Tammy Medard is a career woman, a mother, and the CEO of one of the largest banks in the Asia Pacific region – ANZ Bank (Laos). Recently listed on Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation, she represented the ANZ Bank Group at the Institute of International Finance G20 Conference and led ANZ Laos in its commitment to the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Leading an enthusiastic team to support women-run technology businesses in Laos, Tammy clearly stands for empowering more women in their careers, and in their lives. We caught up with Tammy in between her meetings at the UN Headquarters in New York, where she was attending the Annual Conference of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Being a leader is hard. Being a woman leader comes with even more challenges. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a female CEO in the finance industry?

The role of a bank CEO is increasingly challenging particularly in the current environment of constant regulatory change and volatile global markets. On the regulatory front, the cost of making a mistake can be debilitating for a bank and shareholders and the community have zero tolerance for banks to make mistakes. Meanwhile, the increasing cost of capital and deterioration of margins in a volatile market means that making the same rate of returns shareholders have enjoyed in the past is increasingly difficult. These are real challenges that are indifferent to the gender of the CEO.

You clearly stand for empowering more women in their careers and their lives. Who were some of the most important people and events in your life, that empowered you to become a leader?

While there is certainly a business rationale for empowering women, what really drives me on this topic is my passion for equality. I was raised by a very smart and compassionate mother who always insisted that everyone should have an equal shot at achieving their goals, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. A Cuban refugee going after her dreams in the U.S., my mother (and her mother) showed me what it was to be an empowered woman. I’ve had plenty of inspiration along the way, including a previous boss of mine who showed me what it was to lead in an inclusive way and to use the platform of the CEO role to make a difference in people’s lives.

I think part of me was always a leader. I always had a fire inside of me to drive for the outcome that I felt was right, and to do so through empowering and engaging others. Whether it was through sports in school, or at work, I’ve never been the type to stand by and let things just happen.

So when someone told me that in the rural parts of South East Asia, girls are pulled out of school to either help with the family chores or to be sent away to fend for themselves, while the boys are kept in school because they were more likely to succeed, I had to do something different. I couldn’t just stand by and let girls be treated like a lesser species. That realization of what is happening in South East Asia opened my eyes that this type of behavior, treating women as inferior to men, is happening everywhere in some form. I’m a mother of a son and a daughter and I made a personal pledge that I will do all that I can to drive change so that they have an equal shot at going after their goals in life.

Tammy was at the Annual Conference of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles this March.

ANZ Laos has set ambitious goals to be a gender-equal workplace. What motivated the strong move towards these goals? How does ANZ Laos plan to achieve these goals?

Gender equality in the workplace is a smart business decision. I have the benefit of working for a bigger organization, ANZ Banking Group headquartered in Australia, that has an executive leadership team that leads with inclusive business practices. At ANZ Laos, all roles are flexible, meaning the employee can adjust their start/end time or the number of days they work per week, for example, and we offer paid parental leave to fathers and mothers. Both initiatives mean that employees can meet their personal commitments more easily, and it encourages fathers to take some time off to spend as the primary care-giver.

We also set a goal to achieve 40% of our vendors will be women-run businesses by 2017. In 2014 we were at 5%, and as of Mar-2015, we’re at 31%. It’s not easy, particularly as most of our suppliers are related to the Technology industry and there are not a lot of women-run businesses in Technology in Laos. However, the team has really taken this commitment on board and put in a tremendous effort seeking out referrals and casting the net wide when we go out to tender to ensure we’re attracting women to bid for the business.

Conventionally, the worlds of finance and equitable development are perceived to operate on disparate dimensions. As the CEO of a leading bank in Asia Pacific, how do you envision integrating finance and social good, to empower women to be full participants in their economy? What are some of the ways ANZ Laos is blazing the trail on this path?

ANZ Laos is a signatory to the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles. These seven principles are our guide to how to drive gender equality in the workplace and the community. They cover important factors like ensuring adequate training and a safe work environment for women (and men). They also extend into the community through driving gender equality through community outreach and advocacy. Across Asia Pacific, we have also rolled out our financial literacy training, Money Minded, which has educated hundreds of thousands of women on how to save, how to say no when family members pressure you to lend them money, and also how to set goals.

The program is free of charge and has been transformational for some of our female attendees, particularly in the Pacific, who have banded together to encourage better spending and savings practices for themselves and their families.

What is a piece of advice you would give to women who are striving to be leaders at their workplaces and communities?

My advice is that you don’t have to have the CEO title to be a leader; leadership comes from within. If you’re intimidated by sharing your opinions or feel foolish, then start small. Share your views with a few trusted people and then let your community grow organically. What’s important is that your voice is heard. Nothing is going to change for women if we don’t speak up and call out when there is inequality. Fortunately, there seems to be a growing swell in favor of gender equality. There are programs like the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles and the HeForShe Campaign that are driving gender equality practices and advocacy from men and women. And the economic benefits from gender equality are irrefutable, it makes sense and cents!


Jia Ling Lim