Inspirational Woman Interview: Marie Claire Lim Moore

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Marie Claire Lim Moore has over 15 years of international business experience managing global consumer banking and payment products across the US, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Currently, she serves as the Development Director of The Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong (TWFHK). Claire was the Asia Pacific Regional Director at Citi, where she was responsible for the retail bank’s global services across 12 countries. Claire is also the author of Amazon.com best-sellers Don’t Forget the Soap (And Other Reminders from My Fabulous Filipina Mother) and Don’t Forget the Parsley (And More from My Positively Filipino Family). She is regularly ranked among female leaders and her experiences have been documented by outlets including CNN and The New York Times. In 2014, she received the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World Award™. Claire received a BA from Yale University and an Executive MBA from Fordham University.

What is your background?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: My parents migrated from the Philippines to Canada and the US but they continued to maintain strong ties to Asia.

You were previously the Regional Director: Global Client Banking at Citi. Can you share some of your experiences with Citi, and some of the initiatives you led?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: In this role, I focused on building out our global solutions in Asia. As the world continues getting smaller and more inter-connected, people are increasingly seeking multi-country banking services, international travel support and global investment opportunities. My team was responsible for Citi’s core global services including Cross Border Account Opening, Global View of Accounts, Citi Global Transfers, Credit Portability, and other international services (Emergency Cash, Overseas ATMs, Citi World Privileges).

You are currently the Director of Development at The Women’s Foundation. Can you tell us more about your experiences with TWFHK and some of the programs you’ve worked on?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: At The Women’s Foundation, our key goals are challenging gender stereotypes, helping women and girls be more economically self-reliant and increasing the number of women leaders. My responsibilities include cultivating new relationships and managing existing corporate sponsors, partners and individual donors as well as leading the design and roll-out of a longer term development strategy for the Foundation.

One of our big focus areas is increasing the number of girls studying for, and moving into, STEM careers, which is where the brightest job prospects can be found, both now and in the future. At TWF we are doing our part to encourage more girls to embrace STEM through Girls Go Tech, a year-long program that aims to encourage junior secondary school girls from under-privileged backgrounds to pursue STEM related subjects to maximize their future career options.

Another priority for us is increasing the number of women on corporate boards through the 30% Club that we launched in Hong Kong. We do this by raising awareness among chairmen and business leaders of the benefits of gender diversity, inspiring debate and discussion and supporting initiatives to build the pipeline of women in executive and non-executive roles.

You’ve also written a book called Don’t Forget the Soap (And Other Reminders from My Fabulous Filipina Mother).What inspired you to write this book, and what were some of your most memorable experiences during the writing process?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: I decided to write a book about this while I was on maternity leave with my second child in Singapore. Don’t Forget the Soap is actually a story about people who have inspired me, first and foremost my mother. My mother was not inspiring in the traditional commencement address kind of way. We’re all familiar with Steve Jobs’ iconic speech at Stanford when he famously said, “The only way to do great work is to do what you love.” My mother didn’t say things like this. As a new immigrant to the US and Canada, she was always very practical. She wanted me to be financially independent as soon as possible and then figure out a way to do what I love.

This wasn’t to say there was no room for passion. My mother has always been incredibly passionate about art but her full time job as we were growing up was in early childhood. Being a teacher at the United Nations International School allowed her to have the same schedule as her kids, it paid the bills and she was naturally great with children. That said, she found ways to continuously incorporate art into her life whether it was organizing exhibits for students or helping emerging artists present their works. She also pursued her art in the evenings. She would spend all day with 18 five year olds, work on a church fundraiser while my brother and I did our homework, sit down for dinner with the family and then she was off to the art studio for the remainder of the night to work on her pieces. Eventually her work became picked up and noticed by influential members of the United Nations community and soon she was exhibiting all across the globe.

When I would say things like, “One day when I stop working I can finally focus on the book I’ve wanted to write,” she would respond with, “No need to wait. Just manage your time and you can do it while working. It will be even more rewarding.” And once again, my mother turned out to be right. Writing the book when I did turned out to be more personally rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I had most of my manuscript ready by the time I returned back to work and in a matter of months through my informal women’s network I had a professional editor, book designer and publisher all helping me launch the book. Because of all the support I received, the book topped Amazon’s Hot New Releases in the Parenting and Women’s Memoir categories. Soon it got picked up by various press and social media and more opportunities have followed. I’m so glad my mother instilled in me the confidence to work on the book even with my job at Citi and young children at home.

Moreover, you also delivered a TED talk at TEDxWanChai 2016 entitled “Why Asia Needs More Tiger Women.” What motivated you to give this TED talk and can you share some of your experiences with the subject matter?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: For the first time in history, a dual income for most families is no longer a choice but a need. I’ve lived in North America, Europe, Latin America and now Asia and everywhere I go I hear the same thing. Today’s high cost of housing, education and living expenses make it very challenging for the average family to get by without a dual income. For this reason, the percentage of dual income families has more than doubled in the last 30 years. And this is happening around the world. The number of women in the workplace is increasing across most regions but surprisingly Asia is projected to have the lowest representation of women executives in 2025.

This is hard to believe because with such highly educated women in Asia you’d think we’d have a high number of women advancing at work. But the numbers don’t lie. And this has led me to ask why. Why are Asian women not progressing in their careers? Wouldn’t all the high achieving girls in school have high achieving career ambitions? How can we have so many Tiger moms and so few Tiger women?

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: Growing up with my mother, I saw firsthand how you could have dinner every night with your kids, have a successful career, even pursue your passion projects on the side until they morphed into your career, and give back to your community. I have always admired my mother for this but especially after having children of my own I fully appreciated how successfully she balanced her life.While there are many sides to my mother her advice and philosophy are always quite simple: Don’t take anything for granted. Not all the experiences you’re blessed with. Not your ability to make a difference in a small way. Not each person who helped you along the way.

On a personal level, why does women’s empowerment matter to you?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: I’m a working mother, I’ve always cared about my career. Now I have two daughters, Isabel and Sofia, as well as one son Carlos. Let’s just say I have skin in the game.

We’re also at point in time when more and more families need two incomes to thrive if not survive. By not empowering women we’re actually doing a disservice to our families today. It’s in every family’s best interest for women to be paid equally to men. For women to have just as much opportunity as men. I often think about my kids and what this means for them. I get angry thinking that Isabel and Sofia might earn only 78% of what Carlos makes simply because they’re female. At the same time, I also feel a little nervous and protective thinking about Carlos as a young man and the pressure he might feel if he’s the sole provider for his family.

I feel fortunate to have so many great examples of women leaders in my family. One of the things many people don’t know about the Philippines is that for the past several years now the World Economic Forum has ranked it as one of the top 10 gender equal nations in the world. The Philippines is also the #1 gender equal nation in Asia. An anomaly in the region, women are well represented in leadership roles across all sectors of society. And anyone who’s been to the Philippines also knows how family-oriented we are so most women leaders balance an all-consuming family life as well. Now I’m not saying the Philippines doesn’t have a host of other problems to work through but when it comes to women in the workplace, they’re doing something right.

What are your favorite books, films, websites and resources related to business and women’s issues?

Marie Claire Lim Moore: We publish a weekly newsletter at The Women’s Foundation and this is the best source for topical women’s issues. I also regularly visit the website of my dear friend and women empowerment expert Claudia Chan for inspiration.

Favorite books – Bossypants by Tina Fey, Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Favorite films – Miss Representation, Girl Rising, TWF’s new film She Objects, Bend It Like Beckham and Frozen.

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