Women in law leading the way – Jaclyn Jhin

Author Samantha Fong
March 13, 2019

Taylor Root is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with.

Lauren Pang interviews Jaclyn Jhin, Managing Director, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, CLSA.

Jaclyn joined CLSA (which is a wholly owned subsidiary of CITIC Securities) in 2014. She currently oversees both Legal and Compliance globally, and is a member of CLSA’s Executive Committee, reporting directly to the CEO and Chairman of CLSA.  Prior to joining CLSA, Jaclyn worked at Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific based in Hong Kong for eight years covering the Asia-Pacific region. Jaclyn joined Morgan Stanley in 2004 as in-house lawyer in the Legal & Compliance Department in Hong Kong covering GCM/IBD Legal. From 2009 until she left, she was promoted to Managing Director, COO and Chief Risk Officer of Morgan Stanley Global Capital Markets Asia Pacific (ex-Japan) based in Hong Kong.  

Jaclyn currently serves as director or advisor for several Nonprofit Organizations, including; YMCA Hong Kong, Mind HK, Light of Hope Asia Foundation in China, SOW Asia and International Care Ministries in the Philippines.  She was the Winner of Euromoney’s Female In-House Lawyer of the Year 2017 and Winner of Asia Legal Business Hong Kong In-House Lawyer of the Year 2009.

In your experience as a successful woman, what is the significance of International Women’s Day?

For me, it is a day when we celebrate women’s achievements and also consider what each of us can do better in order to increase gender equality at work.  It is an opportunity to assess whether my company and our external law firms are doing enough to address some of the issues and challenges that women face. I also use this day to consider whether I, personally, have done enough to help other women advance their careers.  If each of us, who are in a leadership position, took the initiative to sponsor and/or mentor other women, then we can make a huge impact on the number of women who make it to the top.   We have to realize that each one of us can make a difference. We don’t need a “formal” program to authorize us to mentor or sponsor someone. We can just do it.  Ask someone out for coffee or lunch and get to know each other. 

It is also a day to consider what women have been through since the inception of International Women’s Day in 1911.  Think about all the courageous women before us who have fought for equality over the decades and the struggles they must have faced even to get a job.  We should applaud them and thank them for all that they have done for us.  There is still much work to be done to level the playing field on gender equality but without these amazing women before us, our struggles would be even more pronounced.  One of my role models is the Justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  She is a remarkable woman.  When she was at Harvard Law School in 1957, only 2% of the class were women.  The Dean of Harvard would organize a dinner for the new incoming class, and he would ask each woman to stand up and address his one question, which was: “What do you think you are doing by taking a seat that could be occupied by a man?”  I found that shocking.  One thing she said that really resonated with me was that she felt, “constantly on display”. “If you didn’t perform well you were failing, not only for yourself but for all women.”  I often feel the same way.  As one of very few female General Counsels in Hong Kong, you do feel that you are on display and you need to always feel that you have to prove yourself. 

What are your main achievements as the Chief Legal and Compliance Officer of CLSA?

In my position, I am pleased that I have been able to sponsor a few women within CLSA.  For example, a couple of women became COOs of various business lines.  I realize now that we can use our influence to make changes within the organization – it is a slower process, but it can be effective.  I’ve also used my position to speak to our Executive Committee and provided suggestions as to how we can get more women in senior positions within CLSA.  I’m fortunate that they are willing to address it by taking certain actions, such as launching a talent succession program and mentoring plan.
I’m also very proud of my Legal and Compliance team.  The people within CLSA’s Legal and Compliance Department work extremely well together, and they try their best to help each other.  I always remind them that we must share our knowledge, and we should never be an information hoarder E.g. People who believe that information is power and therefore, they don’t share.  Our team doesn’t do that.  We help each other to grow and develop.  We are also one of the few global companies headquartered in Hong Kong.  This means that we drive most of the global regulatory changes, such as Volcker, Dodd Frank Title VII, Brexit and MiFid II from Hong Kong.   Very few in-house teams, including the US financial institutions, would initiate and drive the Volcker review and manuals from Hong Kong.   We are a small, productive and efficient team but we are willing to take on new tasks and challenges without any hesitation.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

I’ve faced many barriers as a woman.  One example was when I decided to take a few years off to raise my kids.  When I was ready to return to the workforce, I interviewed with many law firms in Hong Kong and one senior partner in a US law firm told me that he will never hire someone like me because he doesn’t feel that a female lawyer with young kids should come back to work.  He thought it was best if I just stayed home and be a mom.  I remember telling him that whether or not I come back to work was my decision and my issue, not his to make for me.  Of course, I didn’t get that job, but thank goodness that Milbank believed in me and hired me. 

