Get to know these 40 women who are shaping the industry from Australia to India with drive, energy and ideas that are inspiring more women to take the lead.

Women to Watch 2019: Neha Mehrotra and Swati Bhattacharya on the 40 member list

Get to know these 40 women who are shaping the industry from Australia to India with drive, energy and ideas that are inspiring more women to take the lead.

Women to Watch 2019

Marita Abraham | Chief marketing officer | Zilingo | Singapore: Marita Abraham moves, according to a colleague, “at superhuman pace and is everywhere at once” – which likely served her well as the founding member of Zilingo, a fast-growing online marketplace for fashion and beauty in Asia. In the early days of the e-commerce startup, Abraham personally set up and executed Zilingo’s content strategy across all channels including blogs and social media platforms. Her job encompassed copywriting, graphic design, editing, photography, videography, and public relations. The people-centric chief is powered by a drive to level the playing field in the business of fashion. The future of fashion, she believes, is one where small players and global conglomerates can compete on the same footing. Heading a team of 100 across eight offices, Abraham works on evolving Zilingo into a single retail platform that unlocks massive efficiencies in the supply chain, improve merchants’ business and enhance the fashion experience for consumers. The former manager for Zomato has launched market strategies and campaigns for Zilingo across Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, and soon Australia and the US. Through her efforts, Zilingo saw a growth of user base from 10,000 to 5 million active users a month in less than four years.

Avery Akkineni | Vice president| VaynerMedia | Singapore: When she was leading VaynerMedia’s global media operations in New York, Avery Akkineni had been a team propeller in driving business results. But it was her new mandate to open VaynerMedia Singapore last year – the agency’s first office in the Asia Pacific region – that truly showed off her ‘Jill of all trades’ capabilities. Helming the new office, Akkineni handled everything from government liaising to setting up the operations to forging regional partnerships. Other than growing the team from the ground up, she has taken the client base from zero to 10 in merely six months. Prior to joining VaynerMedia, Akkineni had spent six years at Google in its various divisions. It was there that she fell in love with digital marketing’s transformative power. She is especially passionate about transforming the media landscape. A voice for diversity in the often-homogenous industry, Akkineni has spearheaded several initiatives to empower women in the media. This includes leading and testing the Diversity and Inclusivity (DANDI) software that helps companies create fair and equal workplaces by tracking and analysing data on their hiring, compensation, promotion and employee retention practices.

Lina Ang | General manager, APAC | Sojern | Singapore: The travel market is trotting with the times, and industry veteran Lina Ang is just as light-footed. The hospitality and marketing graduate was selling hotel rooms and conference packages for Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental in Singapore when she saw hoteliers’ enthusiasm to up their digital game. Hence, she turned to online travel services, including spending eight years at Orbitz Worldwide, an online travel agency (OTA) that is now part of the Expedia Group. Foreseeing a brewing war of direct booking between OTA and hoteliers, Ang then dived into the world of travel ad-tech to drive growth for both parties – by joining Sojern, a data-driven travel marketing startup, as a regional director for Asia Pacific (APAC) in 2016. Within two years, Ang was promoted to be the general manager of APAC. Heading the small business (SMB) sales for the region, she built a team of 20 to increase the SMB clientele by 30 times and delivered over 1,265 campaigns in APAC. While navigating country-specific nuances in the region, the mother of two teenager finds time to nurture her team. She is a key member of the Sojern Women’s Group that supports women in the company, and drives Sojern’s global People Operations team to implement regular trainings for all employees.

Rowena Bhagchandani | CEO and co-founder | BLK J | Singapore: A career that started in tourism marketing and proceeded through four different agency groups, including Y&R and DDB, saw Rowena Bhagchandani set up her own shop, BLK J, on New Year’s Day 2017 with three of Singapore’s top creative talents. Under two years on, and she has a team of 80 and an agency that’s the fastest growing independent in the city state, with global wins from Scoot, the Economic Development Board and StarHub on its roster. In an extremely impressive feat for such a short time period, BLK J was also named ‘Creative Agency of the Year’ at the Gong 2018 awards. Bhagchandani is described as the “power source” behind all this success, and her ability to find solutions and bring people together is much admired. “In a world that's increasingly filled with lip service and half truths, the sincerity in Rowena's real, unfiltered leadership style is what separates her from everyone else, making her a real leader of today,” says her business director. In addition to all this, Bhagchandani also chairs the IAS Hall of Fame in Singapore and finds time to volunteer for many social causes.

Swati Bhattacharya | Chief creative officer | FCB Ulka | India: Few have done more to foster an inclusive creative culture in Asia than Swati Bhattacharya. Even fewer have harnessed humanity and generosity into sustained success in the process. Bhattacharya is one of the rare ones. Born to parents in media and communications, she always knew what she wanted to do. Bhattacharya dove straight from a Masters degree in PR and advertising into her first job at JWT and never looked back for 22 years. But it was on becoming chief creative at FCB Ulka in 2016 where her transformative influence has really shone through. Under her leadership, FCB Ulka became one of India’s most awarded agencies, bagging more than 50 awards including a Glass Lion, Gold Lions and a Spikes Grand Prix for #NoConditionsApply - Sindoor Khela for The Times of India. She also led the agency’s India's first sustainable Gold Lion in 2019 for The Open Door Project. More rewarding than the hardware, however, have been the social impact of campaigns like these latter two, challenging hundreds of years of tradition to include marginalised women and literally opening doors for street kids into classrooms. Recognising the socio-cultural challenges women face in the workplace, Bhattacharya is fierce advocate for allowing women more opportunities to excel. As such, Cannes Lions named her the global ambassador for their See It Be It executive women’s learning programme in 2019.

