#TheGoodWomen: Anthea Ong – Explorer . Coach . Full-time Human

Anthea Ong

Human . Traveller . Yogi . Nominated Member of Parliament . Founder of Hush TeaBar


When Anthea smiles, delicate crinkles form around her crescent-shaped eyes. One look at her will tell you that this is a woman who has been through many battles but also tasted the success that came after.

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As the founder of Hush TeaBar, Anthea aspires to “bring the worlds of hearing and non-hearing together” through Singapore’s first silent Teabar. Bespoke teas are served by Deaf TeaRistas in this meditative experience that aims to calm the mind and promote self reflection.

So what’s her life story?

Anthea was born with an eye-defect, leaving her susceptible to cruel taunts and name-calling when she was younger. This spurred her drive in pursuing a fast and furious career, landing herself a role as the Managing Director of an international company at the tender age of 25.

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Yet, a series of misfortunes ensued: “a heart-shattering divorce, a failing business, a depleting bank account”, all of which led to what she termed a “colossal collapse” of her life.

But we’re all too familiar that life sometimes works in the most ironic of ways.

“When there was nothing more to lose, I was given everything.  It has been nothing short of a curious, wondrous and liberating journey. I started listening in a deeper way. I am the result of the love of thousands, no longer the accolades that stack up on the resume.”

And so began her path of self-discovery and transformation. With her new-found bravery and seasonedness, she now tackles life with a renewed vigour and gusto.

“Life happens, I just show up.

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That, and other life mottos like “Better to be kind than to be right” all culminate to how Anthea lives her life now. She constantly emphasises that she is “human”, and perhaps we have to traverse beyond our “duh” reactions when considering this role, acknowledging that there is a rawness in the term that allows us to find strength amidst our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

“I’m a full-time human and part-time everything else, and because of that, I’m multi-dimensional in potential.”

Other than her many roles, including being the founder of Hush TeaBar and a Nominated Member of Parliament, Anthea is also an avid traveller, or an “Explorer” as she calls herself.

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She’s come face-to-face with Nature’s giants all on her own, from Everest’s Base Camp to Machu Picchu, Mount Sinai, and the Amazon Rainforest. She even conquered Antarctica early last year as part of the 2041 ClimateForce Leadership on the Edge Antarctica Expedition, led by the world-renowned explorer Sir Robert Swan.

“The farther I travel out, the deeper I travel within.”

What does being a woman leader mean to you?

Anthea: We don’t lean in! We celebrate the femininity in us to lead with authenticity and humanity, and always with the bigger intent of creating opportunities for the others in our team to realise their potential as human beings. We hold space and nurture to create leaders, not to build followers.

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I’m not being cheeky but (when I think of women leaders), I think of all the mothers of mindful and strong male leaders! Seriously, I also think of all the girls like Malala who lead causes that make them larger than life.”

When asked how women can succeed in their careers amidst the traditional mindset that some career paths are more “suitable” for women, Anthea recalls the time she was interviewed as an inventor of education technology and touted as the poster girl in a male-dominated IT sector.

“The reporter asked if I have ever been stopped in my tracks – the glass ceiling – and my response was: if it’s glass, it means you can see through to see what’s beyond. So if we choose not to break through that for whatever reasons, it’s our choice.”

While she agrees that deeply entrenched mindsets about women have to change, she stresses that the most urgent ones to change are “ours”. Women “need to know that we hold up half the sky but we can only stay there if we show up.

In other words, half the sky is already yours ladies, now the next step is to realise it and own it.

 

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