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Wonder woman of recruitment

Published on Friday, 16 Mar 2012
Louisa Yeung
Managing director, Michael Page International
Photo: Gary Mak

Louisa Yeung Shek-shek is the managing director for Michael Page International's finance and human resources (HR) disciplines across Hong Kong and southern China. She is also the mother of two girls, a keen runner and an action movie fan. The qualified accountant loves the challenges of her work but has managed to strike a healthy balance between her career and family life.

Yeung was born and educated in Hong Kong. She became a qualified accountant and worked for nine years with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) before moving to global recruitment consultancy Michael Page International in 1997.

"I'm the first [woman] managing director here," she says. "But I anticipate that we will have more in the long run."

Part of her decision to change careers was that she wanted children. She was about to be offered a PwC partnership but didn't feel this was a route she wanted to take. When she had her first daughter, now aged 13, Michael Page offered her a four-day week to give her more time with her family, but she was keen to maintain five days.

"From my perspective, I can fully handle my job, working five days. With a career and family, I can strike a good balance. Emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, I'm more balanced with five days' work. I've always been able to finish my work on time. I can go home and help my kids study, and then spend the evenings and weekends with my family," Yeung says.

"Also, working at Michael Page, I'm quite locally focused, even at this sort of level. I only focus on Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, so I can always go home to have dinner with the family. On weekends, I send [the kids] to ballet or piano classes."

While there are many more opportunities for women to climb the career ladder these days, Yeung thinks women in Asia feel a stronger pull from their family. "For many of my female friends, family is a natural calling. Family comes first. You can pursue your career in whatever fashion, but your family comes first," she says. "It's the Asian culture. I don't think it will change. It's just that the women have become better at mastering all their duties."

Leung describes herself as "good at compartmentalising". When she's at work, she deals with all work-related aspects, and is fast in her job. "I have two 'doors' - work and family. I never carry work home or home to work," she says.

She achieves this by telling her daughters they can only call her at work if it is urgent, and by using a timetable at home so family members know their chores.

Yeung has 15 years' recruitment experience and is a specialist in the recruitment of senior finance and HR professionals for multinational and local corporations.

She concedes that, had she left Hong Kong and gone to other parts of Asia where Michael Page was growing, she probably could have become a managing director earlier, but this would have meant being away from her family, and it was not a compromise she was prepared to make. "These are my roots, this is my family," Yeung remembers telling the company. "I have to decline."

Due to this, she says, it took her a bit longer to move up the food chain, but this has been okay.

"I strike a pretty good balance. If you want to fast-track your career path, then you do need to make sacrifices. No pain, no gain. I took a normal career path, during which time I have managed my career and kids," she says.

Yeung is a keen jogger and goes cycling with her daughters. Other hobbies include watching action movies. "Oh, you'll laugh, but I love Transformers, Captain America, Star Wars..."

At Michael Page, says Yeung, about half of frontline staff are women, ditto with managers and senior managers across Asia.

"For associate directors and above, the numbers are less. It takes time for people to come up through the ranks, and mature and flourish," she says, adding she expects more women entering the upper echelons.

Yeung describes herself as "naturally curious" and finds the recruitment industry inspiring.

"You meet a lot of clients and candidates, and very often you can learn from their success, and failures," she says. 


  • Compartmentalise your family and work life. Split the two - when you're at work, you're at work, and at home, likewise.
  • Tell your children they can call you at work only if it is urgent. (You wouldn't call them at school.)
  • Prioritise both your work and family life. You can achieve a balance by being organised and having your family life timetabled.
  • As a woman, if you want to fast-track your career, you may need to make the sacrifice of 'going international'. Or you could take a senior route in your local office, without impacting your family life, though this may take longer.
  • Don't take work home.
  • Be efficient at work, and enjoy activities with your children, including plenty of outdoor exercise.


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