Basti Chendra | Creative director | Wunderman Thompson Jakarta | Indonesia: While Basti Chendra seeks to tell compelling stories, the ex-fashion model is living one herself. One of the rare transgendered creatives in Indonesia, Chendra has battled prejudice all her life. It is from the school of hard knocks that she emerged a no-holds-barred storyteller with a steely determination to achieve meaning with every campaign. In her projects, the graduate of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore lifts inspiration from her unusual life experiences and current affairs. One example was her concept for Sunsilk’s Hair Talk campaign – featuring beauty queen Rock Kwanlada – which weaved a gutsy narrative linking long hair to transwomen's gender identity. The campaign won every award it had been submitted to, most notably Southeast Asia's first ever Creative Effectiveness Lion in 2019. To heighten awareness about osteoporosis in a fashionable way, Chendra ‘hijacked’ fashion shows with models wearing embellished bone braces strutting on the runways. Her work for bookstore Gramedia’s “History Restored” campaign also helped fix broken ancient temples in Indonesia with books and provided local kids with a public library, all while increasing brand love.

Geraldine Cheung | Managing director| L'Atelier by GroupM | China: Geraldine Cheung was the lead of L'Atelier Singapore when she was tapped to take on the managing director role of L'Atelier China less than a year ago. Relocating from one of the smallest countries globally to the world’s biggest population did not faze Cheung. Nor did the task of driving marketing for 40 luxury brands under the LVMH Group – from fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton to disruptor beauty brand Fenty – in a fragmented and fast-paced market. Cheung, as a co-worker put it, “literally does not break a sweat”. The 34-year-old’s poise is likely honed from her experience in running behemoth accounts for Shell, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and so on. In China, Cheung tackled puzzles long plaguing luxury brands, such as developing tools and models to solve the longstanding issues of programmatic media buying and monitoring influencer activations. Since she took the reins, L'Atelier’s agency billings grew strongly in 2019 – trumping the usual growth among media agencies in China. The composed digerati also further expanded the agency headcount by 21 percent.

Pavarisa Chumvigrant | CMO | Line Mobile | Thailand: From freezing 3,000 digital board screens in Bangkok simultaneously to show Line Mobile’s limited-time offer, to using the forehead of a Thai teen idol as a human advertisement space, Pavarisa Chumvigrant showed out-of-box thinking befitting of a seasoned disruptor in the tech world. The marketing chief of Line Mobile has a reputation for combining creativity and consumer insights to deliver refreshing campaigns – a much-needed characteristic for Thailand’s first digital mobile service provider with a youthful target audience. The experienced tech marketer, now in her 17th year in the industry, boarded Line Mobile since its start in 2017. In the past two years, she played a key role in growing sales by 250 percent. Among the feathers in her cap are bagging a Bronze award in 2018 from the Marketing Association of Thailand for her campaign, as well as helping the company win the Outstanding Brands award in 2018 from Influential Brands. Prior to joining Line Mobile, Chumvigrant drove success behind some of Asia’s biggest tech firms. She was the country marketing head of Grab Thailand. On top of that, she led the launch of popular music application Joox as the head of marketing for Tencent Thailand.

Penelope Guerineau | Executive creative director, Asia | Auditoire | China: Arriving in China in 2012 without special knowledge of experiential marketing, Penelope Guerineau has in the last seven years transformed herself into a highly awarded, cross-sector expert - and an ECD, the latest in a string of promotions as a result of the rapid growth (tripling in turnover in five years) she has generated at the agency, at the same time. Guerineau created and runs Auditoire’s business team of 30 people across 3 offices, whom she stewarded to create no fewer than 150 creative proposals in 2018, winning over half. One of her most outstanding projects was the Adidas Republic of Sport, an integrated campaign run across four Chinese cities and 51 days, with almost 200,000 visitors, which earned over 40 million media impressions. Colleagues admire the “distinctive creative environment” Guerineau has created, challenging her team to be brave and always letting them express their ideas in a meaningful way.

Jessica Haigh | Managing Director | Cedar | Hong Kong: At 32 years old, Jessica Haigh was the youngest person to be appointed as the managing director of Cedar Hong Kong in January last year. But she has earned the role throughout her past seven years with the agency. Starting with Cedar’s Tesco account, her insight-driven content strategies won her the Account Lead of the Year award at Tesco's procurement conference in 2016, trumping 3,000 suppliers. In 2017, Haigh was also awarded a place in the highly-selective The Marketing Academy scholarship – she used the education she gained to run internal programmes that have been replicated across the entire Cedar business. In the past year, Haigh has scaled new heights for Cedar. Besides expanding its work with Cathay Pacific, the new chief led an eight-month pitch to win the coveted account of publishing the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s magazine. Haigh is also a volunteer with the Aspire Foundation, providing mentorship to women from the charities and social enterprises to, in turn, help them make a difference in the lives of even more women worldwide.

