IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOT LET OTHER PEOPLE’S IMAGINATION BECOME YOUR LIMITATION.
<< PRELUDE >>
"I’m a 32-year-old entrepreneur originally born in Taiwan. My parents decided to move to New Zealand because I didn’t really fit into the education system in Taiwan. I’d definitely say I’m rebellious, curious and adventurous! Back when I was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Auckland, I applied for an exchange to Japan, and everyone tried to convince me against it since I couldn’t speak a word of Japanese and I wasn’t majoring in anything Japan-related. The more people told me I couldn’t, the more determined I was. I ended up receiving a full scholarship for it, so I guess the moral of the story is, get uncomfortable and break out of your comfort zone! Through the years in the corporate world, I’ve realised that in order to rise up the corporate ladder, you need to be bold and proactive. Nothing is impossible, and living by that mantra gave me the push on a lot of occasions to go out of my comfort zone." — Sarah Liu, Founder, The Dream Collective
What did you dream of being when you were little?
Sarah: I dreamt of being a news anchor when I was very young. To be honest, I was more motivated by the thought of being someone of influence and being able to create an impact in the world around me, and at that time I felt that being a news anchor would allow me to do that.
When did you start dreaming up the idea of The Dream Collective?
Sarah: Owing to my rebellious nature, I was spurred to question the status quo, especially coming from a traditional Asian upbringing with specific expectations placed upon women. By the time I was 24, when I was a regional brand manager in Sydney, and having worked in some challenging circumstances as an Asian woman, I began noticing the lack of opportunities for women to harness their potential in the corporate world. I also noted the lack of platforms that addressed specific challenges that women faced in terms of climbing the corporate ladder.
What eventually made you decide to turn this dream into your reality — and how?
Sarah: I was working under a very restrictive environment where my boss wouldn’t allow me to speak in a meeting unless he told me to. I also had to walk a few steps behind him when we walked into a meeting. Additionally, I also saw a 20% pay gap between me and my male counterparts. On top of that, I’ve also witnessed several women like myself at that point of time who are not empowered to speak up about the unjust treatment and challenges they face in their jobs. The effects of the lack of resources and support on these women in the corporate world made me decide to turn this into a reality. I’ve seen many of the women around me feeling dejected or lacking in confidence and I really wanted to provide them with a platform of support and resources to help them overcome it.
So far, what has been the biggest road block?
Sarah: What’s holding women back and creating this gender disparity cannot be attributed to only one factor, and that’s what makes addressing this global gender gap so challenging. In general, there are personal factors and systemic factors both in the workplace and the household.
The biggest road block would have to be challenging the systemic issues and addressing the multi-dimensional and complex unconscious biases in society, at home and in organisations.
Setting up and running the company has been tough, but the major challenge has always been to change the way society prioritises gender equality in the work sphere.
What about the greatest achievement or milestone to date?
Sarah: There are two things. One is the fact that that I started something out of nothing, all on my own, without external assistance or funding. What started as my own passion project out of my living room has now grown to a team that is operating across four locations, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and Tokyo. It’s very gratifying knowing that I continue to build a global empire out of nothing. I also feel that my experience is evidence of how powerful young women can be, as long as we believe in
“My boss wouldn’t allow me to speak in a meeting unless he told me to. I also had to walk a few steps behind him when we walked into a meeting.”
ourselves, we can achieve anything we set out to do regardless of what other people think or say about us. I believe that it’s important to not let other people’s imagination become your limitation.
The second thing is to be able to look back at our journey over the past five or six years, and knowing that we have helped influence the career path of many women. Just last year, over 65% of women who came through our programme got a promotion, a pay rise or another career development opportunity. We had a participant who had been taking on two roles — hers and her superior’s — and was not being properly compensated for her increased workload. After attending our leadership training programme, she was able to present a compelling business case and convinced her management not only to reconcile her pay and her workload, but also to backdate her pay to when she started taking on her boss’s workload as well.
It is stories like these that reminds me of why I started this journey with The Dream Collective.
