Asian American Women Leaders Share Their Secrets to Success

“Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face — and there will be barriers — be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold. I promise that you never know what you’re capable of unless you try,” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, said at the 2011 undergraduate Barnard College commencement. Fear was not an option for Claudia Chan, Iris Chen, and Eunice Chou. These three fearless, successful women followed their passions, broke the glass ceiling, and gradually rose to the top. For Eunice Chou, it was her passion for food that paved her way to become one of the very few women in a male-dominated tech world. As the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the start-up Flavorize, Chou created a new platform for finding the foods you love. Dubbed as the “Pandora of food,” Flavorize allows you to search by craving, dish or ingredients, and recommendations on dishes at your favorite restaurants.

“It’s a cultural thing for women to be nice, supportive, and quiet. Women need to stand up for what they want. With start-ups, there are still not a lot of women. Venture capitalists are still funding male-dominated companies,” Chou says.

Similarly, Chan started an up-and-coming syndicated online talk show called Claudia Chan TV, where she interviews women with high-powered jobs in business, entertainment, fashion, publishing, and philanthropy, in turn, empowering young women and girls.

“I became an entrepreneur at 23 years old. The foundation of your business lies in the people you choose to work with. It’s important that you’re on the same page with the people who help make your business. Your VP should have the same core values as you,” Chan said.

After graduating from Yale University, Chen went on to work as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. She then later went on to earn her J.D. and M.B.A. degree at Harvard University. Today, Chen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to ensure all children in America have the opportunity to pursue higher education and have fulfilling careers.

“The more successful I’ve become, I’m less focused on whether people like me. I know how to be likeable, but now that I have a team, I feel like I am less likeable. But that doesn’t make me a bad person. I just have higher standards,” Chen says.

All three women agree that women should mentor and support each other. Moreover, they say women should not be afraid to ask for help or get out there and talk to people in the careers and industries they want to pursue. Mentorship can be a very powerful tool in leading a successful career.

“Make yourself invaluable. Talk up things you’ve accomplished and show people that they need you,” Chou says.

Chan understands how hard it can be to reconcile what your parents want for you and your passions. “You might fight with your parents a lot, but as long as you have a plan to get what you want, your parents will eventually realize your success. If you do a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life,” Chan says.

As many of you already know, the road to success is a hard one, but it doesn’t mean you should give up on your passions. Chen says persistence and tenacity are the keys to success and half the battle.

“Be the ‘make-it-happen’ person in your company. When they are in crisis, be the person they ask to make the hard decisions.”

This panel was co-hosted by Mochi Magazine and Taiwanese American Professionals.