Ming long

Female Leader, Ming Long, Non-Executive Director

Ming Long is currently a Non-Executive Director and Chair of Audit & Risk Committee for AMP Capital Funds Management Limited, Non-Executive Director Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and a member of the Finance and Audit Committee at the University of Sydney. She was formerly Non-Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia, CEO and Group CFO Investa Office Fund.

As the first woman of Asian heritage to lead an ASX100 or ASX200 company, she has described her rise to CEO of Investa Office Fund as akin to walking a tightrope. She was promoted to Group CFO of Investa Property Group (with about $11bn assets under management) during the GFC, at a time when the company’s survival was threatened. She performed so well that 5 years later she was promoted to Joint MD.

Ming is an outspoken and eloquent advocate for gender and cultural diversity, having successfully broken through the double bind of the ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘bamboo ceiling’. She lead the establishment of the Property Male Champions for Change in 2015. A member of Chief Executive Women, Ming was named as one of the 2016 100 Women of Influence, and was a finalist in the 2014 Telstra Business Womens Awards. She is a trailblazer, who is focussed on leaving a legacy of inclusion for those aspiring to follow in her footsteps.

From 2004-2016, there was a mere 4% increase in the number of culturally diverse women in ASX executive levels. What deliberate interventions are required to realise the potential of our culturally diverse workforce in senior positions?

There has been a lot of research done on why we still don’t have women in senior leadership positions. The issues are more complex, but simplistically that same research applies to women from culturally diverse backgrounds. There may be different emphasis on impediments, but ultimately it comes down to bias. Women from culturally diverse backgrounds face a double bias (both gender and culture). That bias blinds leaders to their capability and potential.

Leaders don’t see the talent in front of them because of the immediate assumptions they make. Ultimately they lose performance. When you listen to their stories and the creative ways culturally diverse women have had to overcome hurdles, the resilience they have to adapt to gender and cultural differences, how many times they fall but get up again, they have skills that organisations need that are hard to find anywhere else. Leaders need to understand that they are inhibiting their organisation’s growth and potential when not harnessing the talents of these women.

In a competitive, disruptive and fast-moving world, you need the best talent available. Look where no one else is looking and be open to difference. It will give you an edge over your competitors. Leaders who are hungry to outperform their competitors will use diversity and inclusion to be more successful than their peers.

Tell us about when you faced a glass cliff and how you successfully steered the company through that tumultuous time post GFC.

It may sound crazy, but leading at a time of turmoil and heightened uncertainty gives you a certain amount of freedom. Following what someone did the last time was not an option. I had the freedom to do things differently and no one was going to chain me to history. That freedom gave me space to be creative, to innovate to lead with my values. Whilst there were many constraints, things I had no control of and could not change, necessity was the mother of my inventions.

Truthfully, there were many times I was absolutely scared, many times where our survival depended on my relationship with people who had our fate in the palm of their hands and whether they could trust me and the multiple plans we had to get us out of a situation I didn’t create. My advice: Be humble in your confidence yet courageous in your character.

I frequently referred to this picture to illustrate inclusion. Whilst we may not have created the problem, it is still our problem to solve and we need to do it as a team, putting everyone’s skills on the table and compensating for each others weaknesses.

Ming Long article pic

What strategies have you overseen to encourage leadership diversity within the many companies you lead?

Chief Executive Women and the Male Champions of Change created a model in 2014 called the Leadership Shadow. A leader’s shadow creates the culture in an organisation. What they say, how they behave, what they prioritise and what they measure impacts everyone in the company. It’s not good enough to believe that just because you do some good things you can get away with other behaviours (moral licensing). The culture of the organization is shaped by the worst behaviour a leader is willing to tolerate.

Many people are constrained by society’s norms and expectations. But a leader is someone who demonstrates what’s possible to everyone – men, women, ethnic, indigenous, LGBTI, people with disability etc. Be that leader who in everyone’s eyes can see themselves.

After more than 20 years of experience in financial management and real estate, what has worked for you personally to achieve your financial goals?

I’ve never forgotten where I come from. I have humble beginnings and my parents even humbler. I didn’t have much through uni. There were some weeks where all I had left was $2 in the bank account. We can be financially wasteful and create a lifestyle that is a challenge to maintain. And probably take on a lot of debt in the process. It can be a death spiral that can seduce you to compromise your integrity and values. Money can change your character. Studies have shown the more money you have, you’re more selfish, and less likely to be ethical, honest, understanding, or remember what gave you the break in the first place. Money doesn’t rule who I am. It’s a tool, but not my goal.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Holding on to my integrity and values when it would have been easier and there was pressure to compromise.

What are you most proud of?

It’s the legacy I’ve left behind. Initiating and creating the Property Male Champions of Change in 2015 with Elizabeth Broderick’s help, and seeing the impact it has on the industry is something I will always cherish. I have deep satisfaction from the people I have helped, even if it is in the smallest way along their journey. People are what matters most.

What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?

Your imperfection is exactly what we need.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Founder

Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.