On June 18th, AmCham China and SCHSAsia hosted the 5th Women’s Economy Summit in Beijing. More than 300 attendees joined for a day of empowerment and collaboration at the Renaissance Beijing Capitol Hotel. The Summit was followed by the inaugural Women Empowerment Awards in China, the newest initiative by the Women’s Advisory Council.
Since last year, the world has continued to be impacted by the pandemic. A global study by Deloitte revealed COVID-19 has negatively disrupted the lives of 82% of working women due to the burden of household chores, care-giving responsibilities, and an increased workload. A diverse cast of high-level executives, from both the private and public sectors, spoke at the Summit about the challenges COVID-19 has presented for women, calling for all to be aware of the issues facing women and get involved in solutions to prevent the reversal of gender equity progress and help minimize the long-term economic consequences of the pandemic on women. The 2021 Women’s Economy Summit explored these important issues and more, celebrated trailblazing women, recognized male allies, profiled effective leadership, explored impactful factors, and identified actions that move us towards a more equal, sustainable, and inclusive tomorrow.
The Summit kicked off with opening remarks from SCHSAsia CEO and Founder, Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, who welcomed the first three “lightning talks” of the day. Bill Arnold (pictured above right), China President of ConocoPhillips, Steven Cao, Chairman of Chayora China, and Fernando Vallina (pictured above right and left), China Chairman of ExxonMobil, all spoke on the importance of gender equality and male allies championing women. Both Cao and Vallina noted that while the total number of women in the workforce has increased to almost 50%, the number of female leaders in the C-suite remains low, with just 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs being women. All three speakers pointed to cases studies that proves the economic benefit of increasing diversity in organizations.
Attendees were then invited to participate in three concurrent workshops hosted by Dr Lin Gao, Janine Jakob, and Dalida Turkovic, respectively (pictured above). The workshops explored an array of topics, from how to power your personal brand and effectively communicate key messages, to mindfulness and the obstacles that arise during its practice, and how to take your personal growth to the next level.
The afternoon’s session began with remarks from Robert Forden (pictured above left) Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy. Forden spoke about the unequal burdens on women, and how the pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities. He stipulated that “building back better” includes implementing policies which provide opportunities for women to re-enter the workforce, including access to childcare, paid leave, and unemployment insurance. Brent Young (pictured above right), AmCham China Vice Chair and Vice President of Intel, echoed Forden’s sentiments, emphasizing that the future of a strong economy lies in the hands of women. Young challenged male counterparts to acknowledge unconscious bias and work to actively campaign for women to occupy leadership roles, citing AmCham China’s Women’s Professional Committee and more than half of the Chamber’s Forums and Committees being led by women.
Next, Clare Fearnley (pictured above left), New Zealand Ambassador to China, applauded the effectiveness of women leaders such as New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who has been internationally recognized for responding quickly and effectively to the threat of COVID-19. Speakers Smriti Aryal (pictured above right), Head of UN Women China, and Hong MU, Director-General of the All-China Women’s Federation, also delivered speeches. Aryal pointed out that income has fallen by 60% in what she termed the informal economy, an economy dominated by women in many countries, and called for “business unusual” practices, especially in the private sector, where resources and opportunities to promote women are most abundant.
The first panel (pictured above), Empowering Women to Thrive in the Workplace: Impactful Factors and Areas to Explore, featured Birat Lekhak, Program and Partnership Specialist at UN Women China, Gloria Xu, VP for Greater China at Dow Chemical, Li Ye, VP at Merck, Michael Zhu, Global VP at HPE, and Dr Qian Liu, Managing Director of The Economist Group Greater China. The panelists discussed the gaps for working women, especially in China, and delved into ways companies can promote meaningful change. Zhu praised HPE’s recent gender equality initiative that provides employees an option of six months paid maternity and paternity leave.
The second panel (pictured above), Profiling Effective Leadership: Transcending Gendered Definitions, featured previous speaker, Clare Fearnley, along with, Cindy Jensen, Founder of INPOWER ONE, Echo Jin, CFO at Microsoft Greater China, Vamsi Mohan Thati, President for Greater China and Mongolia at Coca-Cola, and Mengjuan Li, Head of HR at Johnson & Johnson Asia Pacific. Among other topics, the panel discussed the important possession of soft skills like compassion – often ascribed as traditionally female qualities – as necessary for any effective leader.
The final speeches of the day were delivered by Alain Crozier (pictured above left), CEO of Microsoft China, Cindy Mi, CEO and founder of VIPKID, and virtual speakers, Victoria Kwakwa (pictured below left), VP for East Asia and Pacific at the World Bank, and Bélen Garijo (pictured below right), CEO of Merck. They reiterated that women are a cornerstone to a healthy economy and strong workforce, encouraging women to speak up, dare to be courageous, and express themselves.
See more images from the 5th Women’s Economy Summit in Beijing below!