In celebration of International Women’s Day, City News talks to four women working in the corporate world to share with us how they put God in the centre of their work and their lives.
Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the “perfect” woman, a wife of noble character who does it all—runs the household, cooks, invests, makes clothing, provides for her children and servants, gives to the poor, helps her husband etc. Most notably, she is described as “a woman who fears the Lord“.
It is no secret that women play a multitude of roles at work and at home. Working women experience considerable pressure to be great workers and yet great wives and mothers, or daughters and caregivers. While these challenges will not go away, there is a “secret” to balancing all that a woman needs to do, and that secret is putting God first.
We asked four City Harvest Church members—corporate women at different life stages—to share with us how God comes into their work and their lives, and how they find the balance amidst the busyness.
ELEANOR LEE: That I May Walk Worthy Of The Lord
Eleanor describes herself as “an assurance partner in a Big 4 professional services firm”, having built a long and rich career in audit. Outside of her work, she also serves on several boards and committees, including being the chairperson of the audit committee of AWWA, a non-profit organisation focused on supporting the disadvantaged. She views these as opportunities to build a more caring and inclusive society for those who have financial and other special needs.
“I have been a Christian for about 25 years. I came to CHC in 1997, and ‘grew up’ spiritually here,” says Eleanor. “It was here that I met God, learnt to walk with Him, studied the Word. In short, the City Harvest family helped me find my purpose and my calling.”
Eleanor found her life aspiration that year through a Bible reading programme conducted by the church. “I came across Colossians 1:10—’that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him’. This verse jumped out at me and made me very concerned. ‘How can I walk worthy of Jesus? For all that He had sacrificed for me, how can my walk be worthy of that?’”
“John 15:5—‘I am the vine, you are the branches. he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing’—is one of my favourite verses. It is what I want my walk with God to look like; it is an ‘aim’ and a reminder that I use to check and reflect on my walk with Him.
Her gifting in her corporate work has opened doors for her to serve, but Eleanor’s career has its fair share of challenges. While many face the temptation to let work take priority, she learned from church how to overcome it.
“Years ago, Pastor Kong said something very simple that has stuck with me over the years. I paraphrase: ‘If you put God first, He will take care of everything else under Him. If you put anything above Him, He will not take care of that thing.’ I try to put Him first in my life—at work, in my family, my ministry. When challenges come, I remind Him that it is in His control and He promised to take care of it. I also know that doesn’t mean all problems will disappear like magic. He walks with me through those challenging times, and I am assured that I can overcome it and come out stronger,” she shares.
In Cigma’s 2019 well-being survey, working women report experiencing greater stress than men in the workforce. Eleanor points out there is a difference between pressure and stress, something she learned from a teaching by Dr AR Bernard on 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. “The life of God in us, the earthen vessels, enables us to withstand the external pressures that try to crush us. Such pressures will always be present in life—work pressures, finances, relationships,” she explains. “One definition of stress says that it is ‘our body’s response to pressure. It is often triggered when we experience something new or unexpected that threatens our sense of self or when we feel that we have little control over a situation.’ Having God in us helps us prevent those pressures from turning into stress points and crushing us.”
Eleanor lays a strong foundation by building and maintaining a strong spiritual life, which allows her to manage the pressures of life. She creates ways for herself to centre on God in her daily activities: memorising verses by using them as passwords, worshipping God on her commute, and participating in the Christian fellowship meeting at her workplace, which has served both to remind her and her Christian colleagues of God’s presence in their workplace, and to reach out to and support other believers in the marketplace.
It is not uncommon for women leaders in the marketplace to face self-doubt when expectations are not met. For Eleanor, this is when her spiritual foundation carries her through—sometimes in surprising ways.
“One of the most disappointing times in my life was when I did not get an important promotion. It shook my confidence and I began to doubt whether I was good enough,” she recalls. “But instead of comforting me, I felt God leading me to take time off work and attend the School of Creative Arts (run by CHC). On many fronts, this was not logical—I was ‘next in line’ for the promotion, I’m not particularly creatively gifted, and what use will I have for a SCA certificate? But I obeyed. God opened doors to me to work part time during SCA. He showed me favour so I was able to juggle both work and the SCA curriculum, and He taught me resilience when things got tough. On hindsight, it was one of the most rewarding seasons of my life. And the promotion came after I completed SCA.”
She notes that women have what it takes to take on and surmount many pressures. “Women juggle many responsibilities in our lives: work, children, parents, ministry, to name a few. Fortunately, we are also gifted at multi-tasking!” she says. “I have prayed many times for God to give me grace and wisdom to complete tasks faster and more accurately than one would normally.”
Work-life balance may be an impossibility to some, Eleanor chooses to define what that looks like: “Balance means to determine and manage my priorities in a particular season. Some priorities are temporary; some stay the same. I find this more effective than trying to manage the time spent on work versus outside work.
“Finally, I never forget that God is at the centre of all that I do. When I put Him first, He helps me handle all the other aspects of my life.”
