The British Council is celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day with a series of special Inspiring Women China events in schools across China. On 7 March, patrons of the Inspiring Women China programme, British Ambassador to China Dame Barbara Woodward and Ms Yang Lan, one of China’s most successful female media entrepreneurs, launched the event series with a talk to students at Beijing ESBNU Huaxia Girls’ Middle School about their personal path to building a successful career.
Inspiring Women China is a new programme that aims to inspire young students, in particular young women, about the world of work, grow their ambitions, boost their confidence, and enable them to make more informed career choices. At the heart of this programme is a network of successful women from a broad range of backgrounds who volunteer their time to speak to students in schools about their work and the path they took to get there.
The official theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. Inspiring Women China encourages schools and the local community to work together to inspire the next generation to be bold in their own futures by aspiring high and wide. It also seeks to break down gender stereotypes by encouraging girls in particular to give consideration to occupations outside of those based on traditional gender roles.
Dame Barbara Woodward, the British Ambassador to China, said:
“I am delighted to be giving an Inspiring Women China talk to students today about my own education and professional experiences as a career diplomat. I can think of no better way to celebrate International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of ‘Be Bold For Change’ than by encouraging and inspiring girls to have bold ambitions for their own futures and to have the confidence to aim high and far.”
Further school talks will take place across China in March, including in Shanghai, Chongqing, Foshan and Wuhan. On 8 March, International Women’s Day, Carma Elliot, Director of the British Council in China and Minister (Culture and Education) of the British Embassy, will be joined by Cai Shuangshuang, a Chinese volunteer specialising in drama education, to share their career stories with students at Shanghai Ganquan Foreign Language Middle School.
Carma Elliot, Director China at the British Council, and Minister (Culture and Education), Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy, said:
“I am thrilled that we are able to celebrate International Women’s Day by connecting students in schools with successful professional women in their community through the Inspiring Women China programme. By hearing from women first-hand about the amazing range of jobs and sectors they work in, we can inspire girls to widen their horizons and achieve their full potential. We hope to see more and more Chinese women and schools signing up to take part.”
The British Council encourages professional women in China from all backgrounds and sectors, from artists to scientists to CEOs, to sign up and volunteer to talk to students about their career, their education path, and their life choices. Whatever their job, they can make a difference and help inspire young women across China. The campaign’s official website is iw.britishcouncil.cn
Since the launch of the Inspiring Women China online platform in December 2016, 55 schools have registered to take part in programme activities and more than 240 women have signed up to volunteer. The British Council aims to have 1,000 schools and 10,000 volunteers signed up within two years.
Alongside the Inspiring Women campaign lead by the British Council, the British Embassy will continue the Be Yourself做妳自己campaign in 2017. This campaign is focused on empowering women in society and in the economy and forms part of the UK’s commitment to the economic and business imperative for gender equality as a precondition for balanced social development and a competitive, productive economy. This campaign aims to encourage women and men to make positive changes in their lives for the benefit of women’s empowerment and ultimately the benefit of all.
Inspiring Women China is based on a successful UK national initiative launched by the Education and Employers Taskforce charity in 2013. Inspiring Women aims to inspire young people about the world of work, to raise their confidence and aspirations, and to enable them to make more informed choices about all the options available. The initiative encourages girls in particular to give consideration to occupations outside of those based on traditional gender roles. Despite the fact that women today are employed in greater numbers and in a wider range of roles and occupations than ever before, research shows that young people still tend to think of particular careers as ‘male’ or ‘female’. Young people often rule themselves out of careers that they might otherwise successfully pursue. It also means that industries and employers fail to attract and retain the best talent available and enhance diversity.
Helping young people understand the amazing breadth of careers and possibilities that are within their reach and what they are actually like, is critical to tackling misperceptions. One of the best ways of doing this is to ensure that young people are able to meet successful professionals who do a broad range of jobs, and who work for a variety of employers across an array of different sectors, to inspire young people to consider a wide variety of options.
The launch of Inspiring Women China is a proactive response to China’s interest in addressing the women’s agenda. In 2015/16, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong proposed that women be added to the UK-China People to People Dialogue as the eighth theme. The launch of the Inspiring Women programme in China helps to position gender equality and women empowerment at the core of the UK-China relationship, and will contribute positively to the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Sustainability Development agenda. Girls in STEM Education and Women entrepreneurship speak particularly well to the education agendas of both countries. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate how the UK employs a creative approach to encourage greater collaborations between schools and the wider community to inspire girls to raise their aspirations in education, in the economy, and in society more generally.
China recognises the importance of tapping women’s full potential in terms of their contribution to the economy. Li Yuanchao, Vice President of China, in his opening remarks at the W20 in Xi’an, May 2016, stated that the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women workers and managers will raise per capita productivity by 40 per cent. It is all the more important to pool women’s wisdom and strength at a time when the global economic recovery remains fragile. As the Chinese economy moves into a New Normal, efforts are made to encourage mass innovation and entrepreneurship, and women are essential in this endeavour. However, one of the challenges in China is a lack of social recognition for women’s potential, talent and contribution.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.
We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.
Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.
We operate as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing and Cultural and Education Section of the British Consulate-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Wuhan. Our Exams work across China operates as a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise.