Meet Mia, podcast guest of Episode #67, an experienced CEO A.K.A #GIRLBOSS who sat down with Captain Bagrat and shared her spicy insights of conquering the bamboo ceiling. Mia’s envy-worthy career has placed her at the head of a healthcare company. It's important to note this was without difficulty thanks to the notorious glass cliff, faced by women and the bamboo trap, faced by Asians.
Mia was raised by Indian parents in her home country of Canada before making the permanent move to Australia with her Australian husband. Her fusion of Western upbringing and Indian heritage has allowed Mia to determine her identity - creating her own definition of who she really is. Ultimately, she describes herself as Canadian-Australian, but does admit a strong attachment to India through an appreciation and love for the cuisine and language. Interestingly, when visiting her motherland, Mia describes an experience of reverse culture shock; the density of India proved overwhelming and shocking to the western world she was accustomed to.
As Mia navigates her relationship with her home country and fulfills her ambitious career path with the help of her supportive partner, her story is no short of intriguing. What really prevails is the burdening question of whether it is possible to have it all? That being a successful career as an Asian woman, an enduring personal relationship and a positive attitude to hopefully retain your sanity.
HOW TO BREAK THE ASIAN BAMBOO CEILING?
We went on a mission to find the formula to conquer the notorious bamboo ceiling and found success in the Asian women of India. Podcast Guest Mia aided our research and unraveled insightful tips of smashing the bamboo ceiling as a woman of Indian heritage.
Tip #1. Risk-take, go out of your depth
Mia says it is crucial that Asian women have no limits since prevailing barriers require strategic thinking, uncomfortable moments and unforeseen territories. Mia took a huge risk when she abandoned her original career choice, leading her to shape a role that fueled her ambition.
For Mia it was facing problems directly (in her case a career she held no passion to) that enabled her to courageously fulfill an alternative career path. Self-doubt can also come as a limitation but by recognising this feeling, Asian women can tackle their fears and overcome the double-binded Asian glass ceiling.
Tip #2. Passion
Mia considers passion as instrumental for professional success. Feeling uninspired means motivation can be scarce which is often troublesome for those wanting a successful professional life.
For many CEOs, landing in a prestigious position was not their ultimate goal, rather they were driven by genuine interest. Often these leaders display great competency because they were not driven by power and authority.
Tip #3. Celebrate your diversity
This is a significant reference to Mia’s Indian heritage; although she faced a double-binded Asian glass ceiling, she refused to abandon her roots and instead celebrated her Asianish identity.
Diversity in workplaces creates cultural awareness and allows for people to learn from different cultural habits. Colleagues can even learn alternative cultural habits that may be adapted into their work-place.
Celebrating one’s diversity could be as simple as inviting colleagues to share your culture’s cuisine - in Mia’s case that could be sharing after-work Indian with others. But there are many ideas: going to Japanese Karaoke on Friday evening, Yum-Cha lunch etc.
Another way to share and engage is through pop culture on topics of music, tv and webseries, and movies. Given the global reach of the entertainment industry supported by streaming services, there are many areas to share and engage on commonality.
For instance, Keanu Reeves. Who doesn’t know Keanu Reeves? It is common knowledge that Keanu has Chinese heritage and have starred in major blockbuster movies such as John Wick and The Matrix.
Building the commonality here can extend people’s interest into entertainment originating straight from Asia, such as Jackie Chan, BTS, BlackPink and award winning films such as Parasite, which have all touched so deeply across Hollywood and the West attracting mainstream following.
Sharing cultural diversity doesn’t have to be strange, rather it should be a fun and collaborative experience for workplaces and individuals to truly diversify and share cross-cultural admiration.
Tip #4. Not towing the “Boy’s Club” culture
The corporate world of Australia is often embedded with male-centric culture which is highly exclusionary. This means that the top dogs of the company form a ‘clique’ like group that is impenetrable to female access. The boys club can control the access of others and limits the success of many, all to favour their professional advancements and interests.
Instead of ‘trying’ to integrate herself with the hobbies of boy club culture (heavily reliant on male spaces such as sporting games and after work drinks), Mia never showed interest. She also defied the common idea of women leaders displaying a masculine demeanour to assert their authority. Rather she remained her true articulate self that never mimicked any form of Aussie blokieness.