SHANNON TAN: God is like the air I breathe
Shannon Tan is a regional finance director and managing director at a digital strategy and software engineering firm. While she mostly works from home, a typical day is filled with online meetings with her financial teams around the APAC region. When the need arises, she also travels to meet her teams in different cities. In Singapore, as managing director, she manages the different departments within her company.
Outside of work, Shannon devotes her time to her family and church. At home, she prepares meals for her three children Eden, 18, Esther, 7 and Eunice, 6. In church, she spends time connecting with her cell group members.
“CHC is not just a church to me, it is my family and my life,” says Shannon. “Serving in ministries and helping my brothers and sisters is just part of my role as a sister in Christ in this big family. Likewise, when I’m in need my CHC family is always there for me.” This is why she sits on the audit committee of the CHC Management Board and also serves on the board of City Harvest Community Services Association.
Shannon came to know God during a difficult season in her life. She was studying at university in Australia and was also working three jobs to support herself and pay her school fees. Her days were long, leaving her exhausted and feeling lost. One day, her colleague at a restaurant shared Jesus with her, and she asked him if knowing Jesus would give her a better life. She remembers, “Without hesitation, he replied, ‘Definitely!’”
Shannon gave her life to Jesus there and then and the last 27 years with God have been “amazing”. “Although my life was still filled with many challenges and trials, having Jesus as my Lord gave me strength, love, hope, and joy every single day!” she says.
“God is like the air I breathe. He gives me life, supports me, stays close to me and never leaves me. The more I get to know Him the more I realise I can’t live without Him,” says Shannon. “His Spirit fills me with lots of love, joy, peace as well as wisdom and understanding every day. Without His presence my life would be so dull and miserable. That’s why one of my favourite verses, which I proclaim every day, is Isaiah 11:2.”
Shannon consciously invites God into her every day life—be it when she needs to make a critical decision at work or when she is just chatting with her children, she would ask for His intervention and wisdom. “His spirit always gives me understanding, empowering, and enabling me,” she says.
As a working mom who serves God faithfully, Shannon has many things to juggle in life. Inevitably, life becomes stressful. At a recent Leader’s Meeting, CHC’s senior Pastor Kong Hee encouraged the cell group leaders and connect group leaders of the church to be “non-anxious leaders”—a message Shannon takes to heart. She says, “I ask God to renew my mind every day and help me to rely on Him but not on my own abilities.”
To keep her “work-life-God” balance in check, Shannon is very clear about her priorities. “I can’t stay balanced by giving equal weightage of my time to all three areas,” she points out. “Instead, I need to get my priorities right every day.
“My roles are being a child of God first, followed by wife, then mother, then a servant of Christ in ministry. My role as the ambassador of Christ in the workplace comes last amongst all these. Without managing my more important roles well, I would not make a good marketplace ambassador.”
Addressing women in the corporate world, Shannon says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and the rest will be added to us, even in the marketplace. Instead of focusing on how to climb the corporate ladder, let’s fix our eyes on our Lord and He will open doors and moves us to an influential position at the right time.
“Constantly find needs and meet them, find hurts and heal them in the workplace. The rest will be taken care of by our Lord. He will send the right colleagues to support us, the right bosses to promote us and the right solutions to our problems. Revenue will come and the organisation will be blessed because His children are there.”
CINDY KOH: I trust that God will provide
As a business manager for UBS’s philanthropy services in Southeast Asia, Cindy Koh leads a team to assist the bank’s clients in giving back to society. Depending on the client’s area of interest, her team curates and maps out a programme with their partners to ensure that their client’s giving creates maximum impact.
Cindy has always been passionate about social causes. She started her career with CityCare, CHC’s former humanitarian arm, moving on to a role in corporate social responsibility for another organisation before joining UBS.
Her love for serving the community is also evident in the way she serves in church. Married to Ong Wei Ren, a pastoral supervisor in CHC, Cindy has been a cell group leader for the past 19 years. “I stepped down from leadership for a season to deal with my personal issues. In those two years, I focused on myself and on school, but when I sat down in church and looked around me, I felt so useless,” she says with a laugh.
“Everybody was contributing to the house of God in some way and I wanted to contribute too. I receive so much from God, I just wanted to serve Him in any way I can.”
That led her to keep serving God’s people throughout her university days and after she joined the workforce. Even when her children Matthias, 7 and Mikkel, 5 came along, Cindy did not stop serving.
“My cell group members play a part,” she says. “It’s my privilege that they see me as a person they can confide in, to share their journey with. Whenever I have thoughts of stepping down, I think of them and know that it’s a privilege to just be around, serving them and serving God.”
Even though Cindy’s day is often packed with many activities surrounding her children and her work, she would purposefully carve out time to spend with God. “I use my running time to either listen to worship songs or sermons. My commute is when I read my Bible. Thankfully, I have a meditation room in my office, so when I feel overwhelmed, I would go and seek God during my lunch hour,” she reveals. One spiritual habit she keeps is to pray in tongues throughout the day and when things quieten at night.
