Ewha Womans University has invited Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dr. Kyung-wha Kang (강경화) to be part of the Ewha family and share much insight to all woman students aspiring to become world leaders. Professor Kyung-wha Kang served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Korea under President Moon Jae-in from June 2017 until February 2021. Prior to being selected as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Kyung-wha Kang has worked in many areas serving South Korea some of which include working in the National Assembly, serving as Minister for the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, and Chairperson for UN Commission for the Status of Women. She was most recently the Senior Advisor on Policy to the United Nations Secretary-General under Secretary-General.
Ewha GSIS prides itself in equipping its students to become world leaders, so it was an honor to have a prominent women leader such as Professor Kang take the lead in the first session of the Distinguished Global Lecture Series in which she discussed ‘Global Challenges and Leadership.’ The session took place on September 10, 2021, at 15:30 where a handful of students were able to participate offline considering the level of social distance in the Covid-19 situation while inviting many spectators to participate online through Zoom and YouTube Live.
After Professor Kang’s opening remarks, she delved right into the discussion of the day, covering topics ranging from global challenges to leadership and what must be done to combat these challenges.
Professor Kang’s prestigious work experience makes her an expert when it comes to dealing with all sorts of global challenges; her knowledge of the changing geopolitics of China and the U.S., the challenges Korea faces with its neighbors specifically Japan, and forging cooperation and solidarity in the fight against the pandemic – to just name a few. However, she went beyond simply giving an answer to a specific challenge, but she explained the root of the challenges which lie with the cooperation of mankind.
Climate change and life on earth were Professor Kang’s focus in order to examine the root of the issue, and she discussed how important good leaders are needed to take charge of these existential challenges. By understanding climate change as man-made, we can take responsibility and have everyone involved in the issue (civil groups, regional and international leaders, businessmen, religious leaders, etc.). Professor Kang emphasized how much more is needed to push forward government policies and industrial actions, working together and putting aside differences is one step. Human life has become secondary when it should be prioritized, as a matter of fact, mass loss of human life, environmental disasters have become mundane, which is the issue as stated by Professor Kang.
How to change the tide against human dignity and solidarity? Professor Kang discussed the importance of going back to the fundamentals of democracy: liberty, equality, and fraternity. Once these three anchors stand strong together, the will of the people can be long and healthy. When one group’s voice is loud, another group should be able to listen to them, simply dismissing the voice hinders cooperation and deteriorates human life even further. Human rights groups and humanitarian groups should work together to assure the spirit of fraternity and human dignity.
The second half of Professor Kang’s discussion focused on the importance of leadership in the global field, as it would help tackle challenges. She discussed three different styles of leadership that she encountered throughout her work. These three include: “follow me leaders”, “serve me leaders”, and “work with me leaders”.
“Follow me leaders” are those that are good at giving orders but not good at receiving feedback and criticism, but they do work for the greater cause/organization.
“Serve me leaders” believe staff work for them and not for the organization, their focus is on their self-interest.
“Work with me leaders” are who build teams and are also team players, empower staff, do not shy in taking errors, and are good at listening and being truthful. Humans are unique so Professor Kang stressed that there will be variations in each type depending on the work.
Ultimately, what was highlighted during this part of the discussion was the fact that we need more good leaders, not just woman leaders but good leaders, while we also need more men to be good leaders. How do we get there?
“One becomes a leader not by just wishing to become a leader but by learning from good leaders and being good at what you do here and now and winning the trust and confidence of those around you”
After the discussion presented by Professor Kang, a time for Q&A was left for students to raise questions and hear from a distinguished woman leader.
Have you ever experienced a glass ceiling or a glass wall that has hindered females or their capabilities on stage due to their gender, and how have you been able to overcome it?
Definitely, in the early part of her career. When she arrived back from the U.S. after receiving her education, not everyone welcomed her back with open arms. Wherever she competed to get a university position it was always a male competitor that got the position. The glass ceiling was more visible, but decades later the glass ceiling became more subtle. It is more in the atmosphere not in the structure or rules. That is largely because, women have advanced tremendously, women are everywhere. However, women lack the informal network of support that men have. It will take a while until women have some sort of equal support, but currently, it is a more subtle barrier.
How should we approach follow me leaders and serve me leaders once we go into the workforce? What is the best advice on how to handle them?
Professor Kang highlighted the importance of finding good mentors “if you are a woman, try to find a mentor in a woman, if you are a man try to find a mentor in a woman, it is enriching.” That way by having these people, they can help you when faced with the type of leadership you do not truly appreciate. Whether it is follow me or serve me, what counts as a leader is that you motivate the crowd and bring out the best in them. You have to be respected, you have to be good at what you do, empower and motivate staff. There are follow me and serve me that could generate the same enthusiasm, in the military follow me can work really well, you have to have your own judgment and own anchor. Hopefully, you will not be too afraid or fearful of telling your leader what he or she needs to hear for the benefit of the large cause or group.
What is an urgent change that women leaders should pursue gender equality?
The situation of the women and girls in Afghanistan, since the fall of previous of the Taliban, women, and girls have made huge advances. The future of women and girls very much is threatened and the reversal of that, we should put focus on these issues. There are groups people can join, although the group might not be able to do much, it is important that we are concerned, and we support these women. The stronger the voices of the international community the better the chances they will be protected.