As the world navigates new economic realities, businesswomen in Asia-Pacific remain undeterred. They are pushing forward with new ventures and rising to secure top spots at some of the region’s largest and most prestigious enterprises.
Here are 20 such leaders who constitute this year’s Forbes Asia’s Power Businesswomen 2023 list. They operate in a broad range of industries including finance and banking, property, technology and commodities.
Some have moved up the corporate ladder to the top rung—and in many cases becoming the first woman to take on these roles. Others are leading their family businesses to new heights or building their own enterprises.
All women featured this year are newcomers to the list, adding to our network of outstanding businesswomen in the Asia-Pacific region. They have been selected for their achievements and track records as business leaders.
Edited by Rana Wehbe Watson
Research and reporting: Jonathan Burgos, Susan Cunningham, John Kang, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, Phisanu Phromchanya, Anuradha Raghunathan, James Simms, Jessica Tan, Yue Wang and Ardian Wibisono.
Governor, Reserve Bank of Australia
Age: 60 • Australia
In September, Michele Bullock made history when she became ninth governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the first woman to helm the central bank.
The appointment came a little less than 18 months after her promotion to deputy governor, making her the first woman to hold that position.
“She is an outstanding economist and leader with a deep understanding of the RBA’s role and operations, built up over her long and distinguished career with the central bank,” said Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers when Bullock was named in July.
An RBA lifer, Bullock grew up in the regional town of Armidale (halfway between Sydney and Brisbane) and earned a master’s at the London School of Economics.
She joined the central bank as an analyst in 1985 and has held a number of roles, including assistant governor for the financial system.
Bullock has a big task ahead: overhauling the RBA’s operations after the central bank was criticized for its poor public communications as well as continuing its battle to contain inflation.
“I am very conscious that I provide [other women] with the realization that they, too, can move up” through the RBA, Bullock said in an interview last year with her undergrad alma mater, University of New England in Armidale.
Founder and CEO, Perfect Corp.
Age: 61 • Taiwan
Alice Chang is the founder and CEO of Taipei-based beauty tech firm Perfect Corp. In the late 1990s, Chang quit her finance job to start software firm Cyberlink with husband, Jau Huang, which had annual sales as high as $150 million.
In 2014 she left to form Perfect Corp., whose key product evolved from photo-editing software to AI and AR-powered services that allow online shoppers to virtually try on makeup, hair colors, jewelry and other products.
Today over 600 brands use Perfect’s technology, including some of the world’s largest beauty companies. Chang says businesses that help customers try before they buy see better sales.
“If you cannot catch up with the new paradigm in technology, you will be out of the game,” she says. In late 2022, the company went public on the Nasdaq market in the U.S. and in its most recent first half results posted 6% revenue growth to $25 million year-on-year.
It expects at least a 12% uptick in full-year sales. To enhance its offerings, Chang says the company is starting to use generative AI to provide better product recommendations to users.
CEO and managing director, Worldwide Hotels
Age: 46 • Singapore
Carolyn Choo quit her job at a local bank in Singapore in 2002 to heed her father’s call to join his budget hotels chain.
Billionaire Choo Chong Ngen, a former fishmonger and textiles seller, who started the Hotel 81 chain in the city’s Geylang red-light district in the mid-1990s, needed help with the family business.
Choo led the group’s transformation as it expanded into the mid-tier segment and across Asia-Pacific. She was appointed CEO and managing director in 2017.
The following year, she oversaw the restructuring of the family business, which was renamed Worldwide Hotels.
As of October, the company owned 38 hotels in Singapore, managed by its six hotel brands. It will add three new hotels by end-2023 at a cost of about S$1.7 billion ($1.2 billion).
Internationally, Worldwide Hotels owns a total of 11 hotels across Australia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand. They are managed by the likes of Holiday Inn, Ibis and Travelodge.
