Nicola Jones-Crossley, the entrepreneurial Australian who introduced Business in Heels to Bangkok, recently spoke to Bangkok 101 about the growing role of professional women in Thailand and her verve for promoting them.
What are you trying to achieve with Business in Heels?
I want to create a non-threatening space where like-minded women can feel comfortable talking about work and asking advice, where they can learn from professionals in different
fields and meet new people that could be beneficial to their careers.
When did you first have the idea of bringing the group to BKK?
When I first came to Bangkok I knew no one, so I started going to networking events and meet-ups. I’d talk to lots of professionals and ask their stories, wanting to know why they were living here. I’d also scan LinkedIn. That’s where I saw a post about Business in Heels expanding internationally, so I sent an email asking for more information about starting a branch. I’d foundmany events I’d attended here to be male-dominated. I wanted to run gatherings that celebrated female professionals and give them credibility in what is arguably a male-centric city.
Who make up the membership?
Our members are mixed. We have a large percentage of entrepreneurs and business owners, and an equally big group of corporate professionals, most in senior positions. At first, the events were mainly attended by expats as these were the women in my network. Slowly, as the events became regular, I began to see more Thai professionals joining. Now we often see a 50/50 split: half expats, half Thai. It’s nice. Local ladies bring a great feel to the events.
How do you feel about female empowerment in Thailand?
At an AMCHAM networking event recently, I was speaking to a robotics lecturer who said that, when she began working at her university, she was the only female lecturer. Although still male-dominated, now there are a growing number of female teachers and students studying in her field. She said that Thailand has strong women professionals and opportunities in all kinds of fields, and I agree. Gender has less of a stigma here than in the West. I’ve met many expat women in senior positions who admitted they would not hold the same rank in their home countries. More than most places, I think women in Thailand are encouraged and supported to excel professionally.
How often do you have events, and what are they usually like?
We run events every 6 weeks, taking a break in April and June/July for the holiday season. Each event is slightly different – unique locations, different speakers and social activities – but the structure is usually similar. The focus is on networking, giving women time to chat and talk business. I try to strike a balance between relaxed and unstructured while also using activities that keep women mingling. My favourite moments are when I overhear plans to meet up later or one woman offering help to another. I love that women can make meaningful connections at our events.
How has the group grown here?
An obvious difference from other branches is the large expat following. Our attendees have lived all over the world and held many different professional roles, which really adds to the atmosphere and elevates discussions. Hardships that someone may have encountered working elsewhere might help solve problems that another lady is having here. Our diversity helps cultivate discussions that revolve around cross-cultural differences and similarities.
If you weren’t organising events for BIH, you would be…
Involved with a startup or some other project to keep me busy. I love the startup scene – the excitement, the constant hurdles and challenges.
Friends are visiting you: where do you take them?
I’d take them on my friend’s food tour, “Taste of Thailand” through old Bangkok. It’s a great introduction to Thai food and culture. I’d also take them on a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya, because the river and city lights are stunning at night. We’d go for drinks atop a sky bar, maybe Above 11 and then Octave in the Marriott for the grand view. And, finally, we’d do a little shopping at JJ market for coconut ice cream and presents to take home.
Learn more about Business in Heels at Facebook.com/groups/ businessinheelsbangkok or email [email protected]