Editor’s Note 2 – Influential Women

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Creating the list of Brunei’s Top 50 Most Influential Women has been both a challenging and an enriching experience.

Throughout this journey, people who have been interested in this project have been both curious and supportive. They have given us feedback and their questions have helped us to reevaluate and to improve on the end product – the result of which is presented to you in this list of 50 honorees who reflect the strength and conviction of all Bruneian women.

We think that the lessons which we’ve learnt from doing this project are worth sharing and hope that you too will find this Q&A segment interesting.

Why Top 50 and not Top 10, Top 20 or Top 100?
Unfortunately there is no easy or definitive answer to this question.The truth is, there is also no scientific reason for this number. It (50) simply sounds good, and looks good on the magazine cover.

Besides, featuring 100 people is too many; and (at 100) the list would have lost it’s exclusivity for a small population like Brunei. At the time we picked ‘50’, it seemed just right, because we thought we could include all the great women without omitting anyone.

If you were to ask me to cut the current list down to just Top 20, it would be impossible.

Did 50 turn out to be ‘just the right number’ operationally?
The short answer is: No. At the time, we thought that it was a brilliant idea and a worthwhile project. However, we underestimated the complexity involved in the execution of this project. For a start, we needed to ask for the consent of everyone featured on this list before being able to publish their names since we needed their input for their synopses. As we were dealing with some of the most high profile and busiest women in Brunei, contacting them and obtaining information from them was a major logistical challenge. Imagine going through such a huge number of resumes in an attempt to condense their personal information and achievements into 150 words!

How long did you have to prepare for this project?
From the conception of the idea to the publication of this magazine:- six weeks.

With such a tight deadline, how accurate is this list?
There are a number of ways in which you could approach developing a Top 50 Most Influential Women list. If this was another magazine publishing the same title, the names may have been quite different. However, I am confident that the core of the list would have been similar, if not the same.

How did you come up with the list?
Firstly, we came up with a broad guideline for-:

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Secondly, before we even got down to the names, we asked ourselves which sectors within the community would have the most influence?

Thirdly, we came up with 6 key sectors:

The Government / Multinational and Major Corporations / SMEs / Media, Art & Entertainment / NGOs / Education & Health.

And finally, we put together committees – their job was to give us their opinions, contacts and recommendations. The committee members consisted of key influencers in the business, media and the government sectors, who have the most diverse range of networks and contacts imaginable in Brunei.

Before we knew it, our list went way over the mark of 50 people

How then, did you narrow it down to 50?
Elimination was perhaps the toughest part of the job. All the women who had been shortlisted have made significant contributions and are equally inspiring, influential and impressive in their own way.

The last thing that we wanted to do was to make this a competition, which is why, we have not ranked the Top 50 list.

We tried to be very pragmatic in our decision, to match the women on the list to the definition and criteria which we defined as ‘Influential’.

It soon became apparent, although not in all cases, that women who held senior positions in larger organisations seemed to exert a greater level of influence.

We tried implementing a point systems, matching each person to the selection criteria in their category. However, we soon realised a much bigger consideration was the quality and the significance of each person’s work.

In the end, we embarked on the long and tedious process of screening through the information, asking endless questions and having many internal debates.

We noticed that some of the major industries and organisations are not represented on your list. How then, can you claim accuracy for what you have produced?
Without taking the credit away from the Top 50 women being featured, the objective of this exercise is to celebrate the achievements of all women. And we believe that these 50 women symbolise those in the wider community.

Indeed, some of the women in the key organisations are not represented here. As explained, every person who has been featured has given us the consent to publish their name and personal information. There were people who declined to participate in this project and we respect their decision.

We have endeavoured to produce a comprehensive list within the circumstances and believe that if you take the time to read through the synopses of the individuals who have been featured, you too will agree that they deserve our full recognition.

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What have you learnt from this research?
Getting your Team On Board
From the project management point of view, this would have been an impossible task for one person to accomplish. The idea was not even entirely mine to start with (it came up in an informal brainstorming session in the car together with our UBD intern, Nurul)! We had a team of dedicated people who bought into the goal of this project and they worked tirelessly behind the scenes to produce this labour of love.

Taking a (calculated) Risk
Before the start of the project we knew that by going forward with this project we would be putting our reputation on the line. We realised that we would never be able to please everybody and that there would definitely be people who would disagree with our decisions. However we firmly believe that this project has been a truly worthwhile one and that this publication will be an enduring legacy for future generations.

The Ultimate Reward
There is no greater privilege than being able to read through and be inspired by the incredible accomplishments of these 50 outstanding women in our society. That, in itself, is a priceless reward.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!