Joëlle Dang-Jamet, former Chief Operating Officer, Global Finance and Risk Division Societe Generale Asia, who shares with WiFA her experience with volunteering, how she promotes diversity and gender equality, what gives her hope every day, and much more

Tell us about your background and the journey to your current position and organization. 

Coming from a migrant family who left Vietnam for better opportunities overseas, I was instilled from an early age the importance of working hard and a good education. The drive to become financially literate and self-sufficient has guided my choices of studies at university in France and beyond. 

I started in banking as a back-office intern in Luxembourg before moving to Hong Kong. Back then operating processes were not as automated as today, many processes were fully manual: a lot of curiosity and communication were required to understand what lied behind each processing step and how different stakeholders at various organizational levels formed the entire value chain. Enriched by this experience, I was then hired as project manager within the same team to reengineer the entire front to back modus operandi and implement the permanent supervision controls required for a sound quality and delivery of services to our clients. After 3 years, I moved to the risk department to implement the governance and processes required for the launch of new products to the market. I gained further exposure to different functions, and businesses while developing extensive practical and operational experiences and multifaceted talents which enabled me to adapt to different tasks, solve a range of issues and prepared me well for my leadership roles as Chief Operating Officer respectively for the Global Finance and the Risk division.

The pandemic continues to bring new challenges into our homes and workplace. How are you adapting to these changes in terms of volunteering within your community or workplace? 

The pandemic brought a new paradigm not only in terms of schooling models for our children but for both women and men professionals as well. While preparing our family relocation to Switzerland, I decided it was also time to pay back and be thankful for what Hong Kong has given us for the last 20 years: An incredible environment to grow happily both as a professional and individual.  This invaluable life experience would not have been possible without the constant support from our nanny Rowena. I therefore choose to join the NGO: Uplifters as their governance and finance volunteer to further support a community of migrant workers during our last 6 months in Hong Kong. For more information about Uplifters, click here 

How do you promote diversity and gender equality in your own life and workplace ?

At home, I am a happy mother of one son and one daughter. Both are very close in age and were often exposed to the same sport activities. Not only to ease the logistics but also as there was no reason for my daughter to be given opportunities selectively. It turned out that my daughter became passionate about football, playing with an amazing troop of little girls while my son gave preference to more artistic activities. It took a while for their grandparents to get with the idea…until they saw their granddaughter on fire on the football pitch. Looking at her face and body language, they knew she would go for the ball and save it. Since then, it ended their longstanding bias about girls sports vs boys.

As a member of WiSE (Women Empowered in Sport) in Hong Kong, I proactively encouraged more girls to participate and stay in sports as a means to lead an active, meaningful, self-fulfilled life. Indeed ¨Une tête bien faite vaut mieux qu’une tête bien pleine¨ i.e., ¨A well-made head is better than a full head.¨ Professionally until 2015, I chaired the Women Initiatives Network at the bank I worked for and engaged in different internal and external events to gain best practices, fostering awareness, and creating a space to build confidence and to dare to create its own path to professional success. 

What gets you out of bed every day, either professionally or personally? What gives you hope ? 

Changes comes from millions of little decisions made by courageous individuals, and women should not get discouraged about their own capacity to overcome obstacles that stand in their way. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, “Women hold up Half the Sky”.

As I saw how little girls developed when provided the same chance and opportunities as boys, I am confident: things are moving slowly but toward the right direction. As parents we are responsible for the future generation, and we need to make sure our children remember that nothing is granted forever but with courage, constant effort, and strong will, they can maintain the positive momentum, at least in the community they live in.