Airy Han | Creative partner| BBDO China | China: While her roots are in traditional advertising, Airy Han had been one of the earliest among her local peers to adopt social and digital campaigns. She believes that when big ideas of traditional agencies are contextualised appropriately for China's dynamic digital ecosystem, they have a bigger chance to cut through the saturated world of social content. Hence, Han ejected herself from her comfort zone in traditional advertising to help drive creative solutions at Energy BBDO, which specialises in social and digital integration. Within two years, Energy BBDO scaled three-fold and won the Social Agency of the Year award in the Campaign Greater China Agency of the Year 2018. This year, the firm began to lead Visa’s creative work in Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, Han proves that her career change was the right choice – her series of P&G digital and social campaigns swept over 70 awards, and she is now a creative digital advisor for Alibaba. While her work is a cut above the rest, Han remains down-to-earth. Dubbed the “big sister” of her team, she has initiated the 'Under 30 Creative Engine' programme to nurture the next generation of local creative talents in China.

Dew Intapunya | Chief content officer | Ensemble | Thailand: An avid marathoner, Dew Intapunya goes the extra mile. In her 20 years with IPG Mediabrands, Intapunya’s long list of masterpieces includes creating the network’s first content agency, Ensemble Thailand, in the country. Her leadership drove Ensemble to pick up lucrative business wins, double its revenue year-on-year and grow its team from five to 65 people. When tasked with organising a big data conference, which is potentially a heavy and dry topic, Intapunya transformed the event into “a live stage musical seminar”. She roped in Selladoor, an award-winning theatre company, to turn the heavy data conference into a musical show for 300 clients and press – generating plenty of positive PR buzz. Other than carving out 30 percent of her time to coach IPG Mediabrands’ staff, Intapunya also runs the group’s CSR campaign to build a special-care school for disadvantaged or homeless kids from the Baan Mae Nok Foundation.

Lani Jamieson | Head | Cadreon | Singapore: Lani Jamieson is not averse to lead the pack to explore an unfamiliar turf. Her team was the first to run Spotify Audio ads globally from Australia and the first in Asia Pacific (APAC) to run YouTube’s newly released Video Ad Sequencing storytelling format via the Display and Video 360 feature. In early 2019, Jamieson was brought in to head Cadreon Singapore, and tasked to grow it to be the network’s new APAC programmatic hub. The former head of digital media at DWA and programmatic director at Omnicom Media Group seems well on her way to deliver results. Within three months in her new role, the New Zealand native grew the team three fold with new hires of diverse cultures, and upskilled experts across IPG Mediabrands Singapore with a bespoke Programmatic Education Series. She currently leads a growing team of 15 to service a regional client portfolio across UM, Initiative and Reprise. Jamieson’s big personality is matched by her big investment into talents – likely why she has a reputation for high retention rates of employees in a notoriously churn-and-burn industry.

Maheen Jatoi | Head of brand, creative and research for Asia Pacific | Uber Technology | Singapore: Following last year’s challenging merger between Grab and Uber in Southeast Asia, Maheen Jatoi was left with a bruised and demotivated team. As one of the few senior marketing leaders retained from the consolidation, Jatoi stepped up to shoulder three jobs – leading brand and creative campaigns for Uber Rides and Uber Eats while taking on research and insights. It is fortunate that research is not alien to Jatoi – the economics graduate has long been independently conducting and leading consumer studies as bases for Uber’s global operation playbook. Jatoi has also proven her mettle in steering bumpy rides, putting together two emergency campaigns for Taiwan and Hong Kong a few years ago to address regulatory hurdles that threatened to suspend the e-hailing company’s services. The string of shake-ups she led includes launching the first global campaign for Uber Eats across five Asia Pacific (APAC) countries. To improve morale in the tattered team after the merger, the Pakistan-born volunteered to be chairperson of the company’s APAC Visionaries Group and sparked various efforts to bring back employee enthusiasm and trust in Uber. Jatoi’s dedication to carry her team through the road of recovery is inspiring, considering that she was also pregnant with her first child at that time.

Roshenka Jayamaha | Founder and owner | Spark Marcom | Sri Lanka: Roshenka Jayamaha founded agency Spark Marcom in 2016, in her kitchen, to address the gaps she saw in Sri Lankan content planning and marketing. Filling these and going way beyond, her agency now offers an extensive range of marketing, writing and content development for businesses across Africa, Asia and Europe, including 30 global hotels as well as various not-for-profits and social enterprises, evidence of Jayamaha’s passion for giving back. This also extends to the arts and literacy programme she set up to provide learning materials and experiences for children in Malawi, where she grew up, and Colombo. Jayamaha’s team is entirely female, and she is a firm believer in providing all the training opportunities she can to help her colleagues grow and develop. Spark Marcom also provides free consultations to help female entrepreneurs and artisans or SME owners grow their businesses by implementing basic marketing strategies and tactics.

