When highly respected business woman Ming Long goes to functions, it’s usually her husband that’s asked about work and her about the kids. Little do people know, she’s the main breadwinner and their social assumption is just plain wrong.
“We go to functions and people speak to my husband like he’s the one at work, and when he says that he’s actually the stay-at-home dad, people go silent,” says Ming, who is a Non Executive Director, of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and former head of the Investa Office Fund.
It’s a story that Ming has probably told numerous times, yet it still surprises her.
She believes the public perception to parenting needs to change if women are to rise to more top level positions.
“When women go on maternity leave, people assume they have no ambition and have gone into some black hole.
“The way I explain it, women who decide to take maternity leave are learning very important skills, such as time management.
“Many are doing their job on two hours sleep and juggling. They are also influencing, educating, and mentoring. There are so many skills that these women are learning.
“If you had more men as stay-at-home dads, they would also be learning the same skills. But I do see this changing and more men are taking parental leave.”
Adaptability is also a trait that served Ming well in her 11 years at Investa, and so too has being a minority in a male dominated workforce.
“Resilience is a really important skill to have.
“I can tell you there are many times I have tried things and you get completely knocked down. You have to try a variety of approaches until you land on the right one for different people and circumstances.
“Those are skills that women are constantly learning and I would be surprised if men are learning them in the same way.
“Being the minority and learning those skills is an important leadership skill to have in the future.
Ming’s approach to wealth building is also slightly different to the norm. She’s conservative and wary when it comes to taking risk, and humbly believes her career break came about through luck despite years with the same company.
“It was absolutely luck. I was group financial controller and we had been taken over by Morgan Stanley.
“Our business was in trouble due to the GFC. The company’s chief executive had asked me twice to take the chief financial officer (CFO) role but I just wasn’t confident. Eventually his confidence enabled me to take the job and I ran with it.
“Over time you do build a lot of confidence in what you are able to do and what you can achieve. What I have learned is to actually take risk.”
Ming’s natural inclination to hold back from risk taking is common among women when it comes to investing, according to numerous studies.
But Ming says to become more of a risk taker, she changed her thinking and expanded her network.
“Over the last few years I have had to give everything I’ve got.
“I networked heavily to find people help me so that I could approach things differently. Depending what the issue, or the risk at hand, I approach different people to help me reach the right outcome.”
“I think because as women we are always having to adapt to men who are leadership positions, we’ve had to become more agile and that works in our favour.”