International Women’s Day: Your Questions Answered


On March 8 every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated all around the world to recognize the contributions and achievements of women across various communities while calling for greater equality. This year, the theme “Make It Happen” aims to encourage effective action for advancing and recognizing women. In conjunction with this occasion, Microsoft Asia Pacific has, for the past week, been featuring female leaders from around the region, sharing their inspirations as well as words of advice for women hoping to #MakeItHappen in the technology industry and beyond.

We have also reached out to our followers on Twitter for questions they’d like to pose to our female leaders and compiled their responses below.

Sunny J. Park, Microsoft Korea
Sunny J. Park

Sunny J. Park, Microsoft Korea:
Unfortunately the first thing I do is turn off my alarm and glance at my emails to see if there is anything urgent I need to deal with (on my phone). After that, what energizes me and motivates me is listening to spiritual music as I get ready in the morning and as I drive to work. This helps me put things into perspective. Generally we are stressed and anxious when we are faced with something that we “feel” we can’t resolve or control – not having self-confidence. This helps me to be thankful that I even have a problem to deal with (whether at work or at home). Listening to music and praying helps me to be confident that I can do the job. And even if I can’t, I know I tried and gave it my best and it is okay if I can’t solve everything.

Jan Ferguson, Microsoft New Zealand
Jan Ferguson

Jan Ferguson, Microsoft New Zealand:
Well I think exercise helps me keep things in perspective and energized. So when I work from home I try to do a one-hour walk each morning before I log on at around 8.15am. If I am in Wellington, I ensure that I go to pilates at least once a week.

I am a strong believer that when I am at work – I work. I try not to have too many family distractions. However, when I get home then I log out of work and enjoy my family time. If you don’t do this, you will always be tired. No one gets the best of you. Of course there are always exceptions, but that is what they should be, exceptions.

Mira Fitria Soetjipto, Microsoft Indonesia:
It has to start with a strong cup of coffee, followed by checking my emails in my lovely Windows Phone. Then I get my daughter ready for school which is always the highlight of my day.

Jessica Tan

Jessica Tan, Microsoft Singapore:
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s simply too much that each of us wants to accomplish each day. I motivate myself by reminding myself of the positive impact that my work, and that of my team, will have to organisations and individuals. I am also very thankful for the access to technology that I get from working at Microsoft. It has allowed me to make the best decision on where my “office” is and what my “working hours” are for the day!

Serena Cheung, Microsoft Hong Kong:
When a day starts, to me it’s a new day, the thought of making more impact and doing something new motivates and energizes me.At the end of the day, I reflect on the progress we have been making- the energy and passion that my team demonstrates encourages me as well.


Michelle Simmons, Microsoft Asia Pacific:
One of the most difficult experiences was driving a transformation within an organization (in the past) that involved restructuring the group, making leadership and people decisions and crafting a new strategy. I did well in some areas and not so well in other areas. I received a lot of feedback during that period and women tend to feedback personally, I’ve learnt not to do so through that process.

Mira Fitria Soetjipto

The other thing would be moving my family across the world. It involved some level of risk and I have learnt that it’s important to build and ensure you have the right networks and support as you make these sort of big transitions.

Mira Fitria Soetjipto, Microsoft Indonesia:
Balancing work and personal life is always difficult. I believe I have not been able to fully overcome it. Managing both is truly an art to master and at times it requires the help and support of those around us.


Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia
Pip Marlow

Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia:
For me it isn’t about what but more about how. Life is always about tradeoffs and making them consciously is the trick.

Siriporn Pajharawat, Microsoft Thailand:
I wouldn’t say I had to sacrifice anything, but I certainly had to prioritize what I wanted most at a certain time. We all know that in life, it’s impossible to ‘have it all’, as we have finite hours in a day, finite days in a week, and finite years in a life. What I do is to decide what I want most at certain stage in life, set the goals, and go for it.

Rukmani Subramanian, Microsoft Malaysia
Rukmani Subramanian

Rukmani Subramanian, Microsoft Malaysia:
I think there is too much emphasis given to gender and sacrifices made on the altar of advancement when talking about women at the top. There is a more important angle – running a business is a function of leadership and women inherently possess some leadership traits that, in the business world of today, give them an edge over men. For example, empathetic leaders, empowerment, bringing people along, nurturing talent, etc. It is critical that women be cognizant of those strengths and play well to it in breaking barriers and advancing careers.

That said, balancing the responsibilities of leading a business on top of the responsibilities in personal lives can be daunting. My biggest personal sacrifice is coming to work every day unsure that my son will say that I’ve been a good mom. I am approaching a decade of married of life and have a five-year old son. I start everyday having to make tradeoffs on whether I am going to give my best as a professional or as a mom today and come back home deciding whether I am going to be a wife or a mother in the little time I have left in the evening. I walk around with the guilt of lowest parent volunteering record in my son’s school. I have missed some school events and do attend work calls during our mommy-son hours. At some level, you can’t have it all and have to learn to live with the conscious tradeoffs you make. It isn’t easy. The key to coping and winning is to (1) get the help you need and bring along key people in your lives to support you in those tradeoffs, and (2) finding the career and organization that is the right fit for you culturally.

Karrie C. Ilagan. Microsoft Philippines
Karrie C. Ilagan

Karrie Ilagan, Microsoft Philippines:
I fix my schedule so I get my 8 hours of sleep and I take regular holidays with my family.

Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia:
Sleeping on planes. Seriously, maintaining a good ritual of diet, exercise and sleep helps me stay balanced.

Flora Chen, Microsoft Taiwan:
Manage your life and not let time manage you.

Siriporn Pajharawat

Siriporn Pajharawat, Microsoft Thailand:
I asked myself how important resting and exercising are to me mentally and physically. The answer is, ‘crucial’. With that, I set the time off on my calendar every day for exercise. Whether I get to do it or not, that depends on my day-to-day prioritization. I set my mind to it, and block time for it. The same goes for resting. I set a rule to myself that I don’t work after 8pm, and will spend the time relaxing or engaging with family members and friends. On some occasions, I give myself permission to do work on a weekend if absolutely necessary.

Michelle Simmons, Microsoft Asia Pacific:
I prioritize some personal things that are important to me and build it into my routine. For example, I work out at 5.30am almost every morning because I know if I leave it to the end of the day, it will never happen. Resting is also spending time with my children so I prioritize that as well. It’s about figuring out the right balance for myself at this stage of my life and of course, it differs across people.


At Microsoft, we strive to create an environment that helps us capitalize on the diversity of our people and the inclusion of ideas and solutions to meet the needs of our global and diverse customer base.

Find out more about our global diversity and inclusion programs here.

Read more about the experiences and inspirations from these female leaders in Microsoft Asia Pacific:

  • Pip Marlow – Managing Director, Microsoft Australia
  • Serena Cheung – Director of Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners Group (SMS&P), Microsoft Hong Kong
  • Mira Fitria Soetjipto – Human Resource Director, Microsoft Indonesia
  • Sunny J. Park – Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, Microsoft Korea
  • Rukmani Subramanian – Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Microsoft Malaysia
  • Jan Ferguson – Director of Customer & Partner Experience, Microsoft New Zealand
  • Karrie C. Ilagan – Country General Manager, Microsoft Philippines
  • Jessica Tan – Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore
  • Flora Chen – Customer Service and Support Lead, Microsoft Taiwan
  • Siriporn Pajharawat – Director of Developer Experience & Platform Evangelism (DX) Group, Microsoft Thailand
  • Duong Thi Kim Anh – Human Resource Manager, Microsoft Vietnam

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