International Women’s Day: Saluting MICE Leading Ladies – Ailynn Seah, vice president of sales – MIC and Association, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

The fight for gender equality is for everyone, and necessary for economies and communities to thrive. With this in mind, International Women’s Day 2020 galvanises all women to work towards an equal world. In support of this campaign, TTG Asia and TTGmice are featuring women leaders in the travel, tourism and business events industry this week. Today, we speak to Ailynn Seah who tells us about the spirit of inclusion at her workplace and her personal mission to make the world a happier place for all.

What is the one narrative you’d love to change about women in the workforce, and why?
What would help greatly for young ladies joining this industry is to have a good support system, and more importantly a women’s mentoring programme tailored for them.

The business events industry is a very vibrant one; long working hours are the norm, with networking and entertaining being part of the business to cultivate relationships. Newcomers, especially young ladies, may find this initially daunting. Hence, the mentor plays a very crucial role in guiding the juniors, while teaching them how to strike a good work-life balance.

Are you able to change this narrative at Marina Bay Sands? How?
The spirit of inclusion is entrenched in the overall human capital strategy at Marina Bay Sands, so it is not about making big changes but I hope to have a platform to share our experiences and provide a good support system.

My managers and I have monthly one-on-one sessions where we share the challenges faced and simply just catch up! Back in 2018, a couple of female executives in the company got together and we started a Women’s Connect Lunch. We started small but we hope that more female employees can join the group. These no-agenda lunches are great – we get to know each other better and over time, build friendships with our fellow co-workers, even those from other departments.

As gender equality is for everyone, not just for women, how are you encouraging this in your workplace and your community?
With women rising in leadership positions, employees of all genders need to be treated equally. We also need to respect the work/life balance of our male colleagues. In the Sales department at Marina Bay Sands, we do not have a lot of men. The team makes it a point to ensure that our male colleagues are not always the ones working beyond office hours to entertain clients.

What community cause are you most passionate about that you can use your professional skills or position to support?
I am particularly passionate about sustainability and causes for disadvantaged women.

On a personal front, I support a group of stay-at-home mums (SAHM) who sew cushions and table cloths for sale. These SAHMs cannot go to work because they are caregivers for their families or they were sick before. I will buy these cushions and give them as gifts to my friends.

I am also involved in numerous mentoring programmes, including one for the Singapore Deaf Association. I was previously mentoring the team on their fundraising project, giving professional feedback on their sales and marketing collateral to help the association better position their deaf or hard-of-hearing clients to potential employers.

A lot of them may not know how to assimilate into the workforce, so together with the team, we developed the messaging by interviewing current employers. We also produced a simple handbook on how these employers can embrace people with special needs at their workplace.

On a professional level, I’m always helping my clients push the boundaries of their events at Marina Bay Sands. As each event is unique, we will customise and incorporate either Corporate Social Responsibility or sustainability activities to enhance their overall programme and create unforgettable memories for their delegates.

Together with Marina Bay Sands Sustainability team, we pushed the green envelope for the 2018 Schneider Electric Global Innovation Summit where we worked with the client to inspire their delegates through sustainable food storytelling.

What secret talent do you have?
I play classical guitar and in my free time, I bake for fundraising.

My late husband and I started a Cards for Hope Project, where we make cards from recycled material and give them to cancer patients. We wanted to inspire and encourage these patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or have hit a low point in their lives. Through giving the patients these cards, we want to let them know there will always be someone out there who cares for them. Some of the cancer patients who recovered are so inspired by the project that they serve as our volunteers, paying it forward to other patients.

Since 2009, my family and I are also involved in the Medical Mission Foundation (MMF), a trust fund set up for Singapore doctors to go on voluntary trips to third-world countries. My two children have been involved in voluntary work since young and it is part of their formative years. As working adults now, they continue to contribute back to society in whatever little ways they can.

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