May 2017 issue editor's letter
Actress and feminist Emma Watson stars on the cover of ELLE Malaysia's May 2017 issue
Every woman I know has something in her wardrobe that she thinks of as her work armour. It's the item of clothing you turn to when you have a big job interview or an important meeting and need to feel invincible. Mine is a blazer. Even if my shoes are flat and my hair isn't blowdried, when I put on a tailored jacket I instantly feel more pulled together. So it's no surprise I love the blazers edit our senior fashion writer, Florence Song, created for our Work issue this month (page 41), especially when teamed with a slick gold watch (page 40).
But let's be real: deciding what to wear isn't the work issue that keeps most of us up at night. Real work worries usually stem from issues with colleagues, unrealistic expectations, or having to negotiate the slippery career ladder while simultaneously balancing family and 'having a life' commitments. When I first started professional work 13 years ago, I was obsessed with finding an older female mentor to help me navigate it all. You'd think they would be everywhere in magazines but actually, no. Many of the older women I've worked with have either left publishing in favour of more lucrative work, gone freelance, or reduced their hours and hence halted their career climb after having children. It's been a tough lesson to learn that even today few industries are set up to encourage success for mothers at very senior levels (and that's true in all three countries I've worked in). So instead I've looked inward, online and around me for inspiration, and I've learnt to not be so blinkered about age or gender. I've had some wonderful male mentors, and even though our team at ELLE averages about 10 years younger than me, they've also taught me a huge amount through their dynamism, enthusiasm and tech prowess.
Yet there are some things only older women can teach, so we asked five assistants to female powerbrokers across various industries to share their bosses' best lessons (page 52). I love that they all reinforce current thinking about what leadership is, namely being kind, listening, adapting and always learning. Unsurprisingly, these are traits echoed in the three Malaysian businesswomen we profile on page 56, all of whom prove that sometimes the best mentor you can have is yourself.
Finally, even though we're calling this the Work issue, we've also dedicated a fair amount of page space to not working. (I hope we can all agree by now that all work and no play leads to burnout by 30.) Whether you unwind by donning a face mask (we test the best on page 66), or escaping to a wellness retreat (discover four of Asia's best on page 96), I hope this issue can help you get to a place where work works better for you.
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