On March 3, 2021, Elevate joined the Association of Corporate Counsel Women in the House (WITH) network for a panel discussion promoting International Women's Day: APAC Legal Women of Influence and the Surprising Impact of COVID. The event was pre-recorded to accommodate the differences in panelists' time zones, but a live Q&A did occur at the end of the discussion with most panelists.

The session opened with Dawn Haghighi, GC for Privacy and Compliance Officer at Murcor Inc, with Lesley Hobbs, Director at Elevate, serving as moderator. Other panelists included:

  • Wanda Tung - Deputy General Counsel and Head of Markets Legal, JP Morgan
  • Yukiko Masuda - Managing Director, APAC Legal, Labor and Compliance, APAC Diversity, and Inclusion Leader, FedEx
  • Gill Meller - Legal and Governance Director, MTR Corporation Limited
  • Shivatmika Nigam - Associate General Counsel, Elevate
  • John Croft - President, Elevate

Lesley presented the panelists with several questions focusing on how they had spent the last 12 months pivoting and re-aligning due to COVID-19 and its impact on their personal lives and careers. The sixty-minute discussion was intelligent and insightful, covering a range of topics, including productivity and levels of remote engagement within their teams and employee welfare matters. They also discussed the impact of business travel restrictions, predictions on the APAC workplace of the future, and lessons learned after a year of unexpected disruption.

The discussion highlighted that the majority of major financial institutions and corporations had adapted quickly to remote workability, and the panelists themselves remained steadfast in focusing on their team members' health and well-being. The panelists agreed that a return to in-person interactions is preferable, but that remote work is still a viable option for their teams as we move into a post-COVID landscape.

For Yukiko at FedEx, one benefit of COVID was working from home full-time even after returning from maternity leave in August 2020. The majority of Elevate's management team has always operated remotely, so Shivatmika and John had a relatively smooth transition to being 100% home-based. For John, his biggest challenge was ensuring that everyone in the Croft household could adapt to being around each other full-time and that each person pulled their weight with housework!

Travel restrictions seemed to have had the biggest impact on the panelists, both personally and professionally. Wanda and Gill agreed that business travel would be less critical going forward, but meeting with colleagues in overseas offices would still be necessary on occasion. On a personal level, Wanda and Yukiko had been unable to visit family and friends in their home countries for over 12 months. Shivatmika and her husband had seen their family's relocation plans (India to the U.S.) get temporarily delayed for nearly two years. At the time of the panel discussion, Gill was stuck in the U.K., unable to return to Hong Kong after a travel ban was imposed just before Christmas 2020 (in response to the outbreak of a new COVID variant).

 Flexibility and trust were prominent themes as the panelists considered the future workplace. Another hot topic included employers' prioritising humanity, compassion, and understanding regarding their employees' personal circumstances. Embracing their workforces' diversity also remained a tangible goal that employers need to keep in mind as we move beyond COVID. Everyone has shown that they, along with their colleagues and families, could make adjustments over the past 12 months; the challenge was to find the right balance in this new normal.

To watch the on-demand version of the panel discussion, click here.