Get To Know Sarah May, Founder Of Golden Phoenix Society

Hello Sarah. Can you share with us a little bit about yourself, Golden Phoenix Society and your role in the organisation?

I am a Chinese Malaysian and I fly back and forth between Malaysia and countries in South East Asia such as Vietnam, Jakarta, Cambodia, Singapore and many more often as I work as an independent digital media marketing consultant. In Vietnam, I head a Social Media Agency in Ho Chi Minh City and in Malaysia, I head the Sales team for Lowyat MSC group of company which owns the No.1 English forum in Malaysia. The Golden Phoenix Society has unofficially formed two years ago as a private social group where I started introducing my business & corporate women friends to each other and surprisingly, probably due to how like-minded they were, everybody got along fantastic with each other. We travelled together, have meetups, supported each others business, shared career issues and always tried giving each other advice. I am the type of person where I am able to become friends with someone within 15 minutes of meeting them, I am genuinely interested in people and their stories, hence, I developed a skill where I am able to connect the right people with the right skills or services to the right people who require those skills or services. That is what I enjoy doing!

What is exactly women empowerment?

There are many spectrums of women empowerment, just like there are many spectrums of feminism, colours etc. In Malaysia, there are already many NGOs and groups that are formed to help women startups, entrepreneurs, businesses, single mothers, women coders, women in science and technology, etc. My lady friends come from different backgrounds and may not fit into any of those “specific” categories. That was why I created Golden Phoenix Society-so that we can do various other “empowerment” activities together no matter how big or small that activity. Empowerment is not about creating a billion dollar business (but if you are a billionaire, that’s fantastic!). Simple things like saying “No” to patriarchy IS empowerment. Exercising on a regular basis to improve your health and physical wellbeing IS empowerment. You can always be an empowered woman no matter what age you are, what profession you choose, what background you are from, etc…every women have their own inner superpowers, strength & skills which I believe can help one another and give back to society with the encouragement of their fellow lady friends & community. For example, My mother and I are total opposites in personality-I am a go-getter, adventurous and brave but she is shy, private but is crafty and is an amazing crochet artist that has produced hundreds if not thousands of beautiful handmade crochet designs, objects and decoration. I always believe in showcasing your talents and if you really want something, go out and get it! So I encouraged her to sell her products at bazaars and also on social media and recently, she overcame her shyness and went out of her comfort zone by attending courses by the Alzheimer Society. She aims to eventually volunteer and organize events with them. This is what I want to achieve. I want to encourage the women around me to use their gifts, to be confident, to have that sense of self-worth and I hope that they encourage the women around them in the same way too!

This is the main reason why you’re creating the Golden Phoenix Society. How can the organisation complement the agenda and make the movement successful?

As I woman, I constantly find people questioning my life choices and I know many women that have faced similar pressure. “Why do you need to study so much?”, “When are you going to find a husband?”, “You’re not young anymore, aren’t you planning to have kids?”, I’ve even had countless recruiters and headhunters asking me “Are you plan to settle down within the next 3-5 years? Are you planning to have kids within the next 3-5 years?”. Why are all these strangers so concern about my life choices or the decisions that I make with my body? Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m going to eat for lunch tomorrow. Guess what? Every decision a woman makes (that is not illegal) is beautiful. Choosing to further your education is beautiful, choosing to start working at an earlier age to support your family is beautiful,  choosing to start a family is beautiful, choosing to be a housewife, career woman, artist, etc. are beautiful. We are all born different and we all have different callings in life. I believe that the Golden Phoenix Society can be a support group where women help and encourage each other no matter what decision they make in life.

It seems that every single organisation is championing the agenda. The movement somehow becomes disparate. In your opinion, do you think the movement should be centralised to become more impactful or continue to be disparate like this?

It is absolutely fantastic that many organisations are championing the agenda. Like I mentioned just now, though the main agenda is the same, every organization have different goals, vision and purposes. I believe organisations with similar goals can always work together and help each other when it comes to organizing events, etc. There is no point centralizing as everybody have their different niche, skills, needs and wants, forcing every woman into just one category is taking many steps backwards as the MAIN purpose for these organizations were so that women are empowered enough to break free from the moulds that society have put them in. We all come from different backgrounds and experience level, we just CANNOT fit into one category.

