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More women’s leadership needed

Peking University, June 24, 2013: “More women are needed in leadership around the world,” and “this is an important moment for Wellesley, for Peking University, for women leaders all over the world”, said President of Wellesley College H. Kim Bottomly at a forum held at Peking University on June 15, 2013.


More than three hundreds women representatives from China and the U.S., including scholars, entrepreneurs, astronauts, alumni and students, gathered together to discuss “Women’s Leadership: Making a Difference”.


It was a first-of-its-kind forum dedicated to helping women advance to positions of global leadership.



At the opening ceremony, Ke Yang, vice president of Peking University, told the audience that outstanding women had never been absent from the history of China. Peking University has long been the pioneer in women’s education and leadership. “From the year 1920, Peking University began to enroll female students to study simultaneously on the same campus as male students. Peking University has trained many excellent female students later to be active in many fields, including politics, commerce, academics, entertainment, sports and public interests.”


“It is within this context and this history, Wellesley in 21st century tends to educate women with global vision” said Kim Bottomly, Wellesley’s 13th president.


President Bottomly spoke highly of liberal arts education and she described it as “the foundation of leadership.” There was no better foundation for integrating knowledge across disciplines and cultures than liberal arts education. The liberal arts were the key because it enables creative problem solving and innovative thinking-qualities that are critical to leadership across all fields of endeavor.


She also quoted the Chinese old saying “One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade” to describe this conference as the beginning of two universities’ cooperation.


This one day forum was composed of 6 sessions: “Giving Voice to Women’s Leadership”, ”Navigating the Path to Leadership”, ”Facing Leadership Challenges”, “Story Table- Understanding Leadership through the Stories of Women Leaders”, “ Creating Solutions to Global Problems- the Power of the Liberal Arts”, “New Learning for a New World” and “Making a World- Changing Difference.”


Yang Lan, China’s celebrated talk show host, made her speech “Giving Voice to Women’s Leadership”. Once she was asked by Wellesley alumni Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, “What, in your opinion, helps you get success in your career?” Yang answered, “I just think it is because I’m lucky enough.” “No, no, no one could get success just by luck, but by choice.”


Yang is one of the few women who made choice correctly. However, there are still many restrictions for women in their careers. In her speech, she shared the audience the realities of women are facing with today. “Every working mother has a middle name, called guilty” said Albright once in the Yang’s interview. Women seem to share more family responsibilities than men. What’s more, the criteria for women to get promoted are harsher than men. The 2011 Mckinsey report states: “Many diversity officers and experts told us that despite their best efforts, women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on performance, while men are often promoted on potential.” The number of men leaders far exceeds that of women. She called on more opportunities for women to fulfill their values in life.


Pemela Melroy, a former NASA astronaut, said “leadership begins when you know your heart.” She talked about her space exploration experience and how she led her team to succeed in the session “Navigating the Path to Leadership”.


Wu Qing, educator and legislator, Sarah O’Donnell, Hong Kong Seibu Enterprise CEO, Wu Qidi, former vice-Minister of Ministry of Education, Shirley Young, president of Shirley Young Associates, also shared their understandings of women leadership in the forum.


The conference concluded with a gala dinner at the historic Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, with  the keynote addressed by PKU Vice President Li Yansong, Madame Chen Zhili (Chen is the Vice Chairman of 11th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress) and Gary Locke, the U.S. Ambassador to China.


Gary Locke described this program as “an opportunity and milestone” of developing women’s leadership. He believed that the women students who took this program would become “excellent leaders in business, academia, science and humanities all over the world.”


“To vigorously develop and give full play to women’s leadership is the trend of times and a sure choice of humanity”, said Chen Zhili. The fact is “today in China, there are 6 women state leaders, among the provincial and ministerial leaders, 222 are women, 45 percent of the newly-recruited civil servants are women. Women account for 25 percent of senior executives in the business community.”


She also emphasized the importance of women’s education and encouraged more women to get educated and “it is my belief that in their great efforts to help realize China Dream, quite a number of female college students of this generation will become prominent women leaders of our country.”


Background Info:

Wellesley College: Since 1875, Wellesley College has been the preeminent liberal arts college for women in the world. Known for its intellectual rigor and its remarkable record in the cultivation of women leaders in every arena, Wellesley- only 12 miles from Boston- is home to some 2,300 undergraduates from every state in the U.S. and 75 countries.


The Wellesley College/Peking University Partnership: Dedicated to educating women for global leadership, this historic partnership represents a significant commitment by both institutions as well as Peking University’s first program targeted toward women. To inaugurate the Wellesley College/Peking University partnership, 20 Wellesley students have traveled to Beijing to participate in an intensive 10-day academic program with 20 female students from Peking University. These 40 young women have been working with faculty from both institutions — as well as with international thought leaders and prominent practitioners who have bring “in-the-field” perspective-to examine some of the ethical, environmental, and economic challenges of worldwide urbanization.


Reported by: Zhao Xiaowei

Edited by: Zhang Jiang