We had a chat with Lily Lu, who joined Kimberly-Clark Professional in 2019. A microbiologist, a mother, a wife, and a General Manager, read the whole conversation on Lily’s journey and her priorities and principles of managing a team as a female leader.


Lily, what was your career path before Kimberly-Clark? 
I earned a master’s degree in microbiology and later a global executive MBA. Before joining Kimberly-Clark, I worked for several multinationals for 16 years, leading marketing, sales, and technical service functions in Great China in the relevant scientific industry. In 2019, I joined Kimberly-Clark Professional China as Business Unit Director, and in 2021, I took over the General Manager role at Kimberly-Clark Professional China.


What is it like to be a female leader in China? 
At work, I am above all a professional. When I walk into a room or take part in a meeting, I am Lily Lu, General Manager of Kimberly-Clark Professional, China, and not a female, a mother, or a friend. All these roles do make me Lily, but at work I see myself as a contributor to achieving the goals of the meetings I take part in and to the company’s business overall.
My gender is obviously a part of all that I do, but it doesn’t define me. In fact, I view my gender as a strength, enabling me to have a larger impact on bringing more women into the workplace and into leadership roles. Being successful in any field involves understanding the lay of the land and making it better for others, which includes contributing to diversity in the organization’s talent, thought, style, leadership, and more.
Asia, and China in particular, have long traditions, including traditional gender roles. But we are no longer living in the world our mothers lived in, where career choices for women were so limited. Especially after the year 1949 (*the year of the Chinese Revolution), there has been a saying in China that "Women hold up half the world". In the past 20 to 30 years, more and more females in China have become not only working mothers but leaders as well.
Yes, women still face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfilment, but I am delighted to see that Kimberly-Clark’s culture of care allows more flexibility and nurtures possibilities for female leaders to find a good work-life balance. This is what I like a lot and will continue to support as a leader. 
My husband and I have been married for over 20 years, and we have our little son who is already 19 years old. He studies in the U.S., and three years of COVID with China in almost constant lockdown were a huge trial for our family. We had to learn to not only work online, but also take care of each other and love each other online. Not being able to hug my son in three years was the toughest struggle for me ever. 


How do you see Inclusion, Equity and Diversity playing a role in Kimberly-Clark's caring culture?
I believe in the importance of inclusion, equity and diversity, not only for leaders but for every employee at any level of the organization. Creating an inclusive environment enables employees to be their best at work. When people feel comfortable and accepted, they are more likely to contribute unique ideas and problem-solving abilities from their own life experiences. Being surrounded by real humanity enables employees to understand that their business partners, colleagues, and especially their customers each have a story of their own, all of which encourages constant collaboration and creative thinking.


What do you like about being a General Manager?
Well, for me, the key difference between leading a team and leading the whole organization is gaining holistic knowledge of the business and being empowered to make decisions. Understanding business from different perspectives allows you to have a broader influence across different departments and make strategic decisions that have an impact. And this is what I like about my current role.


What motivates you most about your job? 
I am genuinely inspired and motivated by the Kimberly-Clark culture. During my 3.5 years with the company, I cannot stop admiring how the company embraces diversity and inclusion and demonstrates care for its people, especially in creating and providing opportunities for growth.
I also sincerely appreciate how, throughout my Kimberly-Clark journey, the company has been stretching my perspectives to let me unleash my full potential.


What is the best advice you have received in life? 
Keep going. Everything you need will come to you at the perfect time. 


Do you have a life motto? 
"Motherhood is my destined priority but leading a great team of employees is my passion". This is not my quote, but it resonates deeply with me, as this is how I see my mission in life.
The conversation left us with a beautiful message that the way we work decides how we grow. It’s so important to be able to manage our professional priorities without compromising on our personal time and that’s Kimberly-Clark's caring culture!