Sorcha John | Managing director | Iris | Singapore: Sorcha John knows a thing or two about people – their behaviours and motivations. A trained anthropologist, John started her career as a field ethnographer helping to redesign consumer experiences for public UK institutions like the NHS and Police forces. Her knack for knowing customer needs quickly came in handy. After joining Iris' consulting agency, Concise UK, she moved to Singapore in 2015 to found and lead Iris Concise APAC, delivering 100% over forecast in her first year. Brands liked what John offered, evidenced when Samsung's data consulting and CRM business (which she won) seconded her to Seoul for four months to lead a 25-person task force to author Samsung's global data-driven marketing strategy. Appointed to MD in 2017 as Iris' youngest agency leader, John built Iris Singapore to be the agency’s second largest office globally in just 3 years, retooling it in the process. By re-shaping every job spec and forming client councils around key goals, John has injected drive and purpose to her teams that feed-off a fostered culture of curiosity. In tackling gender biases in the industry, John chooses proactivity over cynicism, putting concrete actions in place to create real change. In recruiting, Iris is now 55% female staff and has a 50% male-female board ratio. John is also known for her pointed International Women’s Day campaigns, like this year’s The Conscious Calendar. To tackle benevolent sexism, it featured Iris' male colleagues who posed doing office housework which typically defaults to women.

Geraldine Kan | Head of communications | HP Asia Pacific & Japan | Singapore: Amidst adversity, Geraldine Kan is a fighter. After all, she battled breast cancer. Separately, at her previous job in a scandal-hit Belgian startup that owed salaries for two months, Kan took it upon herself to secure an external consulting project for her team to help tide them over the financial crunch. When she joined HP Inc. in 2017, Kan was just as battle-ready – this time for the brand’s personal computers, printers and notebooks to stay relevant in the mobile-dominated Asian market. Her first fight was for the communication leads in Asia Pacific to sit at the local leadership table. This keeps them in the loop on pertinent business issues and directions, thus strengthening the brand’s communication strategies in the region. Kan also steers the brand to align with social and economic causes. This strategy led the Australian team to construct ‘The Beast’ – a giant monster made from plastic bottles – to raise awareness about the country's plastic waste problem. The campaign took the media by storm and reached 4.7 million Australians. The HP Young Spikes Design Competition, which Kan helped launch with Spikes Asia, also tasked young agency professionals to creatively use print in addressing issues plaguing their communities – which, indirectly, reminded the industry of the power of print.

Laura Kantor | Head of marketing and sustainability| foodpanda | Singapore: While environmental initiatives are often mere token CSR moves for marketing departments, Laura Kantor has clipped it to her job title. The origin story of the eco warrior began when she traveled around Asia and saw first-hand how pollution and plastic waste has affected the continent’s once-picturesque landscape. The marketing chief of Foodpanda – then two years into her role – realised that she was in a privileged position to reduce the damaging disposables that the food delivery industry generates. Hence, she decided to marry her environmentalist aims with profitable strategies at Foodpanda. Since officially adding ‘sustainability’ to her designation in 2018, Kantor’s region-wide initiatives has helped saved over a million sets of plastic cutlery, signed a pledge with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to remove all shark fin items from its vendor menus, and engaged the industry and consumers on eco-friendly strategies. Before straddling sustainability and marketing responsibilities at Foodpanda, Kantor has crossed industries like music and healthcare, before joining Ogilvy to lead one of its largest global accounts, IBM. Outside the office, Kantor guides the business growth of charitable organisations as a mentor for TalentTrust, and even wrote a children’s book.

Maddison Keogh | Client advice and management director | Initiative | Australia: Leading communication for Initiative’s largest clients in Sydney and taking charge of pitch teams with a 75% success rate seem like a round-the-clock commitment. But Maddison Keogh still finds time to champion for equal opportunities at the workplace. On top of supporting LGBTQI movements, she joins mentorship and recruitment programmes like Talent RISE to provide job assistance for individuals with learning disabilities or those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The active mentor also spearheaded the first annual IPG Women’s Leadership Network event for 150 young women in the industry. Having completed her certification in mental health first aid in February, Keogh is now undergoing further training in mental health awareness and support to help those struggling with the condition, whether they are within or outside of the media industry. Her deep involvement in social advocacy did not derail her focus at the office. Since the start of this year, Keogh has grown her team from six to 20 people, grew billings four-fold, and helped Initiative score its largest wins. She did all these at the age of 28 – making her the youngest client lead for the agency in Australia.

Ruey Ku | Managing director | Publicis Media Content China | Hong Kong: Ruey Ku lives by the philosophy that you lead people by actions and not words. A hands-on leader, Ku is known for challenging traditional ways of working and brings this attitude to her management style too. Bridging the “eastern mindset with a western workstyle”, she believes in empowering her team to participate in business development processes rather than taking a top-down approach. A branded content expert, Ruey is recognised for her work pursuing new revenue and business opportunities and blending art with science, using data and analytics to prove ROI. She was instrumental in driving two industry-first content cases over the last year, including the first ever esports campaign in China for ABI's China beer brand Harbin Beer, which achieved a total of 1 billion video views, and the first commercial co-op between BMW and Alibaba's e-commerce IP. During her eight-year tenure with Publicis Media, she has increased active projects and billings by over 50%, resulting in 20% year-on-year revenue growth for Publicis Media Content, and has played a key role in new business wins including Mondelez, GSK and BMW, helping the network triumph in more than 80% of its pitches. Ruey began her journey with Publicis Media in 2011 as one of the three original founding members of ZenithOptimedia's content team, Newcast, and played a key role in transitioning the business into Publicis Media’s centralised practice. She now leads a team of 40 across three offices (Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai).