Growing Worldwide Hotels’ global footprint over the next decade will be a key priority, Choo says, adding that the company isn’t interested in resorts or luxury hotels.
“We don’t chase targets or numbers, we’re really opportunity-based,” she says. “We always invest for the long term. So we don’t sell any assets, we just buy.”
President commissioner, Metropolitan Land
Age: 62 • Indonesia
Junita Ciputra joined Ciputra Group, an Indonesian property developer founded by and named after her late father, in 1988 as a finance manager. Now she helps run the group along with older sister, Rina, and brothers Cakra and Candra.
Besides serving as commissioner or director at several group companies, she is also president commissioner of Metropolitan Land, which focuses on building residential and commercial properties mainly in the greater Jakarta area.
It also operates malls and hotels in Jakarta, Cirebon and Bali.
She is actively involved in the Ciputra family’s foundations that focus on education and entrepreneurship—reflecting her father’s goal of creating millions of entrepreneurs in Indonesia.
Ciputra has been the chairman of Citra Berkat Foundation since 2002 and of Ciputra Pendidikan Foundation since 2006. These foundations currently run 11 schools and two universities across Indonesia.
She has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University San Francisco and an M.B.A. in finance and real estate from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
CEO, Taobao and Tmall Group, Alibaba Group
Age: 47 • China
An early founding member of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, Trudy Dai was recently tapped to run its Taobao and Tmall shopping sites after the company announced in March its decision to split into six smaller business units.
The 47-year-old is focusing on promoting value-for-money products amid China’s economic downturn, which has helped Alibaba attract consumers and merchants alike despite fierce competition from rivals such as JD.com and PDD Holdings.
By selling cheaper products and charging merchants lower fees, Taobao and Tmall have grown their user base and generated 115 billion yuan ($16 billion) in revenues in the April-June quarter.
That accounted for 49% of Alibaba’s total sales during the period, which beat expectations to rise 14% year-on-year to 234 billion yuan. Dai said in an analyst call in August that value-for-money products would remain an area of major investment for Taobao and Tmall.
Prior to her current role, Dai led Alibaba’s domestic e-commerce sales, as well as a business-to-business sales unit that included its global AliExpress shopping site and Taobao Deals, a platform for buying discounted goods.
Managing director, Biological E
Age: 46 • India
Mahima Datla joined the Indian pharma and vaccine company founded by her paternal and maternal grandfathers as general manager in 1998 after obtaining her bachelor’s in business management from London’s Webster University. She became managing director in 2013.
Last year, a nearly decade-long battle with her mother over the company’s ownership was resolved with India’s Supreme Court ruling in the daughter’s favor.
Privately held Biological E, in which Datla owns a majority stake, responded to the pandemic by producing a Covid-19 vaccine called Corbevax in partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, supplying 100 million doses to the Indian government until August 2022.
Revenue grew at a compound annual rate of 40% over the last four years, touching 39 billion rupees ($475 million) in the year ended March 2023.
Biological E—which has eight vaccines prequalified by the World Health Organization, including those against tetanus, rubella and measles—produces more than 2 million vaccine doses daily and supplies them to more than 130 countries.
Next up is a pneumonia vaccine for which Datla won approval from India’s drug regulator for commercialization and production.
Anna Ma. Margarita B. Dy
President and CEO, Ayala Land
Age: 54 • Philippines
Anna Ma. Margarita B. Dy took the helm at Ayala Land in October, becoming the first female CEO of the Philippines’ second-largest property developer by market value.
Her rise comes as the company—the real estate arm of the Ayala group, a conglomerate controlled by billionaire Jaime Zobel de Ayala and his family—accelerates the launch of residential projects to meet surging housing demand.
Dy joined Ayala Land 18 years ago and has been on the management committee since 2008. Prior to her appointment as CEO she oversaw many of the firm’s luxury housing projects as chief operating officer and head of its residential business group.