THE TIGER PARENT DREAM
Much of Mia’s success actually lies in her younger years, because in true Asian style, her parents pushed Mia to achieve only the highest marks in school. As she excelled in the sciences, she too wanted to fulfill her parent’s aspirations of becoming a doctor.
Interestingly Mia’s parents always expressed support for her and as mentioned earlier by the study of Asian tiger parent’s - it is those that support their children that enable their child’s success - reflecting her own career and achievements.
Therefore, when Mia finished school, she decided to do nursing instead and was given full support from her parents. As she studied nursing she came to realise that all hospital settings, regardless of the occupation, weren't for her.
“[I] tested out if I wanted to be in a clinical environment, and I realised that wasn’t for me,” she said (or admitted on our podcast?).
Mia made use of her nursing degree to land in the business side of the medical world - an instrumental move that proved to be where her passion lied.
GROWING UP IN THE WEST
Living in Canada meant Mia’s heritage could have easily gone forgotten but instead, she experienced pockets of Indian culture throughout her childhood.
Her parents spoke Punjabi at home which means she understands her parent’s native tongue, but when it comes to speaking she says it's a completely different story. As a child, Mia created her own ‘Punjabi dialect’ that resembles those of Southern Italy - rough and sometimes incompressible. She admits that only her mother can make sense of this ‘bespoke’ verbal Punjabi.
Realistically, Canada never served as an obstacle, rather it was through the simple things of speaking Punjabi, cooking authentic food and retelling Indian stories that made Mia understand her rich culture.
“When I was younger I actually lived there for a couple of years with my grandparents- that was when I was really young, four or five,” she revealed on our podcast.
Mia also acknowledged India’s cultural gender differences that determine how women act and live.
“There are cultural norms about being female, and what you can do,” Mia admits.
In Canada although the glass ceiling prevails (amongst other things) she generally recognises that females strive for what they please. Mia admits that separation of gender was quite apparent in India. She became faced with different gender expectations that varied greatly to those she was used to.
“There is female versus male, which is also something you have to navigate because that was a big difference between what would be common in India and what was commonplace in Canada.”
This proved tough for Mia because although she doesn’t define herself as Indian, she felt obliged to find a middle ground between these different cultural expectations.
REKINDLING WITH INDIAN HERITAGE
Mia, before moving to Australia, actually lived in London where she came to meet her Australian husband. While over there, Mia and her partner signed up for Hindi lessons. She reminisced on the after class curry that students would share, adding that the UK’s curry was basically the real deal.
Mia experienced a significant cultural shift when she took her Causcasion partner to India, saying it opened her eyes to the beauty of her home land. Her husband adored the culture and was mesmerised by the place, triggering Mia to deeply admire India simply because she saw it through his fresh eyes.
EXPERIENCE OF REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
However this didn’t come immediately because when Mia first arrived, she felt deeply shocked and overwhelmed by India’s density, especially compared to the expanse of space that Australians and Canadians live amongst.
Her experience with reverse culture shock was unexpected but not uncommon - since it is those who visit their motherland that can face withdrawal and dissociation from their place of heritage.
When visiting the South, her reaction took an entirely different route.
“I remember getting into Punjab and it was early morning, and the fields were huge and they were covered in mist - and [there was] this real sense of calm and serenity,” she says.
“I just kind of went, I feel like I'm at home.”
She became completely enthralled by the land - a moment she associated as ‘returning to the motherland.’
Even though Mia defines herself as Canadian-Australian, she never disconsiders her strong cultural ties and remains immensely proud of her parent’s home country.
Hear about Mia’s experience as a trailblazing Asian CEO on Captain Bagrat’s Podcast Episode 67 – Smashing the Bamboo Ceiling:
🎧 Spotify: http://ow.ly/VlWf30q07Nm
🍎 Podcasts: http://ow.ly/XVVa30q07P6
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Sasha Foot is a current first-year Journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. Although she appears ‘Aussie’ on the outside, she is actually a quarter Japanese, thanks to her Japanese grandfather Suji. In recognition of her Asianish heritage she owns two white fluffy Japanese Spitzs - one called Yuki, meaning ‘snow’ in Japanese. She hopes to pursue hard-news journalism in the future with specific interest in politics and global issues.