Janet Kwan | Senior trading specialist | The Trade Desk | Hong Kong: Technological progress is, as of yet, unable to substitute the subtlety and sensibility that humans can provide. For the quintessential human touch, The Trade Desk – a cloud-based digital programmatic platform that helps businesses execute digital campaigns – relies heavily on Janet Kwan. Having graduated magna cum laude in financial economics from Columbia University, New York, the Hong-Kong native balked from entering the gilded double-doors of finance – the conventional path for her degree. Instead, she decided to take her number-crunching acumen to the world of marketing, where her creative smarts can shine. Kwan’s rare combination of quantitative skills and lateral thinking saw her promotion to Senior Trading Specialist within two years of joining The Trade Desk. She is instrumental in distilling data-heavy scenarios into digestible and actionable insights for clients, especially the creatives who are less number-savvy. At evenings and weekends, she also transforms from ad tech vanguard to a passionate volunteer for a local charity serving less-fortunate children in Hong Kong

Kitty Lee | Deputy general manager | FleishmanHillard | Hong Kong: Well-liked and charming, Kitty Lee is known affectionately as ‘Hello Kitty’ in the office. In her work, she is also a cool cat. Her 15 years in FleishmanHillard has taken her from the account executive role to become the co-head of consumer practice, building a portfolio of major clients including Hongkong Land, Hong Kong SAR Government, Fitbit and so on. Her career took a leap in the past year as she was promoted to deputy general manager and closed lucrative business wins. Having studied in Portugal and the UK, Lee thrives in multi-market campaigns. She especially soars with aviation accounts, having served clients like Air New Zealand, British Airways, and Lufthansa. An active mentor, Lee is now responsible for training and developing FleishmanHillard Hong Kong's 70-strong team as a creative and collaborative whole. The guest lecturer at the Hong Kong Baptist University has also been appointed by the Hong Kong Consumer Council as a member, providing strategic advice on issues surrounding the consumer sector.

Amy Li | General manager | Mindshare| China: With her background in statistics and her experience as a consumer insights analyst, Amy Li brings to the table logical thinking and sustainable strategies. This won her an enviable breadth of client roster, which includes Lufthansa, Kangshifu, PepsiCo, Hitachi and Wyeth. Leading a team of 50 that has to flex and adapt to different industries, the media expert fosters talents in the company – over 60 percent of her leadership chain has been promoted from within. Co-workers know her as the “elder sister” who champions development programmes for young talents, spends one-on-one time with team members for mentorship and runs learning sessions every fortnight. This is on top of her duties in handling one of the largest and most complex agency portfolios. Li, who has worked with Mindshare for the past 13 years, tripled billings from US$500 million in 2017 to over US$1.5 billion in 2019. She also won accounts like Kangshifu, Ant-Financial and other brands in 2018, which leads to an additional 75 percent year-on-year growth. This year’s Festival of Media Global Awards saw her team swept two Gold, three Silver and six Bronze awards, and capped off the victory with an Agency of the Year win.

Yuhong Li | CEO and founder | Ylab | China: Li Yuhong has an impressive resume. Her former positions include group account director for a 4A agency, chief strategy officer in Publicis Group, and managing director of Havas Group in Shanghai, with business wins like Cadillac, KFC, Pernod Ricard and Sanofi under her belt. Her experience taught her two things: the industry business model is outdated, and she can reinvent it. Late last year, Li founded Ylab, a consulting firm specialising in driving growth through business, branding and market innovation. Its business model seeks to address the squeeze in profits due to price competition and meagre margins in the marketing landscape. First, Ylab positioned itself to be not just a marketing campaign deliverer but also a business and branding innovation consultant, allowing it to work directly with the C-suites. Then, it identifies categories in need of growth acceleration and builds long-term consultancy partnerships with one brand from each category. Finally, Ylab earns not just from service fee but from a percentage of growth. Within half a year, Li’s leadership has led her startup to win every pitch it participated in, including for Nestle Yinlu, Colgate PCA Skin, and Enova Group. Most recently, it trumped six established PR agencies to score another US$1.5 million project.

Dephin Lim | Managing director | Mediacom Shanghai | China: Born and bred in Malaysia, Dephin Lim had pursued a career from her homeland to Taiwan to Hong Kong, before settling down in Shanghai two years ago. Her ideas are just as well-traveled. The new approaches and solutions she developed for clients have been exported to the larger Mediacom network and are being shared and reapplied globally. For example, the China Intent To Purchase (CITP) model that she led her team to develop had been put through a successful beta test under the agency network. The data-driven planning and execution model is now adopted by other markets and formed the basis of global planning for two of Mediacom’s major clients. On top of managing coveted accounts like Adidas and Hasbro, Lim takes time for the little things – whether it is encouraging her staff to leave work on time for better work-life balance, or writing personal wishes to new mums in the office. Thanks to her attention to detail and radiating enthusiasm, she consistently earns record-high scores in client and staff satisfaction surveys.

Shivani Maharaj | National head of content & partnerships | Wavemaker | Australia: Shivani Maharaj is of the belief that media agencies and creativity should not be mutually exclusive. She aspires to 'redefine' the role of media and wants to prove that creativity doesn't just sit at a creative agency or in a job title. She does this by executing creative ideas in the form of content, social strategy, influencer marketing, branded entertainment, sporting partnerships, among other solutions. And the results have been impressive. In 18 months, Maharaj managed to build Wavemaker's content and partnerships division, resulting in the stream becoming the agency's fastest growing. Her team is now pitching against creative, digital, social and PR agencies on a weekly basis, and has managed to convert 90% of pitches while delivering results for clients such as Australian Post and Mondelez across sales, new product development, negotiating naming rights, and brand ambassadors, among others. According to Maharaj’s manager, she seems to have an “inexhaustible supply of great partnership ideas”, even when under a lot of pressure. She’s also skilled at getting clients to pay for the value she brings, especially at a time when clients are continuously asking for 'cost cuts'.