What does it mean to you that your work helps other women realise their dreams, too?
Sarah: It’s a beautiful feeling knowing that we succeed not only by succeeding ourselves, but also by supporting one another and in that way, create an eco-system where we can lead, succeed and generate wealth. When
Don’t be afraid to take a short break in the day or stop what you’re doing and come back in a week’s time and recalibrate. Don’t be afraid to reset yourself.
women win, everybody wins. It excites me.
In your wildest dream, where would The Dream Collective be in the next five years?
Sarah: Global domination and to close the global gender parity in this generation! We are working towards addressing the issues and to achieve progress in terms of female representation in leadership positions, economic empowerment and safety. We hope to be able to be working with women in these three areas, but we’re starting with building a better environment and equipping women with the skills to take on leadership roles in organisations. We have also started introducing financial literacy courses, and will likely expand in that area and ultimately, we will be looking into empowering women with the skills and the courage to protect themselves physically as well.
What have you discovered/learned about yourself on this journey so far?
Sarah: I discovered that sometimes my greatest strengths are my greatest weakness as well. There are two sides to everything. Some of the harshest lessons I’ve learned were the result of my strength.
Also, I realise that I’m more resilient than I had expected. I was always able to bounce right back from setbacks and challenges I faced in growing a business and the level of grit that I have has taken even myself by surprise.
THERE IS NO FIXED WAY TO HAVE A GOOD DAY. I BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO FIND YOUR OWN WAY OF THRIVING.
Do you believe it’s possible to be nice and successful?
Sarah: Yes, of course! Funny you should ask! This brings up the issue of the likability bias. Researchers have found that likability and success are positively correlated for men but adversely so for women. Of course, there are personal attributes that affect likability as well, but unbeknownst to most, there is an unconscious bias that affects the likability for women. We need to challenge this mindset and be more aware of our preconceived stereotypes.
What does your dream life look like?
Sarah: I’m living it already. What I consider a dream life is building a career and empire that can help women succeed and create an impact. Building a great influence around this space is what I’m doing now, and I cannot ask for more. I’m pretty much living it.
Some days, our dream can become a nightmare. What do you do to cope when things are not going well, and you’re not feeling the confidence and power to make things happen?
Sarah: The key thing is to have a cheerleading
squad. You need to have a group of people around you to cheer you on, lift you up and push you forward. Because when things are not doing well, there is a limit to what you can do, but it is important to recognise that you need external support and allow others to support you. I often find my mojo back when I have people around me showering me with support and cheering me on.
When you don’t have confidence and power, sometimes it’s just taking a little bit of time out. Don’t be afraid to take a short break in the day or stop what you’re doing and come back in a week’s time and recalibrate. Don’t be afraid to reset yourself.
What time do you get up in the morning? What is your morning routine like in preparation for a good, productive day?
Sarah: That’s an interesting one because no routine is my routine. Because of the nature of our work and my hectic schedule, client meetings and programmes., day to day looks very different for me. Also, because of my personality, I don’t like routine. I feel I lose creativity when we stick too much with
a routine. For some, waking up at 7am every morning, going for a jog then having a cup of orange juice every day works, but it doesn’t for me. I get up at different times in the morning. That’s how I feel free. I like spontaneity and freedom, and no routine gives me freedom.
When it comes to a good, productive day, the important thing to know is that there is no fixed way to have a good day. I believe you have to find your own way of thriving.
What is the last thing you do before going to bed each night?
Sarah: I’m usually too exhausted to do anything, to be honest. But just probably to just check my phone one last time, what my list of to-dos are for the next day, to confirm the first appointment I have the next day. Other than that, I’m usually too tired to do anything.
Sweet dreams are made of…
Sarah: Hard work. It’s only when you put in a lot of hard work that you reap the fruits of your labour. You’ll be able to sleep and have a sweet dream at night knowing that you’ve given the day your best shot.
PHOTOGRAPHY // KARMAN TSE
LOCATION // SHERATON TOWERS SINGAPORE
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH!
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