Ayala Land’s net profit jumped 41% in the first six months of 2023 from a year earlier to 11.4 billion pesos ($200 million).
That reflected stable rental income from its office and commercial properties, along with robust demand for residential projects such as Park East Place, a high-rise development in Bonifacio Global City, and Ciela at Aera Heights, an upscale estate in Cavite, southwest of Manila.
“We continue to see healthy appetite for quality residential developments, especially at the mid and upscale market segments,” says Dy, who holds an M.B.A. from Harvard. “These are our traditional bastions of strength.”
CEO, Team Global Express
Age: 59 • Australia
Christine Holgate was hired to helm Team Global Express in 2021, after private equity firm Allegro Funds bought the logistics company for a mere A$7.8 million ($6 million) from Japan Post compared with the A$6.5 billion the latter paid for it in 2015.
Two years later, the company formerly called Toll Global Express, delivered a 17% increase in revenue growth for the 2023 financial year although after-tax losses continued to widen.
In a move to greener transport, earlier this year Team Global struck an 11-year A$1.8 billion deal with rail freight operator Aurizon to ship freight over Australia’s rail networks.
Meanwhile, in August, Team Global appointed UBS in a broad-ranging advisory role, hinting that overseas investors are looking at possibly buying the company from the private equity firm.
Born and raised in the U.K., Holgate worked a series of marketing management jobs before being appointed CEO of local health supplement company Blackmores.
She then became CEO of Australia Post from 2017 until 2020, when a controversy over her $20,000 gift of Cartier watches to senior managers and a resulting government inquiry pushed her to resign. Holgate maintained that no taxpayer money was used to purchase the watches.
After a court-mediated review, Australia Post said it regretted the circumstances of her departure and agreed to a A$1 million termination payment without admission of liability.
Head of private and growth equity in Asia Pacific, Goldman Sachs
Age: 50 • Hong Kong
A Goldman lifer, Stephanie Hui first joined the bank as an analyst in 1995. She left briefly to get a Harvard M.B.A., rejoining the firm in 2000 and climbed the ranks to co-head its merchant banking division for Asia Pacific excluding Japan a little over a decade later.
She was named the head of private equity in Asia Pacific (including Japan) in 2019.
Hui says the best advice she’s received was to speak up and get herself heard.
“The Asian culture is more of keeping your head down, getting your work done and someone will somehow notice you,” says Hui. “But many of my mentors have taught me to be more vocal. If I see things that need to get changed, I need to speak up.”
Among her deals, Hui worked on one to take a 7% stake in ICBC in 2006 for $2.5 billion ahead of the Chinese bank’s IPO—which became one of Goldman’s most profitable investments.
Under her leadership, the firm also led a $36 million investment in South Korea’s biggest food delivery app Woowa Brothers in 2014 (Germany’s Delivery Hero completed its acquisition of Woowa Brothers at a $4 billion valuation in 2021), and a $50 million series C round in 2021 in fellow listee Alice Chang’s Perfect Corp., a Taipei-based beauty-tech startup.
Managing director, Jyothy Labs
Age: 45 • India
In April 2020, M.R. Jyothy took over as managing director of the Mumbai-based consumer goods company founded and named after her by her father, M.P. Ramachandran, now chairman emeritus.
Jyothy Labs makes products such as detergents and dishwashing soaps at 23 plants across India and is a market leader in the fabric-whitener segment, with more than 80% market share led by its flagship brand Ujala.
The company ranks second by sales value in the dishwash bar and liquid category and is No. 2 by volume in mosquito repellent coils.
Revenue grew 13% to 25 billion rupees ($300 million) in the year ended March 31 and net profit rose 51% to 2.4 billion rupees despite a steep hike in raw material prices.
“We are very hungry for growth,” Jyothy says. “We need to scale up in all the areas that we are in. There is a lot of room for growth in each of our categories, be it fabric care or dishwashing or personal care or insecticides.”
