My Australia

My Australia: Success was 'twice as hard' for women like me

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She was the first Asian-Australian woman to head an ASX200 listed company, but Ming Long's road to the top wasn't easy.

‘My Australia’ is a special SBS News series exploring cultural heritage and identity, and asking what it means to be Australian in 2018. 

It has been a long and hard road to the top of Australia's corporate world for Ming Long.

The 46-year-old financial management and accounting executive was the first Asian-Australian woman to head an ASX200 listed company.

But Ms Long says there were many stereotypes she had to overcome to reach the pinnacle of her career. 

"We see so few women (in leadership) in general because I think the stereotype (that) we make assumptions about are the position of women in society," she told SBS News.

“When you add the intersection of ethnic or cultural diversity into someone's gender, it makes it twice as hard because the expectation is even stronger that she shouldn't have these roles.”

Ms Long was born in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and was nine years old when her family migrated to Australia, settling in the NSW town of Lithgow.

Ming was born in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia before migrating to Australia.
Ming was born in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia before migrating to Australia.
Supplied

“Moving from a massive city to a small country town in Australia felt like we were going backwards because they didn’t even have a McDonald’s at that time,” she said.

And while language wasn't a barrier, there were other cultural hurdles to overcome.

"It was absolutely a culture shock. When we arrived in Australia we are asked to go and visit people and you were asked to 'bring a plate' (of food). So we brought a plate, an empty plate," she said.

“A lot of the time at school I was trying to fit in because I was very conscious that I was not like the other kids at school and that was quite stark being the only Asian family in that little country town."

With both of her siblings going on to studying medicine, Ms Long said she was the “black sheep” of the family for wanting to take a different path.

After studying economics and law, her first break came when she began working in accounting and finance - a move she said cemented her future path.

Ming says she was the "black sheep" of the family for choosing business over medicine.
Ming says she was the "black sheep" of the family for choosing business over medicine.
Supplied.

“It was only really through a family friend who actually got me my first job that I started really understanding accounting and finance," she said.

"That really made the picture a lot more complete."

One of the biggest challenges she faced during her career was being appointed chief financial officer of Investa Property Group at the start of the Global Financial Crisis, when banks and creditors were expecting the company to fail.

“When you are put in positions of challenge like that, you really have to draw on your values, what's important to you, integrity and doing the right thing have to come up,” she said.

Ming Long was the first Asian Australian woman to head an ASX200 company
Ming Long was the first Asian Australian woman to head an ASX200 company.
SBS News

Long-time business friend and mentor Deborah Page said Ms Longs' leadership style brings a unique approach.

“She just enthuses energy with everything she does and she doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I mean, Ming just gets on with it,” Ms Page said.

Ms Long has since stepped down from her role at the head of Investa Property Group and now sits on several boards and is also a member of advocacy body Chief Executive Women.

She said she hoped to inspire more women from cultural diverse backgrounds to have faith in their capacity to lead.

“We want to lead, we don’t want to be just sitting back and letting other people do that. We want to make that contribution to this country."

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