There is also the problem of being stereotyped. When women do move up the ranks, we want women bosses to be nurturing, likeable and warm, because that’s what we expect women to be like. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious, powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty.
The Center for Creative Leadership’s White Paper found that traditional stereotypes of leaders such as being assertive, having authority and taking initiative are misidentified as typically “male traits.”  When women take the lead and assert ourselves we could be perceived as aggressive, emotional or irrational. Ambitious men are seen as natural and unremarkable. But when women are ambitious, it’s shocking, offensive and selfish.  Like Sheryl Sandberg said, “Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women”.  The higher on the corporate ladder a woman climbs, the less likable she is perceived to be.  In the case of a man, the opposite is true.
So it is a constant juggling act between being nice and approachable but not too emotional and not too ambitious. We need to be excellent in what we do and at the same time be relatable and likeable.  No wonder there are so few female CEOs – it is exhausting!

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career as an in-house counsel?

Henry Ford said, “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”  I agree with Mr. Ford.  I believe a successful in-house lawyer should understand the needs of the business, be part of the business team, and try to assist in finding viable solutions to achieve the company’s goals.  Our role is to assist our internal clients by thinking through the issues and trying to come up with solutions or alternatives.
In addition, I always tell women that, for women to succeed, we have to understand the financials. You have to know basic accounting, you have to be able to see the big picture strategically and you have to know the numbers affecting the big pictures.  A lot of women I’ve known don’t realize how important that is.  It doesn’t matter if you are not in the revenue generating part of the business, such as sales, or support functions.  In order to make it to the top we have to understand the strategy of the company and understand its financials.
At the end of the day, you can tell a lot about a company by just looking at the numbers. I think women need to do more of that in order to advance into leadership.  We can do it, but we’re so focused on doing well in our own department that we forget you have to be able to look at the company from a strategic and financial perspective – like an owner of the company would – if you want to make it to the top.  Otherwise, management will think you’re only good in your one area and nothing more.

What is your biggest driver and motivation to get to where you are today?

I am passionate about helping other women to succeed. In fact, I’m currently writing a non-fiction booked called “Sisterhood in the Workplace” – how women can help each other to succeed.  I mentor many women, and I’m getting an Executive Coaching certificate from INSEAD, France, so that I can use the tools that I have learned at INSEAD to really assist other women in the corporate world.

If we want more women at the top, then we need to show solidarity and encourage each other.   We need to promote each other. In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she mentioned four female bankers who decided to promote each other, and they ended up moving up.  Let’s be vocal for our sisters.

This means don’t exacerbate the stereotyping. We need to recognize that we may be holding other women back by encouraging the negative stereotyping of successful women. Don’t allow people to describe a successful senior woman, as “dragon lady”, or “bitchy”.
This also means let’s stop the double standards of female bosses over men.  Many women set unrealistically high standards and expectations on female managers.  Research confirmed that female employees hold their female managers to different standards than they do their male managers. 

I would like to end by saying this, if we want more women at the top, then we need to show solidarity and encourage each other.  It is time to take an honest look at how we treat one another in the workplace and strive for greater professionalism and support for one another. Rather than pick on the flaws and be each other’s fiercest critics, we need to praise those who have succeeded. 

We need to praise those who have a flair for self-promotion and understand the political savvy it takes to get to the top. If you hear women being catty about another woman, let’s stop them and replace with positive comments.  Let’s be a promoter, a mentor and a real sister.  Let’s get sisterhood in the workplace.