Jyothy, who has an undergraduate degree in commerce and an M.B.A. in marketing from the Mumbai-based Welingkar Institute of Management and Research, joined the company’s marketing division in 2005 and became the chief marketing officer in 2017.
She assumed the top operational post in the early months of the pandemic.
President of global marketing office, Samsung Electronics
Age: 59 • South Korea
Lee Young-hee, who isn’t related to Samsung Group’s founding Lee family, made headlines in deeply patriarchal South Korea when Samsung Electronics in December 2022 promoted her to president of its global marketing office from vice president.
Lee’s elevation makes her the first female president at the tech giant and the first woman outside the founding family to hold that position at Samsung Group (Lee Boo-jin, granddaughter of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, is the president of Samsung affiliate Hotel Shilla).
Lee is the only woman among 17 presidents at Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of memory chips, smartphones and TVs.
“By promoting a female vice president with competency and performance to president, we presented a vision for growth to female talent and provided an opportunity for them to take on bold challenges,” the company said in a statement announcing her appointment.
Lee joined Samsung Electronics in 2007 after stints at French makeup giant L’Oréal and Anglo-Dutch consumer goods conglomerate Unilever.
With a master’s degree in advertising from Northwestern University in the U.S., she is credited with helping Samsung Electronics become the biggest seller of smartphones by shipments. “If marketers lose their way, customers also lose interest,” she said in May at a conference in Seoul.
CEO, Securities and Futures Commission
Age: 63 • Hong Kong
In January Julia Leung became the first woman—and the first local Hongkonger—to lead the Securities and Futures Commission, a government body that regulates Hong Kong’s securities and futures markets.
She has a big task ahead as Hong Kong, which has ambitions to become a digital asset center, reels from its biggest-ever crypto crime.
As of October, at least three dozen have been arrested for their alleged involvement with JPEX, an unlicensed crypto exchange, which Hong Kong police say defrauded investors of HK$1.6 billion ($200 million). JPEX denies the allegations.
The arrests came after the SFC investigated JPEX in 2022 and referred the case to the police.
Leung joined the financial markets watchdog in 2015 as an executive director, and was named deputy CEO in 2018.
Previously, Leung was Hong Kong’s undersecretary of financial services and the treasury and executive director at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de facto central bank.
She was a correspondent for the Asian Wall Street Journal for ten years before joining the monetary authority.
At an industry seminar in May, Leung urged women in finance to take on more responsibility: Women are better than they think, she said, but “always think twice whether they are able to do it before they take up a task.”
Founding partner, co-president and co-chief operating officer, Hillhouse Capital Management
Age: 47 • Singapore
She was founder Zhang Lei’s first hire at his private equity firm Hillhouse Capital Management in 2005. Together, they built Hillhouse into an investment powerhouse with more than $100 billion in assets under management, whose winning bets include Tencent, JD.com and Airbnb.
“Lei and I collaborated every day,” says Tracy Ma. “Initially, I set up basic startup operations for the team, before expanding our investment research, risk control, finance, fund operations and other functions. I even built the models for our first important investments.”
Besides being one of the largest homegrown private equity firms by AUM in Asia, Hillhouse leads in another area: gender diversity. Hillhouse says more than half of its employees are women, and almost 40% of partner-level staff.
For comparison, just over 20% of employees in private equity globally are women, and fewer than 15% of senior staff, according to research firm Preqin.
“I attribute Hillhouse’s impressive growth, investment success and unique culture to the firm’s large percentage of female leaders,” says Ma, who earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and previously worked at China Securities as an internal auditor.
“Women tend to have a long-term outlook which works well within the Hillhouse context where we evaluate investments and partnerships over the long term.”
CEO, Suntory Beverage & Food
Age: 63 • Japan
In March, Makiko Ono became the first woman to take the reins at Suntory Beverage & Food, the listed arm of storied drinks maker Suntory Holdings.
