On March 7, AmCham China hosted the Women’s Summit: Women of Tomorrow at the China World Hotel in Beijing. Around 150 guests joined this annual Signature Event as it made its long-awaited return after three years of pandemic restrictions. This year, the event welcomed a diverse group of female entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and business experts to discuss and shed light on the key roles women play in global leadership development and social impact.
AmCham China President Michael Hart opened the event, welcoming attendees, and delivering opening remarks. Hart noted how great it was to be back to in-person events in China, with the Chamber holding more than a dozen offline events and briefings over the past week alone, including the first in-person Women’s Summit since the start of the pandemic.
The afternoon’s first keynote speech was delivered by United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, Siddharth Chatterjee, who highlighted the importance of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DIE), as well as empowering women in leadership positions. He acknowledged the significant achievements made by female leaders across sectors, including public health, economics, and climate change. Ambassador Chatterjee also discussed the ongoing global discussion around best practices to foster gender inclusive environments, and emphasized that women’s leadership is critical to ensuring gender equality. He went on to recognize the contributions of women in STEM fields and said that promoting women in STEM fields is not an act of affirmative action, but rather a must in order to innovate and succeed in the future. Chatterjee suggested several actions to support and encourage future female leaders including supporting women in education and academia, providing targeting support for tech learning and digital skills, introducing family friendly policies, and working to balance gender roles – both at home and in the workplace. Chatterjee ended his speech by calling on men to stand up against misogyny, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities more than ever before.
Frances Yu, President of Amway China and Co-chair of AmCham China’s Women Professionals Committee, gave the second keynote of the day, titled “The Women of Tomorrow Will Be Modeled Today.” Yu began by reflecting on the tremendous progress women leaders have made in China, adding that female advancement is an important indicator of social progress and improvement. She shared that Amway implements three steps to create career platform to support women: Ensuring an empowering environment, creating more opportunities to unleash women’s potential, and providing tools and resources to build new skills and capabilities to succeed on a larger scale. She went on to commend AmCham China for being a strong advocate for inclusivity and gender equality over the years. Yu concluded her remarks by saying she has been heartened to see more leaders committing and acting to promote future female leaders.
Jian Lu, Corporate Vice President of LinkedIn and President of LinkedIn China, delivered the Summit’s final keynote speech in which he called attention to the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership roles. He stated that although women hold 46% of entry-level positions, they only hold 35% of management positions and 25% of C-suite roles. Dr. Lu noted that this trend of underrepresentation becomes more pronounced as women climb the seniority ladder. However, he also pointed out that women are creating leadership opportunities for themselves through entrepreneurship. He went on to suggest flexible working arrangements, female entrepreneurship programs, training, and mentoring as catalysts for change. He emphasized that providing these opportunities as a way to support women can lead to a more diverse and equitable workforce.
The first panel revolved around the theme of “Breaking Barriers: Women in Leadership”. Moderator Lin Gao, CEO of Message Coach, who was also the event’s MC, was joined on stage by panelists Sherry Carbary, President of Boeing China; Jennifer Wang, President and CEO of Kate Spade China; and Shari Bistransky, Deputy Public Affairs Officer and Counselor for Public Affairs at US Embassy Beijing. The panel explored the challenges women face in leadership roles and strategies for overcoming them. Carbary, the first female President for Boeing China, stressed the importance of male champions and the need for women to build confidence by asking questions and making sure to take a seat at the table. Wang talked about her own journey working her way up the corporate ladder and also said that the low representation of women at the top highlights the need for women to be encouraged and promoted. Bistransky advocated for championing others, making sure that female voices are heard, and for modeling behaviors that foster inclusivity. The panel also discussed the importance of healthy modeling, the need to find inner strength or someone to act as a sounding board, and the practice of reverse mentoring in which you seek advice from someone at least ten years younger. Lin Gao ended the session with an interactive exercise in which all attendees were encouraged to rank areas of their life in a bid to see where the most wanted to make improvements to their work-life balance.
The second panel was moderated by AmCham China’s Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Mark Dreyer, and discussed the topic of “Empowerment Champions: Driving Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Workplace”. Dreyer was joined by Linda Zhu, Head of Greater China Large Partner Solutions at Google; Milun Zhang, Head of Head of Government Affairs and Policy Advocacy for Amgen China; and Dan Brindle, President of Novartis China. The panelists covered several topics across the DEI spectrum, including the need for women to have a platform to speak up, the importance of mentoring, and the low number of women in C-suite positions. Amid overall discouraging data on the latter point, Dreyer noted the silver lining that forward progress is being made among AmCham China member companies, according to the newly released China Business Climate Survey Report, with 33% of member companies reporting that women occupy at least half of all top management positions, up 5pp from last year’s survey. Elsewhere, Zhu recommended that companies aspiring to successfully retain staff should begin by looking beyond profiles when recruiting in order to avoid making incorrect assumptions, while the panelists also discussed what can be done to ensure that progress continues to be made, as DEI issues become increasingly valued in the workplace. The conversation concluded with a call for women to stand up for themselves, embrace opportunities, and recognize their valuable skill sets.
After the final panel concluded, speakers and attendees were invited to join a cocktail reception to connect, discuss the day’s topics, and toast to all women ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
AmCham China would like to thank its sponsors: Amway, Google, and Amgen.