Why?

It really comes down to preferences. Some people love nasi lemak, some love roti canai, some love chicken rice and if you’re a glutton like me (haha!), you’ll love all three! Different organizations appeal to different kinds of women. For example, a working mother’s group would not appeal to me as I am obviously not a mother and would not be able to relate to issues that they face such as guilt of “going back to work as a mother” or “not being competitive at the workplace after taking time off to start a family”, etc. But if I decide to have children one day, I will face those issues myself and would need to turn to these support groups for encouragement.  I love the fact that there are so many varieties of organizations out there that aims to help women gain confidence no matter what stage a woman is in her life.

In which specific area men can help out when it comes to empowering women?

Empowerment starts from the home and also through a women’s upbringing. Turn to the women that are around you, your mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend, colleagues, etc,  look them in the eye and tell them “I believe in you!”. I am where I am today not only because of the women around me who were a constant source of inspiration to me but also because of the men in my life that have constantly said to me  “Sarah, you can do it!”-these men were bosses, mentors, friends, family and even followers on my social media pages. When I was at the lowest point of my life, I received many messages from my male followers on social media and I was touched by the amount of encouragement and support I received from these strangers. They often told me that  “You may not know who I am, but I have been following your stories and I find that you are such an inspiration to me. Please don’t give up”. You have no idea what words can do for people but somethings just words are enough for a woman to gain confidence and unleash her inner greatness.

Do you think Marketing can help Golden Phoenix Society in achieving the objective?

Definitely! That was how you found us right? We need men like yourself to believe in our causes and help create awareness by sharing our stories.

How to do it? It would be great if you can share a little bit of strategy here since you are a marketer yourself.

Having been in media for the past 9 years, I’ve had not only acquired plenty of marketing skills that have helped with marketing the group but also contacts and connections who were constantly offering to lend a helping hand and sharing out news and events of the group.

How do you see the movement’s level of success 5 years from now?

As we (the members) are all busy with our own lives and careers, we are not planning to rush anything as we believe in slow but steady progression and are always open to new ideas on how we can improve. Right now it’s still a small and private group which is made up from my own personal network of lady friends, clients, family and acquaintances. We are planning to take things slow and will organize one or two events a month. But as time goes by, and when we have more members, we would love to not only organize more women empowerment-themed events but also on a bigger scale and maybe also include women from Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Vietnam.

People are seeing various gathering on women empowerment, official speaking sessions are being done to talk about it and meetings are being organised to set the action items. Are these merely just talking or are they producing real results from your point of view?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The mere fact that people are coming together for the same positive intention to promote women empowerment and the effort that they put into organised such talks, events and meetings is an achievement that all of these organizations should be applauded for. The main thing about empowerment is changing mindsets from a negative to a positive one. Even in businesses, marketing or in advertising, it delusional to expect immediate or “real” results. A person will change ONLY if they want to. However, it is good to have constant reminders and encouragement and in this case, it is through these constant talks, events and meetings that are held that changes mindset gradually. I always encourage my members to come up with activities which interest them and I support with the digital marketing aspect of it.

Besides digital, do you see traditional marketing role can contribute to Golden Phoenix Society’s marketing goals this year?

On ground events and word-of-mouth through the members.

How about PR?

I am very thankful and grateful that my members are very well-connected ladies and are extremely supportive of the group’s effort in empowering women in Malaysia. We are already in discussion with other organizations, companies, media outlets, celebrities and public figures to work together on and to come up with events, programs or seminars that would help us achieve our goals.

Your marketing wish list for Golden Phoenix Society this year would be? Please share with us your top 5.

Grow our membership, work together on ideas and events that help with women empowerment, work with other women empowerment groups, grow our presence via our social media platforms and last but not least, share personal inspirational stories of our members using our online platforms.

The best way to contact you?

The best way to contact me is to send me a private message via my LinkedIn or email me at lowsarahmay@gmail.com

Anything you wish to share with the readers?

Believe in yourself and be a little bit of a rebel. Give me the name of women who have changed the world-Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Margaret Thatcher, Malala Yousafzai, Amelia Earhart. Do you realise something? Well-behaved and obedient women have NEVER created history! Even Disney princesses (I’m a big Disney fan!) like Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan are rebels.

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