by Tamara Treichel
BEIJING, May 27 (Xinhua) -- A forum recently held in New York City has offered a platform for women to discuss how women are shaping China as a rising global power and opportunities for U.S. women leaders to communicate with their Chinese counterparts.
More than 300 women gathered at China Institute in New York on May 18 for the forum "Women and China: How Women Are Shaping the Rising Global Power" at which the speakers were women movers and shakers in industries such as finance, technology and culture. Xinhua reached out to the organizers and speakers via email to learn more about the event.
POSITIVE RESPONSE TO FORUM
Rebecca Liao, Asia head at Globality, a startup which focuses on international trade, moderated the forum's technology panel.
"I was absolutely honored to spend time with this group of highly accomplished, warm and dynamic women," she said. "I was especially inspired to see that a lot of young women came to the forum, and I hope we will have the opportunity to mentor more and form a community to help women grow."
Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research, was one of the speakers. She told Xinhua that she enjoyed the event because it gave her the opportunity to meet accomplished Asian women whom she would otherwise not encounter in her circle of colleagues.
"I talked primarily about how technology trends, especially in Artificial Intelligence, data science and cloud computing, are affecting all sectors and professions, not just the tech sector," Wing said.
"We are witnessing a rapid growth and adoption of technology where every company in every sector is undergoing a digital transformation.Participants learned about what these trends are and how they will affect people's lives at work and at home," she said.
Wing said China's rise had affected her career path in a positive way as it has opened up new opportunities for her to meet her Chinese counterparts in academia, government and industry.
"I have been asked to advise Chinese universities and Chinese funding agencies on strategic directions in research and education in computer science. I helped advocate the importance of basic research for industrial research labs and the importance of working closely with academic partners to elevate the overall quality of research in computer science in China," she said.
Virginia Kamsky, CEO of the strategic advisory firm Kamsky Associates, also had good memories of the forum. "It was exciting for me to meet other women who have been dedicated to working in China, both Chinese and Western, and in building constructive bridges between Chinese women and the rest of the world," she said.
"I spoke about my experience of working in China since 1978 at the beginning of the reform and opening-up and the changes between then and now," Kamsky said.
"I also discussed the fact that women in China at the leadership level have, throughout the years, had a passion to help and support other women, even those just starting out like myself in my twenties at the time," Kamsky said, adding that she mentioned two of her female mentors as examples: Wu Yi, former vice premier of China and health minister during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) crisis, and Xie Xide, former president of Fudan University.
"Female leaders in China have always provided guidance to women in the work force in China. I said that I thought working in China was an advantage because you were not limited in China as to how much you could accomplish based on your gender, as compared to both the United States and Japan and that there is still a 'glass ceiling' for women in America and that that does not exist in China. I encouraged the women in the audience to pursue careers in China," Kamsky said.
"The rise of China has affected my career path personally because in the early days, when China did not have reserves, I would need to structure transactions on a barter basis as compared with today where I have the opportunity to participate in China's outbound investment activity," Kamsky said, adding that now, there is both inbound and outbound work to be done, which she finds "exhilarating and very exciting."
"WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING"
Anla Cheng, a Wall Street veteran with banking and private equity experience, was the mastermind behind the event. After years of attending China-related events where the majority of panelists were men, she wondered why so many women in influential positions were underrepresented at such events, so she decided to organize a forum especially for women.
When asked what was the most rewarding part of organizing the forum, Cheng said: "Being able to bring such incredibly talented leaders and minds and accomplished women under one roof -- it was very inspirational. Their words of advice resonated with our future women leaders."
Cheng described the atmosphere at the forum as "upbeat, optimistic" and as creating a "feeling of empowerment for women." She cited one participant as saying, "Now I know, women can do anything."
Cheng said studies by Deloitte, MSCI, Credit Suisse and Catalyst (which cover up to 6,000 - 10,000 companies) found that women in the United States held 12 percent of board seats; but only 4 percent of board chair positions.
"That companies with more women on boards had better financial results from all over the world confirms the benefits of gender-balanced boards," she said, citing 16 percent higher Return on Sales and 26 percent higher Return on Invested Capital as numbers that support this. Cheng said that companies with fewer women on boards had more governance-related controversies.
"As we get more women in senior positions, women are making decisions, they are opinion-makers and leaders. With those positions, they are making decisions on how to treat others, what deals are to be made and are paving the way for future trends for both China and the United States."P In fact, she did see a new trend in China. "More women are in Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC) in China and making acquisitions with better corporate governance, for instance," Cheng said, adding that more women in China are also becoming involved in the movie business and the Internet sector.
"Women understand on-line retailing and the consumer psyche very well as we transition away from shopping malls and stores. Women are more interested in impact investing and social means to make money and help society, is another example. Women are much more interested in the environment as they care more about health for their children and parents. They care more about food safety as well," Cheng said.
On whether women's influence will change if more countries turn toward protectionism and isolationism, she said so long as the economic divide exists, "we will have a society polarized which will favor protectionism." Cheng said it was important for world leaders to come up with solutions to the economic divide in different countries.
"We need to solve this widening gap in order to have a stable and robust middle class. I think women can help influence these changes and come up with solutions to bridge this gap," she said.
(Xinhua writer Xiong Maoling in Beijing also contributed to the report.)