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Kamonwan Wipulakorn on how Thailand is getting it right



Kamonwan Wipulakorn CEO of One Origin, a subsidiary of one of Thailand’s largest real estate developers Origin Property Pcl, explains Thailand’s progressive workplace culture.




Q: In Thailand, what are the barriers facing women in getting into senior leadership roles?

I’ve never felt that there were barriers for women getting into leadership roles in Thailand, but I do see it is an issue elsewhere.

In Thailand in general, you see more and more women given the opportunity to run organisations. We have a very open work culture and are probably in the top 10 countries in the world for the number of women in leadership roles.

Q: Do you see a bias towards women recruited for their proven ability and men recruited for their potential?

I don’t. I’m not a business owner, and I’ve been working for someone else all of my career. I have never felt that I was in a position competing with other candidates because of gender. I think there may actually be an advantage in being a woman now; there is so much focus on diversity because it reflects better decision making in business. There is more and more opportunity for women to go to the top.

If we’re talking about inequality in the workplace in Thailand, it’s less about gender, and more to do with background, having a specific last name, or having a particular association.

Q: Regarding your own business, what would you say are the benefits of having teams with more gender diversity?

In the hotel and leisure service industry, diversity is an advantage. In all positions, whether at head office – which is more investment focused – or working in the hotel at any level, you could be male or female, it doesn’t make any difference at all.

There is more diversity in the service industry because the majority of the work revolves around human relationships. You need the different qualities you have between men and women to deliver excellent service to the customer.

Q: Do the laws and regulations in Thailand benefit diversity in the workplace?

The law supports women; paid maternity leave is much longer than it used to be. However, most companies are willing to provide even more leave. Much of it is to do with the willingness of companies to be supportive.

Businesses are often ranked by diversity, not through any regulation, but the rankings show which companies have more women on their boards or in senior management. When companies see the names of their peers up there, they feel pressure to ensure that they too have proper diversity in their business.

Q: What does an inclusive business culture look like within your business?

We see diversity at all levels. But in other aspects we welcome comment from everyone, we don’t do the top-down decision making. Everyone in the company drives the business. For every decision or project, it comes from a team, not from one person. The way we make decisions comes from the different opinions in the team, and it is always cross-functional, and everyone has the same chance to get their views across.

This approach is quite common, especially among the big corporations in Thailand. That’s why they become so big; I believe that if the organisation does not embrace diversity, it is difficult to grow. For family businesses who haven’t yet transformed into that corporate environment it may be different – there is perhaps not so much diversity there.

Read our Women in business report or explore more stories from Champions around the world on Champions home page.