Women on the rise
Sophie Cai built strength and confidence with the support of mentors and leaders. A new Corning development program builds on these relationships to help women rise together.
For Corning to remain competitive in key emerging markets, we must elevate women's voices in Asia. Leaders in the region have introduced a new program - Rising Together - to better understand Corning’s role in gender diversity in Asia and build upon the progress we’ve made.
Sophie Cai, director of Corning Display’s program management office in Taipei, Taiwan, is a key contributor in the development of Rising Together. She had a successful career in the Chinese mainland at a prestigious global consulting and strategy firm. When her daughter was born in 2012, Sophie found frequent required travel, late nights, and work weekends weren’t sustainable in her new family life. That’s when Sophie found Corning.
More and more, women professionals in Asia are seeking high-powered careers and are balancing these development paths with longstanding, and often formal, cultures. Corning is deeply focused on helping women build these fulfilling careers.
“Corning has a rather distinctive culture. Talent here has a better chance of being developed and having exposure to leadership at early stages of their careers. That’s really attractive to young talent,” Sophie says. “Teamwork is important here, but Corning also values the Individual and that really resonates with me.”
Of Corning’s seven core Values, employees around the world most often say they appreciate the company’s focus on the Individual. Part of valuing the Individual includes ensuring employees have opportunities to grow their skills and develop into leaders, while encouraging them to maintain full personal lives.
Sophie’s passion for this topic has led to direct action. She is a foundational member of Rising Together and she’s sharing her career journey with other emerging women leaders in Asia through this program that creates a network of mentorship and provides opportunities for development.
Gender diversity and advancing opportunities for women have long been priorities for Corning, but leaders know the company can do more. John Zhang, senior vice president and general manager of Corning Display, knows the company succeeds when it develops its talent. That’s why he’s helping the women in Asia rise to their fullest potential.
“Gender diversity is critical to our continued success. A variety of perspectives and approaches brings vital insights to strategy-setting and decision-making,” John said. “We’re committed to making progress – to hiring, developing, and retaining exceptional women leaders.”
Rising Together addresses the unique cultural needs of professional women across the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, the Chinese mainland, India, Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan.
The program demonstrates Corning’s refreshing commitment to gender diversity in a region where, Sophie says, women still struggle to break out of traditional gender roles.
“When my daughter started school, she quickly picked up a difference between our family and her classmates’ families - mom spends more time at work and dad spends more time with the family. I am glad that I showed her a broad range of possibilities for women’s roles,” Sophie said. “In Asia, women tend to be modest and reserved, which is different than what is typically required as a leader. It took me a while to find my own leadership style. I learned to be confident and more assertive.”
Years ago, before a program like Rising Together was available, Sophie began developing her own professional “conscious learning process.” She studied leadership books and sought the counsel of leaders and peers. Now, women in Corning Asia don’t have to do it on their own. Rising Together’s committed mentorship program pairs emerging talent with seasoned leaders who encourage their journeys to personal and professional success.
Retaining those emerging leaders requires ensuring they have personal satisfaction and the professional tools they need to thrive. John tapped Sophie and other colleagues to help develop Rising Together in 2021. Corning treated the initiative like any business development project: they formed objectives, set a scope, and planned a strategy.
“John has this clear goal of what he wants to achieve with this program, and he has been truly committed – advocating for the cause on different forums, providing guidance and support to all workstreams, taking on multiple mentees himself,” Sophie says.
With the success of the program in 2021, Rising Together sponsors and participants are excited about the plans for 2022 and beyond. The team will expand its popular mentorship program and regional networking events and will provide opportunities for discussion with senior executives and best-practices sharing.
A flexible-work pilot will track job satisfaction and performance, while also incorporating benchmark data from other companies. And an annual gender equality survey will continue, capturing feedback for future initiatives and honing the program's focus. [Learn more about the program in Corning’s 2021 DEI Report.]
"Motivating and enabling our colleagues to realize their full potential is important to Corning's success," Sophie says. "To live up to one's full potential gives life a higher altitude, a greater sense of fulfillment, and more freedom. In addition to career development, Rising Together aims to enhance job satisfaction for women, making Corning a better workplace for all."