Hwang Jin-sun graduated Ewha in 1990 and majored in Business, which was deemed atypical for women at the time. She worked at the sale department at P&G, Cheil Industry, Coway, and is now the CEO of Genic. Photo by Choi Kyu-min.
Only a decade ago, sales-related jobs were exclusively for men. There was no female salesperson and not many people questioned about it. However, one daring woman opened the door. The name of this brave saleswoman is Hwang Jin-sun who received “Business Woman of the Year” from Ewha Womans University on June 15.
After graduating Ewha in 1990, Hwang became the first female worker to enter sales in the multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G) in 1991.
This was not the only glass ceiling that she broke. After working at Cheil Industries in 2008, Hwang moved to Coway in 2013 to become the first female board executive to manage research, sales and marketing. Recently, she became the CEO for Genic, a cosmetics research company. She was a brave soul for majoring in Business when it was more common for women in the 1980s to major in Pharmacy or Law in order to become successful. On top of that, Hwang is well-known for continuing to work at the business field.
“My reason for choosing Business as a major was very simple,” Hwang said. “When I was in high school, I asked my teacher what people learn in business schools. She told me it is a place that teaches you how to become an owner of a company. Becoming a business owner sounded so appealing to me that I chose business without any hesitation.”
Among graduates in her Business major, Hwang recalls many of her colleagues going to typical areas for women.
“Similar to today, many went to health insurance companies and banks or worked as secretaries, journalists and public servants,” Hwang mentioned. “I also received a job offer as a secretary for a CEO at a well-known company, but I refused it because I wanted to become a professional worker with hands-on background. Because I kept refusing offers of employment from Ewha job recruiting center, a worker there complained that I was ‘too full of myself’ and hung up the phone.”
Hwang admits that working at the sales department was not easy. But she kept pushing herself, thinking of the confidence she gained at Ewha.
“Courses from Women’s Studies made me who I am today,” Hwang said. “I was taught to be courageous to stand up for my beliefs and know when to say ‘no.’ It was the feminist education that made me push myself to attain the same respect and value as men.
Knowing what she wanted to accomplish, she worked day and night, understanding that her job performance was the only way to be acknowledged as a self-reliant career woman. Hwang had to work much harder to be appreciated.
During the interview with Ewha Voice, a week before Pepero day, she took out her smartphone and showed how she already thought of where to buy Nutella chocolate for her employees on Pepero day.She wanted to show how much she prepared for everything in her agenda.
“Preparation is a must for people like me who still have a lot to learn,” Hwang emphasized. “As you know, I don't have any master’s degree in business or an MBA; I only have an undergraduate degree. So I always have to be the best prepared to have an edge over any co-workers.”
Although business seems like her natural talent and her passion, Hwang said that she actually wanted to be a screen writer. As a lover of writing and reading, she already wrote a self-improvement book I am a Professional. It is about her life as a business woman and how she overcame stereotypes that women are inferior to their male counterparts.
“It is important to do what you are enthusiastic about, but it is more crucial to know what you are good at,” Hwang explained. “In my case, I knew I was passionate in writing. But I quickly realized that I was not good enough to make a living out of it. So I decided to work in the field of business. Only when I retire, I am going to spend the money I earned to step forward to do what I am fond of: being a screen writer.”
When asked for her final remarks, Hwang emphasized that Ewha students should meet to their school’s prestige.
“Ewha is not a mere university comprised of female students,” Hwang remarked. “It is a place where you learn how to be confident as a woman, and Ewha students should use that confidence to make a difference in our society.”