AmCham Shanghai’s Women’s Executive Network hosts WeForShe conference

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/6 18:58:39

Stepping up, speaking up

A new Women in Business study revealed that 90 percent of its respondents believe that women have the necessary qualifications to succeed in business; 95 percent think that women and men are equally ambitious and 57 percent of recruiters find that female candidates outperform males. And yet, 70 percent of respondents still believe that men are better suited to succeed in today's business climate.

To help get more women into the coveted corner office or the power seats of corporate boardrooms, ­AmCham Shanghai's Women's Executive Network (WEN) recently held its third annual conference, attracting about 280 local business leaders and professionals. The above-mentioned study was addressed at the conference.

With a theme of "Beyond the numbers," this year's conference looked past case data and statistics to the softer side of the business world and the role both men and women have in it. The conference addressed unconscious bias, mentorship versus sponsorship and how women can better support each other to collectively advance themselves at all levels.

After the conference, the Global Times spoke with Sarah Köchling, co-founder and co-chair of WEN for AmCham Shanghai. She was elected to the AmCham's Board of Governors for the 2017-2019 term.

GT: Your two previous conferences were titled HeforShe. What do you hope to express by adopting the new name WeforShe?

I think we are at a unique moment in time, precipitated by #MeToo and other movements, when the world is hearing women's voices and starting to empathize, realizing that society must treat women with dignity and respect, with equal opportunity and a level playing field.

The gender gap and mistreatment of women are issues that will only be ameliorated when everyone, men and women, step up, speak up and help each other be aware and empathetic.

GT: How do you see the status of women in the work place in China, particularly in Shanghai, compared to the rest of the world?

I actually think in some fields like banking and finance, Shanghai is ahead of the rest of the world; the senior ranks of several leading global institutions are full of women here. I've also been heartened by the number of senior R&D professionals I've encountered in China, in particular in Shanghai.

Of course, there are still ­challenges in both regions - women only occupy 15 percent of board seats globally and 11 percent in China. Among the Fortune 500, only 27 are led by women.

GT: How has this conference established itself in recent years? Any major achievement or breakthroughs?

It's really been a lot of effort by my co-chair, Jean Liu and myself (we both have full-time jobs and are volunteers who lead WEN at AmCham) to develop an informative dialogue around gender equality.

We started logically with a focus on the business case - the clear and proven benefits to business of having more women in the senior-most roles.

In the second year, we examined the challenges and opportunities surrounding gender diversity policies and practices.

So this year, we wanted to focus on what's possibly still holding us back - the person-to-person awareness and empathy we need and draw attention to the roles that both men and women can play to reduce the gender gap, hence the move from "He for She" to "We for She."

In terms of major achievements, we've clearly captured the attention of the community and managed to engage a growing audience, significantly increasing the number of participants every year of the conference. The same is true of our WEN organization. Our membership continues to grow and we're now at about 400 members who hold roles as regional directors and up.

Lastly, the other major achievement we are proud of is our advancement of our members to board positions. Specifically WEN women now hold five out of 11 board seats at AmCham Shanghai.

And we have successfully started placing some of our senior female executives at China start-ups and other NGO boards.

Photo: VCG


Sarah Köchling, co-founder and co-chair of WEN for AmCham Shanghai (first from left), and attendees at the event Friday Photo: Courtesy of AmCham Shanghai



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