Singapore 2013 | Women in Southeast Asia: From Poverty to Prosperity to Prominence

May 06, 2013

The Global Ambassadors program, in partnership with Vital Voices, believes that strong women leaders are instrumental to building a better future and helping advance economic growth. Through leadership development, the program aims to empower women and energize them to take action in their own communities.

With three Global Ambassador Program forums successfully executed in 2012, the Singapore forum kicked off the second year of this important work from May 6-10, 2013. Bringing together a notable group of Global Ambassadors, mentees and a larger assembly of women leaders in Singapore, the program explored the journey from poverty to prominence for women in Southeast Asia.

Throughout the week, participants engaged in one-on-one mentoring sessions and attended plenary sessions focused on themes such as effective policies to advance women's leadership, and lessons from women leaders who made it, and how. The forum concluded with a large Public Forum, which made the business case for empowering women to develop as business professionals and leaders in the region.

Learn more about each day’s events from the live updates we shared on our blog, read more about the participants in their bios below, or view photos from the event.

Singapore Global Ambassadors

Nancy Brennan
Managing Director, Head of Marketing, Global Banking & Markets, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Mentoring Rosaleine S. Ramos

Nancy is the marketing lead for the Global Banking & Marketing businesses for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, overseeing marketing, advertising, and event strategy. Following the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, Nancy led the Bank’s merger integration team responsible for re-branding the corporate, institutional and commercial client businesses as a single, global presence. Prior to Bank of America’s acquisition, Nancy led various strategic programs and functions for Merrill Lynch, including overseeing business planning and strategic initiatives as the chief operating officer for global sales.

Rosaleine S. Ramos
General Manager, Marka Sasa Enterprises

Rosaleine Ramos is the General Manager of Marka Sasa Enterprises, a local manufacturer and distributor of naturally fermented native vinegar and other condiments. A pharmacist by profession, Ms. Ramos has worked to strengthen the quality and diversity of the product line, expand the company’s market share, and lead improvements for the company’s organizational development.


Michelle Garnaut
M. Restaurant Group
Mentoring Heena Patel

Michelle Garnaut is a trained chef and restaurateur with a culinary career that spans three decades, several continents, and the full range of restaurant positions. Over the past 25 years, Michelle has opened a trio of restaurants and a bar in China: M at the Fringe in Hong Kong (1989-2009), M on the Bund (1999), the Glamour Bar (2001) in Shanghai, and Capital M in Beijing (2009). She has also worked with numerous charities and community projects, and her restaurants consistently support charitable ventures.

To learn more about the impact of the Global Ambassadors program, watch this video with Michelle Garnaut and her mentee Heena Patel as they change the lives of women in Singapore.

Heena Patel
Executive Director, The Island Foundation
Heena Patel currently runs The Island Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of subsistence coastal communities in the Riau Archipelago through education and literacy, village development and marine conservation. Previously, Ms. Patel has worked on environmental protection at the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kate James
Chief Communications Officer, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Mentoring Vipavee Kunavichayanont

Kate James leads the Gates Foundation’s global communications efforts to raise awareness and build engagement around global poverty, health, and U.S. education issues. Kate oversees all communications and brand functions, including driving public engagement on the issues the foundation champions. Prior to joining the foundation, Kate held senior leadership roles at Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank, and GlaxoSmithKline in the areas of communications, international government relations, strategy, and sustainability. Kate is also a board member for Vital Voices Global Partnership.

Vipavee Kunavichayanont
Founder, Design for Disasters
In 2010, Vipavee Kunavichayanont co-founded Design for Disasters (D4D), a non-profit research and design initiative network focused on finding creative long-term solutions to prepare for and recover from natural disasters — from life-saving flotation devices to disaster risk reduction toolkits. In January 2013, Siam Center named Ms. Kunavichayanont one of the 40 influential and inspiring icons in Thai society, and in August 2012 the Bangkok Post named her one of the 66 young leaders shaping Thailand’s future.

Virginia Littlejohn
President, CEO and Co-Founder,
Quantum Leaps Inc.

