Jazreel Cheng, Co-Chair of Women in Finance Asia (WIFA), Co-Chair of MSCI Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF)and Vice-President, Client Coverage at MSCI.

1. What inspired you to join WIFA? What attracted you to the organization?

I have always been passionate about finance and the potential it has to make the world a better place. When I heard about the WIFA and what it stands for, I felt inspired to join. I wanted to be part of a group that has the power to make a difference in the lives of women by breaking down barriers and giving women the opportunity to grow and progress in their careers. Having lived and worked in Singapore, Canada, Japan, and now Hong Kong, my multicultural experience has exposed me to a wide range of perspectives on gender issues in finance. I wanted to be part of a network of like-minded individuals who were all striving to create a more equitable and diverse world. I am proud to be included in this inspiring group where my unique perspectives will identify new solutions to the challenges faced by women and ensure their voices are heard.

2. How has the increased focus on diversity and inclusion impacted the finance industry, specifically for women?

The increased focus on diversity and inclusion has led to positive changes for women. Companies have been engaging managers in solving the problem, increasing contact with women and minority-focused groups and offering flexible working arrangements. Companies are also realizing that diversity is not a “nice to have” but a business-critical tool. Research done in “The Effects of Diversity on Business Performance: Report of the Diversity Research Network” confirmed that diversity is positively related to higher business performance outcome measures.

Studies continue to show that companies and regulators are more aware that they need to implement steps toward workplace diversity. HKEx has adopted a no more “single gender” boards for Hong Kong-listed issuers by the end of 2024; the percentage of female directors on HKEX issuers’ boards increased from 2020 to 2023; and the MSCI Women on Boards Progress Report 2022 showed the percentage of director seats held by women continued to increase in 2022. However, despite all that, the pace is still too slow. The World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2022” says that at the current rate it will take another 151 years to close the global economic gender gap! This is unacceptable. We need more platforms that can provide common initiatives on DEI with tools, resources, and networks to further these goals. The only way to create positive impact is to do it together by inspiring women and men to become advocates, change makers, and leaders in our community.

3. Do you have any final thoughts, advice or stories that you would like to share with our readers about how to recruit, retain, or promote women in the financial industry or suggestions for WIFA for future events to promote DEI?

It is important to recognize the unique challenges that women face in the financial sector across Asia, and to create an environment of support and inclusion. Companies should invest in programs to support women, such as mentorship and coaching, and training and development. Embrace activities like volunteering and advocating for social justice causes. We must continue our collaborations and conversations around gender equality initiatives so that collectively we move the needle forward. WIFA is also an important reminder of both our collective strength as well as resilience when it comes to women in finance. It is a platform where we can exchange invaluable advice on career progression and development, and discover opportunities for positive change while sharing our respective experiences. In doing so, everyone becomes an ambassador of DEI to create awareness, equity, and inclusion.

4. One Sentence about #EmbraceEquity.

I am going to borrow Dr. Naheed Dosani’s quote because he summarized it best when he said: “Equality is giving everybody a shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”