It’s a different world today than it was 50 years ago, but perhaps not different enough for women. Stories of abuse and discrimination still flood the news, and that is why organisations like UN Women — a branch of the United Nations dedicated to gender equality — exist, and why men like Bastian van Halder are crucial for spreading the movement’s awareness.
Van Halder is the winner of this year’s Husband/Partner category in the HeForShe Impact Awards, part of a solidarity focused campaign organised by the Singapore Committee for UN Women, and was nominated by his wife Casheen for putting his career on hold in order to further hers.
(RELATED: More on the HeForShe movement, which is all about men championing the gender equality cause.)
When Casheen was asked to head Business Strategy and Development, Asia at SMC Ltd four years ago, van Halder quit his job and the pair left their home in London for a new life in Singapore.
“I had to start over with no reputation in this market, but I told her I would let her take the lead as her career was going very well and I wanted her to keep that momentum going,” he shares. He may be the director of corporate finance in Asia Pacific for Jones Lang LaSalle now, but when they first moved here, he was more than happy to take on a support function at home.
“She had 20-hour workdays and even worked on some weekends, so I took care of the shopping and administrative duties and essentially created a home.” Needless to say, friends and family had a lot to say about the matter, asking if he was sure about making the sacrifice.“You want to make decisions with confidence. But ultimately, the most important person is the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with and engaging with daily.”
This support extends to his workplace as well. “I work in South-east Asian markets and I’ve noticed that women’s roles in some countries are still defined by their historical contexts, so I am always trying to encourage our female staff to take the lead in meetings and investor presentations,” he says, adding that it’s all part of empowering people as a whole.
“Women are given more opportunities these days, but only up to a certain point. We have to break away from this ‘boy’s club’ mentality and be more inclusive.”