Academy Xi Blog

This International Women’s Day 2021, we honour our leading ladies of the Xi Tribe. Making up almost 50% of the team – we lead with inclusion and equality first. 

Thank you to the Xi Women – Inma, Kerry, Kritika, Lei, Leola, Marina, Olivia, Patsy, Ranji, Sharna, Syakirah, Tiffany and Vivian. We are grateful for all of you, and also shout out the amazing Xi men who work alongside us everyday.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme of “Women in Leadership” is something which we asked the tribe to reflect on. Have a read through our responses below.

“Who are the leading women / woman in your life?”


The leading women in my life are: 

  • My Mum – for teaching me that all my problems can be solved after a good night’s rest. 
  • My Wife – for teaching me that I can’t control what people do but I can control how I react to people. 

The incredible women I work with: 

  • Lei – That leadership is a choice and not a rank. 
  • Marina – That listening is more powerful than speaking


A few leading women in my life I don’t interact with directly, but I believe are impacting the wider world profoundly. There is a new breed of world leader, women who lead with heightened empathy for their people.

At Academy Xi we teach students to design and lead using empathy as a tool, and I believe leaders such as Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel personify this. Their ‘less confrontation / more listening’ approach is important because it works. Role models like them (and the lack of success of their opposites) could be the start of a shift in leadership style the world over.


I feel very fortunate to have grown up within the filipino culture which is marked by strong matriachical roots. Within my own family we have a history of women (my grandmothers, my mum, my aunts) who not only ran households but ran their own businesses or actively participated in the workforce. Their example taught me very early on in life about resilience and leadership.

As I reflect on this year’s IWD theme “Women in Leadership” I fully appreciate the significance of sharing the stories of the leading women in my family with my two young daughters. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see. 


The leading women in my life are my two grandmothers.

On my mother’s side is my very ‘young-at-heart’ and spritely grandmother. She is always on the go, preparing food, Skyping family all over the world on her iPad and rarely sits down to take a break. I can barely keep up!  

On my father’s side is my grandmother who just turned an impressive 102. She took up painting as a hobby only in the last 12 years and has a beautiful collection of artwork to show for it. She has also kept up her singing skills from her younger years.

I find it inspiring that both my grandmothers have never stopped learning and developing their skills – whether that be in the realm of new technology or creative hobbies. I believe this type of mindset is what keeps us happy and ‘young’. 


The leading woman in my life is my own coach. She stretches me beyond measure. When we do uncomfortable things, we grow. 


In the business setting, our Chief People Officer, Lei Iglesia plays a critical role in ensuring that our most important asset(s) – our people – work in a safe, supportive and productive environment. Lei’s ability to ensure that communication and information is regularly flowing around the business is unmatched, and sets the tone as to what a great leader looks like – showing genuine empathy; offering trusted advice and support; and being bloody great at her job!

Without Lei’s leadership, the Executive team just wouldn’t be the same, and the wider business wouldn’t run so smoothly. Lei is a trusted colleague, an integral member of the Exec team, and a fantastic leader!


I’m so fortunate to have so many amazing women in my life. My mother Lynne, of course, the woman who has battled it all, raised three beautiful children. A brave person who has explored the world, seeking truth within the unknown. She has always been the person that has supported me to follow my dreams, to be true to myself, and has held a tremendous amount of trust for me. I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without her support.

My eldest sister Laura and niece Ella, until she made me an uncle, I did not truly understand what it meant to be a mother and the challenges/rewards that come with it. Motherhood is underrated by those who haven’t been exposed to it as an adult.

My sister has inspired me to raise my children like her, and my eagerness to bring a powerful, intelligent, curious baby girl like Ella into this world. Empowering her with all that I can provide.

My youngest sister Jacki who left her corporate career in the UK to follow her passion, to pursue what truly matters. I’ve been blown away by her wisdom and courage to face her fears, step out of her comfort zone and not be afraid to challenge the status quo. Her elevate worldview and perspective holds a level of maturity that is way beyond her years.

My close friend and pseudo-sister Saskia is someone that I have always admired. Some whose extroverted charisma can get any job or task done. She’s a mum who is not afraid of any challenge and can skillfully balance multiple things at once with absolute finesse. Being a mother does not slow her down or stop her from life, if anything it has made her stronger and more resilient.


I have always gravitated towards female friendships. Interestingly, the older I get, the stronger and more steadfast a lot of these friendships become. There are a couple of fantastic women around me who carve their own path. They take risks when things aren’t obvious or clear. 

