2022 WiFA Spotlight Series: Today we would like to introduce Siu Man Yee, Manager at HER Fund, who shares with WiFA her experience with overcoming bias, how she supports female talent, what gives her hope every day, and much more
Tell us about your background and the journey to your current position and organization.
In my earlier working years since I graduated from Bilingual Studies, I progressively acquired and improved my communications and public relations skills in the media and advertising sector. In 2009, I felt that it might be time to leverage the skills that I mastered through the years to contribute to NGOs, a field that I have devoted myself to since my progressive involvement in rights advocacy at university. I started working at regional and international NGOs on human rights and education, and later in 2015, I started my journey on gender justice and NGO development work. Since then, I found myself diving into the specialty of gender and community building. It fascinates me how the feminist theories I learned in postgraduate school could be put into practice in everyday life and show progress for change. In 2019, I became a part of the HER Fund team, an NGO that is committed and dedicated to supporting marginalised women, girls and trans communities in Hong Kong.
Describe a challenging or difficult time during your career where you overcame bias.
It has always been a difficult or complicated task for NGOs’ practitioners to narrate or communicate our professions. There are times we come across questions such as “are you doing voluntary work?”, “asking for donations to people?”, “are you a social worker?” I would say, “yes or no” just like many other professions in different industries or sectors. There are various roles and specialties responsible for different areas of work and they cooperate with one another to accomplish their respective mission and vision. The more I encountered questions from people not familiar with our sector and profession, the more opportunities I could illustrate and interpret the work of a campaigner – such as what do we mean by “we’re not just granting money” and “what about bringing social changes”. These experiences inspire and deepen my understanding that what we say should embrace diversity and be empathetic. When we are able to recognise and appreciate the various and unique facets of people or different situations, we can overcome the bias we previously had.
Please provide an example where you have promoted/supported female talent.
It might sound trivial, but change always comes from small things. I remember a young woman, Eva (pseudonym), who was a volunteer for the marginalised communities I worked with. Eva was in her final year of studying engineering when we met and she was been worried about her career development after graduation. Like many graduates, facing the pressure of repayment of student loans and family expectations, Eva was struggling whether she should apply for work in the engineering sector in making ends meet or explore opportunities in the social service sector which she found more interesting. After listening to her, I recommended Eva for a vacancy at the centre I was affiliated with, and this is how Eva started her career. With the trust from Eva, I became her mentor and witnessed her development as a registered social worker today for children with special education needs and their parents. Eva is very passionate and is strengthening her skills in nature therapy which she would like to include in her counselling work for the students and parents.
What gets you out of bed every day, either professionally or personally? What gives you hope?
Sunshine and sounds of raindrops (but not alarm clocks) wake me up and get me out of the bed most of the time! The possibilities of encountering different people and happenings regardless if they are good or bad make me feel curious about the world and the universe! I always want to know what’s happening in our place, other parts of the world, and want to witness moments of tiny things like plants growing bigger or magnificent events like wars/ conflicts. There’s a saying “I think, therefore I am” and I believe if I’m able to be with the people and happenings, therefore I am.