Alumni Q&A: Regina Yau (Malaysia & St Hugh's 2001)
Q: Has your career trajectory panned out as you planned?
A: "I am, by nature, a planner. Yet my career trajectory has constantly defied my best-laid plans. I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship to do my Masters in Women’s Studies with the intention of eventually becoming a professor specialising in the literature of women of the Chinese diaspora. Life, however, had other plans – I contracted a serious case of chicken pox that caused me to miss several weeks of term and cost me the grades required for acceptance into a doctoral programme.
With that plan no longer viable, I pivoted and improvised through the first 5 turbulent years of my career. While many people have the impression that Rhodes Scholars can just walk right into cushy jobs or turbo-charged careers, I had a crash course in how that is a privilege only afforded to some Scholars. The biggest turning point came when I lost my first job in London. Sir Colin Lucas, who was the Warden at the time, took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me. That meeting changed the trajectory of my career and life when he pointed out: “You are not a corporate shark. You are born to go to bat for the women and children who need help the most.” I had an M.St in Women’s Studies and it was time to put that education to work by “fighting the world’s fight” for women and girls.
After moving back to Asia, I spent 6 years rising up the ranks in the public relations industry while working on the breast cancer cause in my spare time. During the economic meltdown of 2008, a friend from a local anti-violence against women charity approached me for help. That was my moment of obligation and I met that obligation by founding The Pixel Project (Pixel), a global volunteer-run 501c3 nonprofit working at the intersection of social media, new technologies, and pop culture/the arts to prevent and end violence against women. 12 years later, I am still leading Pixel while working as an English tutor and editor to pay the bills. Over the years, we have achieved a number of firsts including being the first completely virtual anti-violence against women non-profit; the first women’s nonprofit to use Twitter to tweet out helplines for women worldwide daily; and the first to make livestream panels and interviews an integral part of our awareness-raising and education work.
Did I ever think that I would be focused on the activist/advocacy side of women’s human rights instead of balancing advocacy with academia? No. But while I hadn’t exactly gone where I intended to go – and the road has been a long and winding one – I find that I am somehow always exactly where I need to be."
Q: Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
A: "On The Pixel Project side, our long-running Read For Pixels programme through which we work with popular authors from genres ranging from Science Fiction & Fantasy to Romance to Horror is moving to the next level with the upcoming release of our first ever charity anthology, Giving The Devil His Due, featuring 16 stories where The Twilight Zone meets Promising Young Woman. The anthology, published in partnership with Running Wild Press, includes 16 award-winning bestselling Horror and Fantasy authors including Stephen Graham Jones, Christina Henry, Hillary Monahan, Kelley Armstrong, and Linda D. Addison. It will also include resources for victims worldwide to seek help. The anthology will be available worldwide from 1st September 2021.
Looking towards the future, I am working on moving abroad and am in the planning stages of setting up a social enterprise that will provide well-designed clothes with pockets made by women for women. The fashion industry has long ignored complaints by women and girls about the lack of functional pockets in off-the-rack clothes. While several start-ups and cult-favourite brands are answering the call to bridge this gap, clothes with pockets for women and girls need to become the industry standard and that is what this upcoming start-up is going to attempt to do. Having worked for over a decade in the anti-violence against women movement, I am also well-aware that financial independence is one of the keys to achieving equality and equity for women. So I intend for this social enterprise to hire domestic violence survivors, immigrant/refugee women, native/indigenous women, and other marginalised women. It will not only provide employees with fair pay but also a safe and supportive work environment. With the pandemic still raging on, it is taking much longer than expected to get this project off the ground but to paraphrase Sheryl Crow – every day is a winding road but every day also gets me a little bit closer."
Regina Yau created The Pixel Project in 2009 to raise funds, awareness and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women using the power of the internet, popular culture and new technologies. Prior to founding The Pixel Project, Regina was nominated in the Education and Public Service category of The Malaysian Women’s Weekly’s “Great Women of Our Time” Awards 2008 for her innovative awareness-raising work for the breast cancer cause. Regina has two post-graduate degrees from Oxford – an M.St in Women’s Studies and an M.St in Oriental Studies. She also has a First-Class BA (Hons) in English from Royal Holloway University of London. Between graduating from Oxford and returning to the women’s rights movement, she also spent 6 years working as an award-winning Public Relations professional.