Sunday 04 December 2016

Inspiring Women China, a British Council programme based on a successful initiative in the UK, officially launched its online platform on 4 December in Beijing. The online platform will enable this initiative to grow to scale across China with teachers able to connect with and invite volunteers in any chosen field or area to talk with students in their school or college. 

Inspiring Women China aims to inspire young people, girls and young women in particular, about the world of work, to raise their confidence and aspirations and enable them to make better informed choices about their career options. At the heart of this programme is a network of successful women from a broad range of backgrounds who volunteer their time to talk to students about their job, career and the path they took to get there. 

The launch was itself a celebration of inspiring women: Dame Barbara Woodward DCMG OBE addressed the guests, Rio Paralympics gold medal winner Susie Rodgers shared an enthralling account of her journey to win a Team GB gold medal, and Ma Feng, a graduate from Educating Girls of Rural China, founded by Ching Tien, described her path from rural Gansu to studying at Liverpool University in the UK. 

This programme clearly demonstrates the UK’s experience in bringing together education and the wider community in ways which allow girls to aim high, and achieve their full potential. 

Ms Yang Lan, one of China’s most successful female media entrepreneurs, and Dame Barbara Woodward DCMG OBE, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to China, are patrons of Inspiring Women China. 

Dame Barbara Woodward DCMG OBE, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to China, said:

“I have made a personal pledge, as the first female Ambassador to China, to be a convener of successful women during my tenure. I am excited to be the patron of Inspiring Women China; and that successful Chinese women are lining up to volunteer a small amount of time to talk to young people about their education and professional experiences. Together let’s support women and girls to aim high and climb far.”

Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of the British Council says:

“I am delighted that Inspiring Women China is launching at scale today. This is an initiative that is close to my heart, as it so clearly represents British Council values; it demonstrates the UK’s commitment to young people, it’s about inspiring the next generation of girls to raise their aspirations in education, to fulfil their potential in society, and to make the greatest possible contribution to social and economic development. A great example of the ways in which we look to meet our commitments to the SDGs!  We know that no country can truly develop without unlocking the full potential of women and girls so it is imperative that we each look to ourselves to see what we can do to achieve this.”

The British Council China encourages professional women from all backgrounds and sectors, from artists to scientists to CEOs, to sign up to 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. 

Notes to Editor

About Inspiring Women China

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.

About the British Council

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.