Haruna McWilliams | Senior vice president, strategy, APAC | Essence | Singapore: When working at Ogilvy early in her career, Haruna McWilliams sensed a disconnection between her local team in Japan and the rest of the network. The self-starter thus raised her hand to join Ogilvy London to learn more about the global office, where key decisions are made. Her ambitious streak and hunger for learning new markets ended up taking her from Tokyo to London to United States and back to Tokyo. Along the way, she picked up a Silver at the IPA Effectiveness Awards for a Dove campaign – the first IPA won by Ogilvy London in a decade – and became one of the youngest judges at the David Ogilvy Awards in the US. Now, she resides in Singapore. Joining Essence in 2017, she built it from scratch and leads the agency’s Strategy practice in Asia Pacific for major clients including Google, Britannia and Zee. An enthusiastic mentor for industry newcomers, McWilliams was also shortlisted as the APAC Strategic/Brand Planner of the Year at the Campaign Asia-Pacific Agency Network of the Year Awards 2018.

Neha Mehrotra | EVP client centricity | AvianWE | India: The PR industry is flooded with women, except at the very top. Neha Mehrotra wants to change this. After all, she has made her own career climb from the bottom, when she joined the then-fledgling startup AvianWE as an account executive 15 years ago, to become one of the few women leaders in the field today. To bring gender balance into the boardroom, the petite chief has set up the India chapter of Women in PR, a not-for-profit global organisation that unites senior women communicators and PR practitioners to support female talents in the industry. Besides her passion to groom a new generation of women leaders, Mehrotra also enthusiastically shares industry knowledge by sitting on the jury panel of prestigious PR awards, including the Sabre and Indie awards. A winner of the Emerging Leader of the Year Award at the Future Leaders Summit in 2018, Mehrotra does have plenty of wisdom to share. She currently manages almost 50 percent of AvianWE’s revenue, and had been instrumental in bagging the company’s most valuable accounts – Samsung and Amazon – last year. The PR veteran’s ‘Clients for Life’ programme has also helped the firm maintain a client retention rate at five years and above.

Norzilawati Mohd Taib | Business director, consumer and expert communications | McCann Health | Singapore: Norzilawati Mohd Taib is the kind of leader who can rally almost a third of her colleagues at McCann Health Singapore to not only participate in the recent Race Against Cancer run, but to don tutus while doing it. Her infectious charm and proactive pursuits enliven a team who serves renowned consumer health brands, such as GSK Horlicks, ENO, Mundipharma Betadine and Align Technology’s Invisalign. Coming from a marketing and event management background, Norzilawati joined McCann Health in 2010. In the next nine years, she rose through the ranks to become its business director today, scoring career highs including doubling her team’s revenue growth in the past 12 months. To nurture new generations of healthcare communication professionals in the niche industry, Norzilawati has run an internship programme at McCann Health Singapore with undergraduates from the science faculty at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) for the past six years. Besides bringing up these fresh talents, she is undergoing her own personal training – preparing physically and mentally for an arduous trek in Papua, Indonesia in November to raise funds for women survivors of war.

Taryn Mook | Group COO | Bonsey Jaden | Singapore: From joining as an account manager (and the firm's first employee) in 2014 to her promotion to group COO in May of this year, Taryn Mook's frequent promotions at Bonsey Jaden provide strong testimony that she's every bit as "independent, driven, tenacious and passionate" as one colleague asserts. Just since her latest promotion, the company credits her with restructuring and optimising four departments, helping to deliver three big pitch wins, improving client profitability by more than 40% and improving collection rate by more than 65%. Mook has "fundamentally been one of the biggest growth drivers within our business", Bonsey Jaden attests, which has grown to 180 staff across 10 offices. A self-described "solutions architect who fell in love with brand-building quite by accident", Mook has the ambition and tools to redefine that art on a global scale, her colleagues say. With a focus on learning, teaching and pushing boundaries, plus an ability to assess situations and solve problems quickly, Mook has proven effective managing the growing group of companies.

Belinda Murray | Managing director | BWM Dentsu Melbourne| Australia: In a world of “it’s who you know”, Belinda Murray knew no one who can get her foot through the door of advertising. So, she found a way in through the mail room – more specifically, as a part-time ‘mail girl’ at Young & Rubicam Mattingly. That was 19 years ago. Today, Murray is a founding partner of the Melbourne chapter of BWM Dentsu and runs the show with 120 employees under her wing. Under Murray’s leadership, the 11-year-old office has picked up four new accounts in 2019 while maintaining an existing portfolio of blue-chip clients including Toyota and Kmart. Her tenure at the top is marked by illustrious award wins, including at D&AD, Cannes, Adfest, the New York Festivals, Spikes Asia, and so on. On top of that, the industry veteran is instrumental in the creation of BWM Dentsu Group's Reconciliation Action Plan, which aims to build a bridge between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians through various measures, such as diverting three percent of the company’s total commercial spend to indigenous-run or -owned businesses and establishing an indigenous internship programme with local universities.