She is thankful that God has placed people around her who always remind her of His presence in her life. “Just yesterday, a taxi driver shared with me on how God protected him from an accident,” she says.
On days when she feels like her spiritual tank is running low, she makes a conscious effort to reconnect with God by either going for a walk or praying and worshiping Him.
God is faithful and will always provide for women in the workplace, says Cindy. “Provision not just in terms of finances or resources, but in any area that we find ourselves lacking,” she assures. “Sometimes, we worry a lot. When our children are sick and need to stay home, we worry about how to manage them and get our work done. But God will provide a way out. He will provide a solution for your work, He will provide the healing. He will always come just in time.”
The secret is to trust in the Lord with all one’s heart. “We women want to plan, we want to control,” notes Cindy. “But when we reach the end of our rope, we have to trust Him. It has been proven over and over again that God will provide and things will work out eventually. I think we need to remember that.”
SARAH LEE: God is my best Friend
As a consultant quantity surveyor (QS), Sarah’s job requires her to manage the finances—commercials or commercial viability—for her clients’ construction projects. Sarah works with her clients or the developers on cost planning and the calling of tenders, right up to the closing of the account upon completion of projects.
“I assess construction costs and determine whether is it reasonably priced by industry’s standards,” she explains. Being a young woman in an industry that is mostly run by men old enough to be her father can be challenging.
It’s not a career many young women would choose, but for Sarah, it’s a calling. “Being a QS was one of the options I had upon graduation,” she explains. “During my second year break in university, I decided to take on an intern QS role. Opportunities then kept coming, so I did another internship as a QS for another company the next year, and I was offered a scholarship.”
She adds, “I’ve experienced much grace and favour from God since my decision to become a QS. I was assured that it was a calling from God during one worship session led by Pastor Edmund during a zone camp. The worship leader led us in the song ‘Build My Life’ and I felt a tugging from God to build buildings in Singapore as well as to be a part of building His church.”
But even a calling can come with obstacles. “One challenge I face is communicating with contractors,” she admits. “I acknowledge that they have been in the industry for a while and they probably know more than me, and I can see why they might not want to take instructions from a young person. So in order to make things right, sometimes I need a lot of patience to run through with them the requirements for cost submissions. Patience is one of the fruits of the spirit I find myself exercising a lot. As a believer, whenever I am going to approach a person that is challenging to deal with, I pray and ask God to help me watch my words and for the wisdom to say the right thing at the right time.”
Stress is a natural by-product of her work, which Sarah accepts and takes in her stride. “Before I start work, I say a short prayer to connect myself with God,” she shares. “When I’m stressed at work, I usually speak to my parents, or text my cell group leader and a mentor who is in construction. I take walks—no phone—and talk to God until I feel better. Sometimes, to encourage myself, I re-read my past revelations in my journal to remind myself of the many times God showed up.”
Sarah’s journey with God began when her mother Sam brought her to CHC as a child. “I attended children’s church (HarvestKidz) and I remember saying the sinner’s prayer when I was 11 years old. After that I transitioned to a youth cell group, and when I was 15, Gerald Wong became my cell group leader—I’m now 27 and I’m still in his cell group. I am very proud to be part of ET zone—my cell group and I served as helpers in ET Encounter Camp in 2022—and I enjoy serving in church. Gerald recently appointed me one of the ‘Fun ICs’ of our cell group, so I’m responsible for hosting, planning cell group fellowships. Truth is, I love having fun!”
Serving in church is part of Sarah’s spiritual roadmap. “I am also a CityRadio volunteer—I assist in the programmes CityRadio Air, Battleground and together with another volunteer Amber, I will be coming up with a new podcast soon,” she says.
“Serving is important because it reminds me that I am in God’s house and I am participating in building His house. It grounds me, it keeps me connected with people in church, it helps me to develop lasting friendships. Serving also helps me grow and realise how I can do better as an individual. These things help me in my walk with God. Also, it is so important to have fun while serving. I’d like to think that God wants us to be happy when we give back or use our time to serve His people.”
Sarah is equally serious about her work and her fun—God is the constant factor in every aspect of her life. “He is my best friend,” she states. “I tell Him everything. I tell Him about the boys I like, the things that upset me at work, what I like to eat. Not only is He is that Friend who shows up and comforts me when I’m at my lowest, he is also that Friend that celebrates me when I’m happy and being myself.”
She shares how, as a young adult, she is slowly growing in God, Who gently guides her and improves the many areas in her life. “There was a period of time when I became impatient with my dad and that soured our relationship,” she says. “I decided to take a step of faith and attend church counselling. Through counselling and putting into practice what I learned, I saw how my mindset and relationship with my dad changed. Now I can see the fruits of God’s labour in my relationship with my dad, and I can see how God’s love has changed me. This makes me want to spend more time with the Lord.
“I’m still very young and trying to learn the ways of the Lord. In fact, I am still learning to be consistent in my personality and yet be able to adapt to different situations and environments. This Women’s Day, I would tell young ladies: do not to be afraid to voice out your thoughts and ideas. Remain strong in your core, God-led values and live them out confidently.”