures. Fighting systemic bias and racism is one of the biggest challenges of our time. And businesses can lead the way. It only makes sense that we build our workplace representing this diversity. We must take action now to help break down old systems that aren’t working, change beliefs and behaviour, and build a new future of racial equity to move from intention to reality. As a result, we can truly unleash the power of diversity in the workplace. This stimulates a creative workplace in which everyone can contribute their unique gifts and that helps an organisation flourish.

Q- Any concluding remarks?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is no longer rhetoric. It’s fast becoming the only realistic and desirable way to move forward in business and society. In the workplace, the more we embrace our differences, the better we will be able to compete. There’s a need to work towards creating a workforce that reflects the community you serve, which in turn helps create brand and customer loyalty in communities you would have otherwise not reached. And that’s good for business and for everyone.

Thank you, Joy!


[1] https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/so20.jsp

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