One good friend moved to New York with her husband when he landed a job over there. Far from being a ‘trailing spouse’, she has started her own business, podcast and worked remotely for the better part of the last two years. She saw the opportunity and grabbed it. 

Another close friend recently stood up to some workplace harassment when it would have been much easier to remain silent. She decided to speak up despite her concerns around what it would do to her career. She is brave, resilient and her company listened. What a remarkable example to set for the other women around her.

And then there is my Mum. Staunch feminist, attended university during the progressive 60s, attended rallies. She then decided to boost her own career in her 50s by deciding to move overseas for a new role and career promotion. Now in her 70s and into retirement, she is still leading a pretty daring life.


I can’t imagine life without my mum, Jasvinder Kaur, hands down the most inspiring woman in my life. Her actions always speak louder than words. She might not say “I love you” often, but she proves it every single day, and has been the glue that has held our family together during some tough times. Always going above and beyond for those she loves, being a rock that we can all lean on and smashing ceilings at work – she’s the best and motivates me to be the best and happiest version of myself too. 


All the women in my family have experienced so many things, good and bad, to be where they are right now. They’re not perfect but nor am I—and I think that’s what makes them amazing—the imperfections that tell you the years of hard work, perseverance, and freedom that brought them to good places in their lifetime. I haven’t been home in almost four years, and I miss them a lot.


Greatful to have so many women-spirations in my life. But to narrow down one, it has to be Halimah Yacob. She is the first Female, Malay-Muslim, Hijabi PRESIDENT OF SINGAPORE. That’s right. She is the current president of one of the most populous, advanced and thriving nation in the world. What inspires me is how she has been breaking the glass ceiling since she started her career. She became the first Malay-Muslim woman to become a Member of Parliament (MP), she was also the first female to hold the position of Speaker of Parliament.

Undoubtedly her success being the minority of minorities (female + mother + Malay + Muslim + Hijabi) have not come without criticism. When she first took office as a MP, she was asked “Who would take care of your children?”. She responded gracefully to her male counterparts pointing out that none of the male MPs were asked the same question, then stating that taking care of children is not solely a woman’s responsibility, it should be shared equally between husband and wife! #legend

All these while being a strong advocate for mental health issues and establishing two rehab centres.


The woman who I look up to each day, the woman who I call my hero, and my bestfriend is my Mom.  Growing up, my mum has been a fighter – and have  persevered in the most difficult of situations. But even so, she never lost sight of hope nor did she lose faith in the power of kindness. For the greater good, she has been selfless and taught me to think of the world greater than myself – ultimately, to help those in need  &  understand the importance of empathy.

Also – to never underestimate the impact of giving, however big or small; whether it would be the old & fragile,  those with disabilities, children without a home, or even pets who are abandoned. She inspires me to be my best self and to serve goodness to the greater community – in whichever way I can because at the end of the day, in her own words “you never know, you can start the change for someone else’s life


I’m blessed to have so many amazing women who have played integral roles in my life. But there is one woman who I’ve always looked up to since I was a child – Elma Fleming.

I run a charity with Elma (and others), and I met her when I was about 11 years old. She is mainly known for her work in the crisis centre of Wayside Chapel. Recently Elma was appointed Order of Australia and continues to provide services for the vulnerable through her charity Streethearts. 

I’ve seen the homeless run to hug her in the street as well as her walk in between 2 very large men to break up a fight in the middle of the road – and might I add Elma is a petite lady in her 70’s. She is truly leading by example and is an important role model in my life.


I have literally hundreds of leading women in my life – from family & friends to my extended family of aunties, cousins and nieces in my ancestral village, to my personal, professional, academic, artistic, spiritual and martial arts networks. Hundreds! 

But I’ll shout out here to the Australian philosopher & critical theorist Elizabeth (“Liz”) Groscz, who way back when taught me as a very inexperienced and green undergrad: she blew my mind, challenged my thinking, and exposed me to a whole new universe of ideas and discourse. The intellectual rigour, depth, discipline, critical thinking as well as openness and compassion she brought to learning was transformational, and has stayed with me ever since. I’ve never, ever forgotten it & continue to build and evolve from those lessons.

To paraphrase one of her books: “To refuse to seek answers but pose questions as paradoxes can make us more capable of bearing up to continuous effort to go against the relentless forces of sameness, more inventive in the kinds of subversion we seek, and more joyous in the kinds of struggle we choose to be called into