Mentoring Mari Sawai

Among her numerous roles as an advocate for women’s entrepreneurship, Virginia Littlejohn has held leadership positions at the National Association of Women Business Owners, the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs, the Global Banking Alliance for Women, and the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the UN and World Trade Organization on a 10-year initiative to get women entrepreneurs into the global supply chain. She co-founded Quantum Leaps in 2002 to accelerate global women’s entrepreneurship, and was inducted into the Enterprising Women Hall of Fame.

Mari Sawai
Co-Founder, Wedu
Mari Sawai is a co-founder of Wedu, a social enterprise with the mission to catalyze the development of women leaders in Southeast Asia by providing inspiring mentorship and innovative financing to complete university education. Wedu empowers women to achieve their full leadership potential, who in turn become part of the community by sharing skills, becoming a mentor, or an investor themselves to help other women develop.

Susan McPherson
Senior Vice President/Director of Global Marketing, Fenton Communication New York
Mentoring Radziah Radzi

Susan McPherson is a serial connector, passionate cause marketer, writer and corporate responsibility expert. As Senior Vice President and Director of Global Marketing at Fenton, she focuses on creating visibility for the firm and running its corporate social responsibility practice. She’s a regular writer and contributor for the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Triple Pundit, has worked at PR Newswire and USA Today, and advises numerous organizations including The, 10x10, and Girls Who Code.

To learn more about Susan McPherson's involvement with the Global Ambassadors program, read her article "Singapore Reflections" about her experiences during the Singapore 2013 event.

Radziah Radzi
Founder, Social Media Optimization (SOOMO); Managing Director, MRS Shorai Sdn Bhd; Treasurer, Association of Bumiputra Women Entrepreneur Network of Malaysia (WENA)
Radziah Radzi is a social media entrepreneur but began her career as an engineer turned business owner. She is the current Honorary Treasurer of WENA, and uses her knowledge of social media to help women entrepreneurs build a stronger presence for their businesses.


Susan Roos
Employment Attorney;
Wife of U.S. Ambassador to Japan

Mentoring Tingjun Zhang

Susan H. Roos is a labor lawyer with substantial experience in defending employers in wrongful termination, sexual harassment, employment discrimination and trade secret litigation before federal and state courts. As the wife of U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, Ms. Roos has been an active voice on supporting women in the workplace. Ms. Roos devotes her time to the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership that supports Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and invests in the next generation of Japanese and Americans in ways that strengthen cultural and economic ties.

Tingjun Zhang
Co-Founder & Director, The Chain Reaction Project

Ting is a former journalist/producer with regional broadcaster Channel NewsAsia, and an ex-national netball player for Singapore. Now a freelance emcee and motivational speaker, Tingjun devotes her time to developing TCRP’s growth strategy and sharing the team’s vision with the community.

The aspiring social entrepreneur, who holds a B.A. in Psychology, is passionate about being a catalyst for change and enjoys coming up with creative approaches to philanthropy.

Burnet Tucker
Former Global Head of Learning, Leadership Development and HR Shared Services, Bank of America
Mentoring Mo Hom

Prior to leaving Bank of America, Burnet Tucker was the Global Head of Learning, Leadership Development and HR Shared Services for Bank of America. In this role, she was responsible for learning, talent management, leadership development, organization design and organization effectiveness programs and initiatives across Bank of America and was the HR executive for Global HR.

Mo Hom
Owner and Creative Director, Rose Gold Mountain Trading Co., Ltd.; Founder,
After launching a successful clothing line and flagship boutique, Lotus Hom, in New York in 2010, Mo Hom moved back to Myanmar to focus on another dream — creating jobs and running her company in her home country. Her women's wear brand was born under Rose Gold Mountain Trading Co. in 2012, and some of her products under the Made in Myanmar label will be exported to European and South East Asia Markets in 2013.


Open Location
Open How we're involved
Mentorship offers a trusted way to pass years of knowledge and experience on to a protégé. In this way you can have such important impact and make a positive difference in someone's career.

Susan McPherson
Global Ambassador - Singapore

65% of mentored women become mentors