Anna Patterson | Vice president and managing director | George P. Johnson | Singapore: Anna Patterson is known to be the first on the floor to set up for a client event and the last to turn out the lights. But turning around George P. Johnson (GPJ), which had been facing issues like unmet targets and human resource gaps, when she joined in 2017 required more than hands-on dedication. Patterson and her team of senior leadership had to revise roles and processes, realign client services and expand headcounts. Among her hires were a executive creative director, a human resource manager and a director of operations. Her focus on building the talent and management pool worked. Within three months, she brought in three core clients. The company met its target this year, and expects revenue growth at about 36 percent compared with the previous year. Patterson does not only invest in growing GPJ’s staffing, but also in shaping an inclusive environment. This resulted in a leadership team that is 60-percent female. Having produced brand events and programmes for a wide-range of industries, from IT to hospitality to FMCG to finance, Patterson has amassed deep knowledge in various fields and a vast network of contacts – earning her the title “Little Black Book of Asia”.

Katie Potter | Business director APAC | Teads Singapore Pte Ltd| Singapore: Spending two weeks away from home every month to oversee other offices, Katie Potter’s brutal schedule is not enviable. However, her mark in the industry is. Several startups and offices in multiple markets owed their zero-to-hero journey to Potter. Her help in launching these outfits had taken the fledgling operations to overachieve sales target. For example, Potter has twice built up Teads offices – one in Singapore and one in Australia – from scratch. With her at the wheel, the Singapore team is now responsible for 30 percent of Teads’ revenue in Southeast Asia while the Australian operation is expected to rake in seven to 10 percent of the network’s overall revenue in Asia Pacific. In the past two years, Potter played a key role in the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Southeast Asia and India. Other than working on a committee to refine media buying through voice technology and artificial intelligence, she is also helping to train members of the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Programmatic Advertising Professionals.

To Quy Loc (Sue) | Head of operation & senior PR director | Havas | Vietnam: A gifted communicator who earns the trust of her clients, To Quy Loc (also known as Sue Le) has been a strong contributor to Red Havas / Havas Vietnam for over 10 years. She has a passion for health communications in the fast-developing market and has worked to align many clients with not only effective communication about health issues but also substantive contributions to the community through CSR, charity and education efforts. Among other successes, Loc is credited with turning Sanofi from an ad hoc client into a long-term one, winning Vedan as a retainer client and helping turn around the latter company's reputation, and steering 10-year retainer client Roche Diagnostics to a more community-oriented stance with meaningful CSR activities such as blood donation, free HPV screening and planting trees. Currently second-in-command to the MD, Loc leads a staff of 12, placing great emphasis on being a trainer, coach and mentor. According to colleagues, she's a thoughtful listener and makes those around her stronger.

Kartikha Rajoo| Associate director, programmatic | Omnicom Media Group | Singapore: Dubbed a “servant leader” for putting her team first, Kartikha Rajoo pushes for career growth opportunities for the traders under her leadership amidst the high turnover and exit rates of the programmatic industry. Her solution: build a centralised activation team to address and resolve the imbalance in workload, experience and skillsets of traders across business accounts. The result was improved operational efficiency that saw traders having more time to hone their skills, share knowledge and grow their careers. An advocate for quality programmatic buying, Rajoo led a deal curation initiative that would facilitate an increase of delivery on premium inventory. This grew programmatic deal-based delivery by 52 percent and reduced the risk of delivering unknown and unmeasurable inventory. Her implementation of a quality assurance process also propelled campaigns under Omnicom Media Group to surpass their targeted viewability rate and measurability rate over the past year. Besides supporting her team of traders, Rajoo also introduced a Programmatic Academy syllabus curated to educate clients at varying levels of maturity in their programmatic journey, thus driving the industry forward.

Laura Roberts | Managing director| INVNT | Australia: From managing a concert for The Rolling Stones to delivering two years of TEDxSydney event, Laura Roberts is a rock star of live brand experiences. Her finger on the pulse of market demands bolsters her strategic smarts and creative chops, allowing her to hit high notes in orchestrating live events – the 2018 installment of TEDxSydney, for example, has bagged a bronze in The Event Marketing Awards 2019 and two silvers in The Asia Pacific Stevie Awards 2019. Roberts was the first employee when INVNT was founded in New York in 2008. Her wide repertoire in event ideation and management, from music concerts to government festivals to B2B meetings and exhibitions, formed the steps for her ascension to the managing director seat in 2017. She was tasked to launch INVNT in Sydney and spearhead growth in the wider Asia Pacific region. Roberts, then a 35-year-old, grew the team to 12 people, won new businesses while achieving a 100 percent client retention rating within her first year of leadership. Her success led to the opening of INVNT's second APAC office in Singapore in January this year.

Priyadarshini Sharma | Marketing director | Carlsberg | China: A seasoned leader who started her career with Allied Domecq, Priyadarshini Sharma has a Masters degree in finance and accounting, an MBA and experience at top brands the likes of Pepsi, Samsung and P&G. She joined Carlsberg in Hong Kong in 2014 and was promoted to her current role in China three years later, where she continues to excel. In the last 12 months alone, Sharma has developed and implemented winning bespoke commercial programmes for the brand in China, continuously improving ROI, in-house practices on digital marketing and global brand compliance. Her portfolio has delivered impressive growth and both Sharma and Carlsberg have enjoyed winning various top accolades as a result. Sharma is training as a coach to enable her to train future leaders, and recently became part of the Cherie Blair foundation for mentoring women; she is passionate about attracting females to this sometimes male-dominated industry.