Her move also makes her the first female to head a Japanese company with a market cap of over ¥1 trillion yen ($7 billion), according to the company.
Ono joined Suntory in 1982 straight out of college where she studied Portuguese.
She held various roles at its international liquor and soft-drink businesses, where she helped to drive Suntory’s £1.35 billion ($1.6 billion) acquisition of U.K. soft-drink brands Lucozade and Ribena in 2013.
Ono was named CEO of Suntory Beverage’s operations in France in 2020 as head of French beverage maker Orangina, a major overseas subsidiary.
Now back at home, Ono faces not only a graying domestic market but one that has a slim operating profit margin compared with that from international operations.
Suntory Beverage posted ¥749 billion in revenue in the first six months of 2023, up over 10% year-on-year, of which global sales contributed nearly half.
Ono stressed at an earnings presentation in August that her goals as CEO were to make Suntory Beverage a high-revenue, high-margin firm and pursue “high-quality growth as a truly global beverage company.”
Age: 48 • Thailand
Piyajit Ruckariyapong is focused on turning Thai beverage maker Sappe into a globally recognized brand and doubling its revenue to 10 billion baht ($287 million) by 2026.
Originally called Sapanan, Sappe was founded by Piyajit’s parents in 1988 as a maker of traditional Thai snacks and pivoted to drinks in the early 2000s.
After 15 years as an investment banker, Piyajit joined the family business in 2012 as chief financial officer and succeeded her brother Adisak as CEO three years later.
Since 2015, she has more than doubled the number of Sappe’s export markets to 98, following a strategy of gradual, low-key entry into new markets and savvy digital marketing geared to young, trendy consumers.
Thailand has many natural resources and good quality products, says Piyajit. “Why can’t Thai people build up a brand to compete in the international arena?”
While Sappe sells a dozen food and drink products on its home turf, overseas sales stem from the three flagship beverages: juice drinks Mogu Mogu and Aloe Vera and collagen-infused Beauti Drink. Global markets account for about 83% of Sappe’s revenue, with Asia accounting for almost half. Piyajit is banking on Europe to power future growth.
Meliza Musa Rusli
President director, Bank Permata
Age: 49 • Indonesia
Meliza Musa Rusli was appointed Bank Permata’s president director in May 2022, becoming the first woman to head the lender that counts itself among Indonesia’s top ten by assets.
Promoted from her previous role as vice president director, she is focused on growing the domestic and international customer base of the lender that was acquired by Thailand’s Bangkok Bank in a $2.3 billion deal in 2020.
“Our collaboration with Bangkok Bank as the majority shareholder allows us to provide excellent crossborder services to our customers,” she wrote in the company’s latest annual report released in March.
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Indonesia, Rusli joined the financial services industry and worked at companies such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, UBS and Credit Suisse.
She also held senior roles in tech-related positions, including as the chief of group digital strategy at Astra International (one of the previous majority owners of Bank Permata along with Standard Chartered) and as the president director of GoJek’s car rental marketplace, GoFleet, among others.
Group CEO, Dusit International
Age: 59 • Thailand
Suphajee Suthumpun is driving the Thai hospitality group’s 46-billion-baht ($1.3 billion) project to redevelop the prestigious Dusit Thani Bangkok hotel into a modern mixed-use development.
Located in the heart of Bangkok, the Dusit Central Park project will comprise a hotel, luxury residences, retail and office spaces when it fully opens in 2025.
“This project is huge,” she says. “The size is five to six times bigger than our market capitalization,” which stood at 7 billion baht in mid-October.
Since Suphajee took the helm as Group CEO in 2016, Dusit’s hotels and resorts have grown from 27 properties in eight countries to about 340 across 20 countries.
She also established new lines of business including property development as well as food production and catering, and aims to list Dusit Foods by early 2025.
After suffering heavy losses during the pandemic, the post-Covid rebound in tourism is expected to help Dusit return to profit by 2024, she says.
