Mimi Gian CPA is the driving force behind Malaysia's biannual Pink Wig-a-thon charity run.
By Katie Langmore
Like many who effect real change through their professional lives, Mimi Gian CPA is no stranger to hard work.
“My father emigrated from China to Singapore when he was a teenager, and set up a hawker stall selling drinks. As the eldest of nine siblings, growing up very poor, I had to learn to stand on my own two feet and set a good example for my siblings,” Gian recalls.
The young Gian did just this when she travelled to Australia on a scholarship in the late 1970s. She completed a degree in business studies at Mitchell College in Bathurst, before moving to Sydney to undertake her CPA Program studies while working full-time.
“I am so grateful to the Australian Government for giving me an opportunity to study and then become a CPA,” she says. “I always encourage my young employees to do their CPA to gain international experience and qualifications.”
In Sydney and then Singapore, Gian worked in a diverse range of industries, including viticulture, industrial waste management and explosives. In the mid-1980s, she moved to Kuala Lumpur (KL) with her Malaysian husband.
“I arrived in KL during a recession and couldn’t find any work, so I decided I would have to be entrepreneurial. I started an employment agency,” Gian says.
“In the early days it was extremely difficult. I was a stranger to Malaysia and had to learn the local languages and the cultures, but I told myself if I can live in Sydney for nine years by myself, I can manage Malaysia, too.”
By the early 1990s, Gian had expanded the company into a wider range of management services, including accounting, corporate secretarial and taxation services.
She is still managing director of her own management firm, based in Kuala Lumpur.
“I have worked hard to achieve my career successes, and I’m happy. Now, giving back through charity work is my passion.”
Eleven years ago, Gian was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, an early diagnosis that came about due to a thorough knowledge of the risks. “My mother died of breast cancer in her late 40s, and dad died of liver cancer. I have also lost three of my brothers to liver cancer.”
Gian’s surgeon was keen to form an organisation to raise awareness of breast cancer in Malaysia and, with the help of Gian and a handful of other survivors, the Pink Ribbon Wellness (L) Foundation (PRWF) was launched on 28 February 2012.
“PRWF works to fight breast cancer by empowering women with sufficient knowledge and education on everything from healthy lifestyles to early detection and treatment options,” Gian says. “We also facilitate peer support through coffee chats, workshops, conferences, wellness camps and outreach in urban and rural areas.”
With limited government funding, the PRWF relies on its primary fundraising activities – the Mother’s Day Hi-Tea, the charity ball and now the Pink Wig-A-Thon, a biannual charity run/walk inaugurated in 2015.
As a former marathon runner and cancer survivor, Gian loves to participate and coordinate behind the scenes. “Sadly the event this year was cancelled due to a very haze-affected Malaysia,” Gian says. “However, PRWF distributed the race kits and pink wigs to all registered participants.”
Never one to rest on her laurels, through her hobby of jungle trekking, Gian has also stepped up as treasurer of the committee of Friends of Bukit Gasing, a natural parkland in the centre of Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur. Gian and the committee organise tree planting and put up signage boards for directions up the hill.
It’s no wonder Gian was recognised by CPA Australia for her 40-year membership and awarded first runner up in the Financial Sector by the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia (NAWEM) in recognition of her accomplishments. “I have worked hard to achieve my career successes, and I’m happy,” she says. “Now, giving back through charity work is my passion.”
Why the pink wig?
The Pink Wig-A-Thon is a fundraising and awareness-raising event run by the Pink Ribbon Wellness Foundation. The event involves a 10km run or 5km walk, and participants wear a pink wig in recognition of the many who have experienced hair loss due to chemotherapy.