Olivia Warren | Head of studio | Initiative | Australia: In 2017, when the marriage equality debate – on whether two people regardless of sex can marry – raged in Australia, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream took a stand that rocked the media. It refused to serve two scoops of ice creams of the same flavour until the Australian legislation allows same-sex marriage. Customers could also ask local Members of Parliament to support marriage equality by sending specially-made postcards available in-store. The maestro of the attention-grabbing campaign? Olivia Warren. Adept at building social purpose into experiential marketing, Warren was appointed the Head of Studio at Initiative, leading a division that delivers brand experiences, creative content and integrated sponsorships. Her past 12 months was a symphony of high notes, including delivering 28 percent revenue growth and bringing in 12 new clients. The award-winning chief flies the rainbow pride flag both in and out of the office. In Initiative Australia, Warren was named the LGBT Pride and Diversity Champion, and was credited with taking the national agency to win the Small Employer of the Year title in the 2019 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI). The President of Sydney University Australian Football League (AFL) Women's Club also helped establish the inaugural Sydney University AFL Pride Round in 2017 to educate young men and women on the needs of the LGBT community in sports.

Kara Yang | Managing director | TBWAMedia Arts Lab Shanghai | China: “Three Minutes” made all the difference. The Chinese New Year advertisement for Apple by TBWAMedia Arts Lab Shanghai – currently recording over 100 million views on YouTube – had bagged the agency a Greater China Grand Effie, four China One Show Golds and a Cannes Lion within last year. At the helm of the successful run was Kara Yang. With a two-decade background in strategy, Yang develops culturally-relevant communications in the key market of China by “never playing it safe”, according to a co-worker. Her push for creative risk-taking has produced award-winning campaigns like P&G’s “Always #LikeAGirl” and Samsung’s “Ostrich – Do What You Can’t”. Yang had returned to China to champion for creativity in the mainland after a string of career high scores in the US. Equipped with the experience of helming global brand strategy for Samsung Mobile, she turned TBWAMedia Arts Lab Shanghai into one of the highest-performing offices in the network within two years. The creative agency for Apple in China was also named Spike Asia’s 2018 Agency of the Year.

Amber Zhang | Co-founder & COO | Fugetech | China: Wastages in marketing spend have long been the industry’s Achilles heel. To clear the fog obscuring marketing investments, Amber Zhang combined her tech-driven passion and problem-solving knack (honed from years of consulting for Accenture Tokyo) to co-found Fugetech in China. The startup develops cutting-edge products that establish a transparent marketplace covering media, social and creative resources. Under Zhang’s leadership, Fugetech has helped install progress in transparent and data-driven marketing activities. The team she helmed assisted Unilever, Didi and other enterprises to save an average of 15 percent in marketing budget. With her decade-long experience in advertising and marketing technology, Zhang pioneered innovation at Fugetech that has attracted more than 2,000 suppliers in just six months, and also redefined the standards in service content segmentation and price benchmark in marketing resources. The Tokyo University graduate has designed and developed Fugetech’s first product, Bid Agent. The innovative search engine marketing management platform has managed a search budget of more than 1 billion yuan annually since 2015.

From trained anthropologists to rock concert managers, from gutsy entrepreneurs to corporate climbers, Campaign's Women to Watch list represents 40 incredible stories of women with the skill and determination to not only succeed personally but also to lift others up around them.

Every woman on this list has invested heavily in her career, spending hours of effort and concentration on key projects when needed, taking the time invest in teams and new partnerships for the good of her organisation. Along with so many of this year's nominees, our list comes loaded with impressive track records, making for some exceptionally difficult decisions for the senior editorial members of Campaign Asia-Pacific judging team, who carefully reviewed every entry.

As we hope you'll recognise in the profiles above, many of these women bring an intangible 'X factor' to our list, as described by their admiring colleagues—a rare combination of sharp instinct and resolute determination to drive change, yet critically attuned to people and issues all around them. 

The idea of lists and awards shows that celebrate 'women only' understandably prompts debate. If we’re pushing for balance, shouldn’t we then offer ‘men only’ lists, or only mixed-gender lists? We understand the sentiment, but feel that in Asia in particular, so many elements of the equality movement are still so far behind, as we've seen in Campaign's widespread coverage of gender-related issues from the #MeToo movement to our in-depth industry research on gender equality and our very own content gender audit. Women we have featured on the list over the years continue to report that it gives them confidence in their actions and helps cement and boost their reputations, contributing positively to their career progress.

So we again salute this year's group of Women to Watch—and we thank their colleagues for bringing them to our attention. They're certainly already making waves and hopefully can inspire others to be difference-makers too. 

The 2019 Women to Watch are (in alphabetical order):

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See all of our 'People to watch' features, including the annual 40 Under 40 and China Digital A-List.

Profiles by Li-Mei Foong, Olivia Parker, Robert Sawatzky, Matthew Miller, Surekha Ragavan and Jessica Goodfellow. 

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She was heading the network's film production division

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Diageo India's CMO, Julie Bramham makes a strong case for doing away with gender stereotypes at the inaugural session of Spikes Asia 2019

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