A night under the sky

By Yang Lan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-15 18:58:01

Inspired by the Chinese saying "women hold up half the sky," the Expatriate Professional Women's Society's (EPWS) 2015 annual gala this Saturday will take "sky" as their theme and celebrate the contribution of foreign women in Shanghai to their professions, families and communities.

"That proverb is well-known in China. Now it is becoming known among foreigners. But for us, we think that sometimes women hold up more than half of the sky. We are mothers, professionals, and friends," said Fabiola Imhof, vice president of EPWS, which will collaborate with the Hult Women in Business club to award five outstanding professional female expats in Shanghai with the Women Leadership award. There are 10 finalists for five other award categories.

Born in Shanghai, Jeni Saeyang grew up in Australia and the US, then came back to Shanghai in 2010 to take care of her grandmother. After her arrival here, Saeyang wanted to create a business that has a positive impact on the environment. She decided to produce biodegradable laundry detergent after finding that much of China's water pollution is a result of people dumping daily household waste water into rivers.

"One laundry load uses 100 liters of water, and 90 percent of laundry water is emptied into rain water pipes and directly back into the nature without being treated," Saeyang told the Global Times.

Saeyang's laundry detergent was so well received among environmentally conscious housewives that soon her customers asked her to develop body care products such as shampoo and body wash. Her business's revenue doubled every year thereafter; this year the estimated revenue will be $3 million. Saeyang's husband recently quit his job to become a full-time father while his wife runs the business.

In spite of her success, Saeyang says she initially found it very difficult to do business in Shanghai. This prompted her to join EPWS, where she has exchanged expertise with others in similar eco-friendly industries.

"It is one of the best professional networking groups in Shanghai," Saeyang said. "Everyone there is a professional and a woman, and we are all there for two reasons: to meet other inspirational women and get their advice, and to have fun and make friends."

Saeyang said she does not expect to win the Entrepreneurs award, as she thinks that other women are more qualified, but she is looking forward to meeting those amazing people. "I really want to meet women who have been doing business in China for at least 10 years and still love doing it."

Awards will also go to those who hold management positions and have a minimum of 15 years of professional experience, young professionals who rose quickly in their career, females who contribute to the Chinese community or influence the expat community.

Brazilian jewelry designer and "lifestyle consultant" Katia Steilemann wanted to help people balance their style and spirit, so she founded Elyts, a business that offers interior design and feng shui consulting.

Vice President of Human Resources for Asia Pacific of Ford Motor Company, Kiersten Robinson, from Australia, joined the company over 20 years ago. She serves on a number of boards within the auto industry, as well as the board of Shanghai international school Concordia.

Established in 1993, the EPWS is a social network for foreign professional women in Shanghai. The society now has approximately 1,000 members. The awards gala will be held at the Westin Shanghai on April 18.

"On this night, we will have a sky full of stars, which are all these excellent professional women," Imhof said.


Members and guests pose at the EPWS 2014 annual gala.

Photos: Courtesy of EPWS


Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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