As I mentioned in my last post, I had an amazing trip to Shangai in May and wanted to give you some details. It was such a peak experience for which I am very grateful!
I was invited to speak at a conference of about 1000 woman, called the International Elite Women’s Summit, the theme of which was: More Courage; More Strength. It was the fourth time this conference has been held, drawing women from many parts of China and, to come extent, other parts of Asia.
In the words of the organizers, the conference was "a high-level women’s forum of a large scale, high cohesiveness and great influence so far in China. With the courteous reception of the highest standard, it invites distinguished female guests with international influence and the right of speech to discuss the future of women together. It serves as the first platform where key female figures in various industries including well-known female entrepreneurs, female political VIP, emerging career elites, writers, renowned scholars, media professionals and others, come together for idea exchanges."
My understanding from a Chinese friend who grew up in Shangai is that, during Mao’s time, women made a lot of advances and were essentially equal to men in most regards. In the China of today, however, things have reverted -- kind of to what they were for woman in the United States in the 1950s. For instance, it would have shamed my Dad for my Mom to work outside of the home, and that is, I think, the way it is for a lot of women in China today. I was told that so many Chinese women are feeling kind of hopeless, stuck and apparently go through hoops to come, sometimes from far away, to this conference in Shanghai. It costs about $60, which is a large sum for many.
If you have the time, money, passport and Visa, which I know for many on the planet are huge hurdles, and the willingness to sit for 14 hours on a plane, it’s pretty much straight-forward to go from New York to Shanghai. There are daily flights and -- as I see on a lot on these long-haul flights I take to Africa and to Asia -- a steady stream of people who almost appear like regular commuters. I remember one client in Gabon, basically going home monthly to see his family and sounding very much like a commuter the way he talked about it.
I was met at the airport by Claire (the name she actually uses in China), a 28-year-old, Chinese woman who couldn’t have been more fun and better host. She greeted me with an incredibly beautiful bouquet of flowers, a driver, and got me situated in the Grand Hyatt, which is one of the nicest hotels in Shanghai. After I took a short nap, Claire and her boyfriend, Shambo, took be down to the Yangtze river where there were lots of boats, glittering lights, foreigners, a beautiful temperature, plenty of greenery. Shanghai is a very civilized city, not too crowded and felt very safe and extremely modern. I really liked it there and would love to go back.
The next day we got the show underway. These folks completely had their "major event" act together -- with the technology, the hair and the make-up. I felt like I was a movie star! The digital world there seems far ahead of even where it is in New York.
I felt pretty humbled as I was treated like a star, but was among true stars. I was the only Western woman in a line-up of famous women from Japan and from China.
The one I knew the most was Marie Kondo, the best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which so influenced me and many people I know. Following the book's recommendation, I remember going around my house and picking up every object to determine if it "inspired joy in me" and if the answer was no, getting rid of it. Anyway, the speaker line-up consisted of a top Chinese actor, top Chinese journalist, a top Chinese anchorwoman, so it was really an honor to be among them.
The topic of my speech was: Igniting Women: The Pathway to Planetary Peace and you can listen to it at the link below. It went super well. I had 30 minutes total, but with direct translation really 15. I’ve become increasingly interested in transparency when I talk to audiences and I was super transparent here, using my own personal and professional story, both the highs and the lows, the successes and the ruptures, to talk about why I am so passionate about the need for women to wake up and step into our power together.
Mostly the audience was younger and I think people generally spoke very little English so I don’t know how many understood my original words. I was dependent on the translator, who was renowned to be excellent, but some of the bilingual women were not happy with how he translated some of the ideas. Note to self: Be really careful about how the translator is translating concepts. I went through the speech with him ahead of time, but perhaps some of the concepts made him uncomfortable? Not sure.
One of my favourite memories was at the end of the conference. A sea of young women came up to me wanting to take a selfie with me and telling me “I love you!”. I think that was perhaps the only English that they spoke. I doubt they actually loved me, but it was really wonderful energy nonetheless. I was amazed by the founder of the conference. The English name of the sponsoring organization is Action Pie, and the founder is Chi-Chi Liu. She is a small woman, quiet, and seems amazingly impactful. I didn’t see any evidence of a husband, a family, and it wasn't clear how she’s raising the money. Nonetheless, Action Pie has over a million members from all over China and is growing.
I'm sure this is all facilitated by the internet. I was amazed by WeChat and the widespread use of that app, which we don’t have here in the United States. Travelling around with Claire, she literally did everything with WeChat -- paid for the cab, connected with people everywhere. Apparently, everything is done on WeChat and Weibo, which is the Facebook of China, as Facebook is not allowed.
Please enjoy my talk. You can listen here.
Thanks for reading this and for listening.
I send you my warm regards,