I'm A Smart & Confident Woman But Why Do Finances Scare Me?
We often hear, at multiple forums, that women are the key influencers of financial decisions at home. Yet, how much agency do women really exercise when managing their own money. Additionally, are finance businesses really talking in a language that speaks to women consumers?
To get some insight into the world of women, money and fiscal health, we interviewed Lee NG, VP at Metlife Innovation Asia & COO of LumenLab, Metlife Asia’s platform to promote a culture of innovation. Lee has spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before joining Metlife in 2015, where as the VP of Innovation, she is leading the launch of disruptive new business models to keep pace with changing needs and aspirations of consumers, many of whom are women.
Here’s what Lee had to say about the industry, women in STEM and her own take-charge mantras.
Insurance has traditionally been a male-dominated sector in terms of consumers and professionals working in the field. As more women get financially independent, how do you see the industry making the shift?
I came from the High Tech field which, like insurance, is a traditionally male-dominated industry. However, I’m pleased to see that our industry is recognizing the need for change and taking tangible steps to make this happen.
For many years, MetLife’s Global Women’s Initiative has been focused on increasing the representation of women in broader leadership roles and strengthening the leadership capability of women in our talent pipeline. Ultimately, our company will be more successful if we better understand and reflect our consumers - many of which are women - and offer solutions that meet their needs.
We need to be reaching out and empowering women to make better financial decisions, based on both their needs and how they want to engage with us. MetLife Foundation partners with a number of organizations to drive initiatives focused on financial inclusion. Inclusion Plus is one such program, which challenges entrepreneurs and non-profits to advance financial inclusion through innovation.
Through this challenge, the Swadhaar Group developed their “money management” tool that helps sub-illiterate groups in India manage expenses and track their financials via low-cost smartphones.
In short, MetLife is tackling inclusion from a number of different angles - both internally and out in its communities.
Fiscal health is definitely a pillar for women’s growth. Any advice for women on the SHEROES platform around taking charge of their fiscal health?
Despite being very capable, many women - and indeed men too - are intimidated by financial terms and concepts, and shy away from taking financial decisions as a result. I would encourage them to read up, to at least understand their options for investing to safeguard their future.
Any action, no matter how small, could be a step in the right direction. It might be investing a small amount of your savings in a mutual or exchange-traded fund, or taking out a policy that protects your family’s financial well being, if you are no longer able to earn an income.
We all have to start somewhere and once you begin, you will start paying attention to the stock market and naturally, you will learn more. Over time, your initial investments may lead to asset allocation, one thing will lead to another and eventually, you will become very comfortable talking about your finances.
Women in STEM often face hurdles in India right from school and into their careers. What has been your own experience in this journey, as a woman in STEM?
Interestingly, I never actually felt that I face hurdles as a woman in STEM. I was fortunate that I was always technically inclined and I pursued engineering as a logical path. I went to an all-girls secondary school, so I didn’t know that girls were not “supposed” to be good in Math and Science, and I went into the technical stream (I also did not have the distraction of boys and could focus on my studies) and eventually ended up doing a PhD at MIT.
My personal experience as a woman in STEM has been very positive, in part because I’ve really enjoyed all my past jobs. The jobs were all very different, but they enabled me to use my analytical abilities to solve problems. And because I constantly changed domains, from consulting, to venture capitalism, to electronics and clean tech, I was always tackling challenges at a professional level.
One thing I realize, now that I am a lot older, is that ultimately what you study in school, STEM or not, is not the most important thing that drives your career or your satisfaction. It is your attitude and your behaviour. How curious are you? Do you have a growth mindset? How aware are you of your own strengths and limitations? How open are you to criticism? And ultimately, your career satisfaction rests upon how you see yourself. It’s not the type of work you do, it’s the type of worker you are.
Work and play are important in equal measure. How do you unwind, rejuvenate, become a better version of yourself? We'd love to hear your #MoreFromLife mantras.
Indeed, play is just as important as work. Although, what is work and what is play becomes blurred if you are doing what you enjoy. I love to read and I read all kinds of books, mostly non-fiction, although I also enjoy occasional light novels.
I try to walk 10,000 steps every day. After dinner, if my Fitbit says I’m not at 10,000 steps yet, I go out with my husband and walk till I hit it. Yes, I’m a slave to my Fitbit!
I spend many of my weekends fixing or making things (sewing, making earrings, even fixing my sister’s shoes), especially now that my job is less technical. I also love to travel and I do yoga, although I aspire to do more than the current 2-3 times per week.
Lee with the team at collab Summit Japan.
SHEROES is proud to be the diversity partner for collab Summit Japan, part of the insurance open innovation platform run by LumenLab, Metlife's Innovation Centre. Collab seeks to engage startups globally and offer them a fast-track opportunity to scale their businesses with MetLife.