Prior to joining Dusit, Suphajee was CEO of Thailand’s sole private satellite operator Thaicom, which ended years of losses and turned profitable within her first quarter on board.
Before that, she worked at IBM for over 20 years; her last role there was as general manager of IBM ASEAN’s Global Technology Services division.
Cofounder and chief technology officer, C.E. Info Systems
Age: 67 • India
Since launching C.E. Info Systems, the $1.4 billion company (market cap) behind Indian navigation app Mappls, Rashmi Verma has helped map nearly 18 million places, including hills and landmarks, 15 million addresses, and 6.6 million kilometers of roads countrywide.
The Delhi-based firm—better known as MapmyIndia—which she cofounded with husband, Rakesh, uses the database to provide app users with door-to-door directions that include traffic updates, speed-limit alerts and pothole warnings.
Mappls’ consumer app is free, with over 10 million downloads. The company also licenses its data and software to clients spanning automotive, banking and e-commerce.
Customer numbers grew over 40% in the past fiscal year to 850, while revenue and net profit nearly doubled to 2.8 billion rupees ($34 million) and 1.1 billion rupees, respectively, in the two-year period ended March 2023.
“We are bringing out better products by incorporating newer tech,” says Verma, using AI to study driver behavior, detect poor road conditions and provide road-safety solutions.
Verma studied chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee and received a master’s in operations research and computer science from Eastern Washington University in the U.S. She later worked as a systems engineer and database specialist at IBM.
Chairperson, Luxshare Precision Industry
Age: 56 • China
Factory worker-turned-billionaire Wang Laichun is now giving her former employer a run for the money.
She chairs Luxshare Precision Industry, a $30 billion (market cap) iPhone and AirPods assembler and parts supplier that has snatched market share of Apple’s supply chain from Hon Hai Technology Group (Foxconn).
Wang, who once spent a decade working at Foxconn’s factory floor in Shenzhen before founding Luxshare with her brother, Wang Laisheng, in 2004, told Chinese state media in September her company had won contracts to assemble Apple’s mixed reality Vision Pro headset.
A month later, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed in a social media post that Luxshare is also making other Apple products including the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Shenzhen-listed Luxshare gained a foothold in the U.S. tech giant’s supply chain through its 2011 acquisition of Jiangsu-based Kunshan Liantao Electronics, which made connector cables for Apple.
While Wang has since taken on orders for more Apple products, she is also diversifying her customer base, such as by supplying components for electric cars.
Still, the auto industry accounted for less than 3% of its 214 billion yuan ($29 billion) in sales in 2022, with Apple believed to be making up over 70% of the total.
CEO, ANZ Bank New Zealand
Age: 53 • New Zealand
Antonia Watson became acting CEO of ANZ’s New Zealand operations in May 2019 following the sudden departure of former CEO David Hisco amid an expenses scandal.
She was made permanent in December the same year and the former KPMG auditor has been a steady hand at New Zealand’s largest bank (by assets).
For the six months ended in March, ANZ New Zealand posted a 16% year-on-year increase in operating income to NZ$2.5 billion ($1.5 billion) despite a slowing economy, while profits fell 9% to NZ$1 billion.
Before taking the top job at ANZ New Zealand, Watson held senior roles at the bank for a decade, including managing director of its retail and business banking unit and chief financial officer.
She joined ANZ New Zealand in 2009 from Morgan Stanley, where she worked for over ten years and managed its business services and technology center in Budapest.
Looking ahead, Watson sees continuing economic headwinds from high interest rates and weakening demand, but remains confident about the bank’s prospects.
“Recent events in global banking also remind us of the importance of strong, safe, and well capitalized banks,” she said in a statement accompanying ANZ New Zealand’s half-year results.
“Fortunately, ANZ NZ remains in a strong position to meet the housing, business and trading needs of the country.”
This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Forbes Asia.