Today we talk to HerCentury mentor in Shanghai, Sophie Tsuei
Q: In your personal experiences of mentorship, how do you mentor young people with different backgrounds?
Every individual is a different person who has her unique life story & her own perspective of seeing what has happened on the journey. In my experiences, most times a mentee had the most profound conversations with me because we discussed something regarding her current challenges but by taking the similar failures I ever had as examples to summarize the possible solutions. Being a mentor means we have a great chance to look deep into a single mentee’s challenges & personal traits, to analyze & search in the database of our own lives, and to share what corresponded to her current situation by real experiences. This personalized approach always helps both mentee and mentor to observe the challenges and issues more clearly and to reflect deeper on her own life. I always appreciate the mentees who has been sent to my life by serendipity or arranged by Her Century – they are all my mirrors and I wish them all more glamorous women from the inside out.
每个人都是不同的个体，具有她自己独特的人生故事和对生命旅途的视角。在我的经验里，大部分的时候我和一个学员最有深度的谈话，往往来自于我们讨论她目前遇到的挑战时，用我自己曾经遇到的失败经验作为案例，总结出可能的解决方案。做一个导师意味着我们有个绝佳的机会来深入检视一个学员挑战和个人特质，来分析和搜寻在我们人生中经验值，然后分享和她呼应的相关真实经验。这种个人化的做法通常能帮助学员和导师，更清晰地观察挑战和问题，更深地反思各自的人生。我总是很感激被送到我生命里和Her Century安排的学员 – 她们都是我的镜子，也祝福她们能从内而外地越发美丽。
Q: Why do you personally choose to work on women empowerment projects in India?
One evening earlier this year when I was on a group tour in Mumbai India, the group passed a street that we could feel the disreputable atmosphere in the air. The tour guide Manoj told us that our car just passed the prostitution area. Though recently the prostitution was put down and eliminated by the authority, there were still hundreds of thousands of girls working on the street. The shocking fact is 99% of sex workers there were forced to do the job. They came from states in poverty and were sold by their families to pay off the family debt since they were children. In a sexual-conservative society like India, once you get involved in prostitution, you will become a shame of family & society and rarely have the chance to get out of this life.
By looking at the heart-broken stories of these girls, I just realized that we are not in a gender balanced world yet; we are just living in a relatively gender balanced cities. Where we see no women physically or mentally suffering from gender inequality.
The major reasons of why this would happen: girls who are raised in poverty usually don’t have chance to access to the basic level of education. They are regarded as the burden of family and their goal of life should be getting married as soon as possible. Hence when people face very difficult situations in poverty, the “less-valued” members in the family such as young girls become “tradable assets”to the poor people, given that the girls are regarded as illiterate, no skills and no capability of doing anything other than homemakers.
Recently I am working with several organizations in India to empower their young female members from rural area or under middle class by training their skillsets, setting up self-sustainable cooperatives or brands, and creating crafts or accessories to collaborate with more established fashion brands and to sell to the market. By getting economical independence, the confidence level of those ladies has grown significantly within a short time, so has their communities’ respect to them as well. Of course there are still challenges ahead but it is definitely worthy of efforts when you see the changes.
Q: Looking back your life journey, do you feel that the female identity has created differences of your career development?
I went to a girl senior high school and it’s one of the best schools with most talented girl students in Taiwan. Because we studied in a girl-only environment during our teenage, it actually created a phenomenon that most time we forgot our identity as girls at school. We were educated as independent individuals and encouraged in pursuit of our own aspiration, no matter it will require the education background of electrical engineering, business administration or literature to achieve. We were all encouraged to go after whatever we think we can contribute.
When I was in the early days of my career development, and sometimes people would describe I was achieving & decisive “as a man” at workplace, I was always wondering why being myself at work needed to be labeled as the opposite gender or any gender? I did not see myself as a female accomplished works that are supposed to be mostly done by men, I saw myself as an individual who enjoyed the accomplishment in the business world. That’s what I see in many achieving women no matter in which stages of their career development– we are just different types of individuals with varied talents and self-fulfillment goals. Gender is just one of aspect of identities.
Q: I heard you read a lot of books and share some notes with people on WeChat & Instagram. What do you learn from readings recently that you may want to share with our friends in Her Century regarding what we mentioned in the interview today?
One thing I learned from the famous sociology book “Guns, Germs & Steel” is that human being in the world are having equally intellectual quotient level among different races. It’s more the natural resources decided by geography, people’s mindset and social norms that have shaped the fate of different technology development among races or countries. The intellectual level distribution is neither decided by gender difference. Both genders have equal potential of personal achievement in terms of intellectual works. It’s people’s mindset that sets the limitation of personal development by gender bias.
If more of us start to see this world with a view of genderless perspective, from job recruitment to creating parenting supportive policy for workplace, this world can liberate more productivity and enjoyment, through providing equal opportunities to both genders. Think about the fact in metrics – only less than 10% of the women in working ages in India are employed, but it is what to more than 70% of women in China. Where we can see the differences in economic development with similar population between the two. Liberating women productivity at work can be one way for emerging countries like India to rise up in double speed.