Forging a New Generation of Leaders in Asia Pacific

For over a year now, we have been partnering with Em Roblin and her organization LEAP to bring the proven WOMEN Unlimited approach to organizations operating in Asia Pacific, with programs in Singapore and Shanghai. Here’s Em’s take on the impact so far.

Dr. Rosina Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.

Em Roblin
Founder & Managing Partner, LEAP
WOMEN Unlimited, APAC Regional Director

It’s been quite an exciting time for us in Asia Pacific since 2015 when we launched IMpower, the WOMEN Unlimited program for aspiring female leaders, in Singapore and Shanghai. We have had many successes in both locations, measured not only by the number of attendees, but also by the impact the program has had on the participants, their managers and their mentors.

For the Participants: Program participants have indicated they left the six-session IMpower program with more confidence and self-esteem. They feel better equipped to orchestrate their career advancement and to engage their managers and their mentors. As a result, about half of the women have been promoted in the past year. It’s also been great to see how alumnae are passing their key learnings on to others in their organizations and leading powerful conversations with their peers.

Wang Jingsi, Manager of Marketing and Branding at Conde Nast in Shanghai, sums up the IMpower experience this way: “It was absolutely amazing. I am now definitely more confident in approaching top management and other companies.” Additionally, she is enjoying a greater level of support both “work-wise and life-wise.”

For Managers: In a region where corporate culture is hierarchical, IMpower has served as an important catalyst to help managers ease the way for talented women to play a key role in organizational success. Because IMpower actively engages our participants’ managers, they become aware, often as never before, of the barriers women face. Managers discover the different ways women perceive the organization and the different ways the organization perceives them. As they watch their female talent grow in leadership competencies, managers become more adept at offering much needed feedback, both complimentary and critical. They also report a strengthening of their relationships with their other team members.

For Mentors: Both in Shanghai and Singapore, we saw the formation of meaningful, long-lasting relationships between mentors, both male and female, and mentees. The mentors’ primary focus was, of course, helping mentees learn techniques and strategies for building career-advancing relationships. The mentors were forthcoming in sharing their experiences, both positive and negative and in providing specific strategies and feedback. However, the mentor experience was not “one sided.” Many mentors told us they were pleasantly surprised to learn how to play forward in their organizations what they learned from their mentoring experience. Perhaps the best indicator is that the overwhelming majority want to return to serve as mentors in future programs.

Localizing Success
Many corporate partners working with WOMEN Unlimited are interested in knowing how we localize the programs to meet the specific needs of both the women and their managers.

  • In a culture like China, for example, bringing women together from different industries and backgrounds and putting them through a learning journey together is a very powerful experience. IMpower’s integrated approach (external delivery with accountability in the organization) is proving highly successful in China, where it is hard to find.
  • Mentorship is a very hot topic in the Asia Pacific region. However, most companies provide only internal mentorship programs for their key talent. Participants report the value of having open discussions with mentors from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives and its importance in helping them engage confidently with people far their senior.
  • In the fast paced, key strategic growth markets of Asia Pacific, quick and agile learners are essential to on-going corporate success. Learning agility is one of the core IMpower objectives. Program alumnae report a shift in their ability to integrate curiosity, flexibility and learning as a core part of their responsibilities and consequently increasing their value to the organization.

For more information about how the IMpower approach can be of value to your Asia Pacific operations, please feel free to contact me at