Heidy Zhou International Womens Day
What does equality in the workplace look like for you?
In-house counsel is a bit different compared with other industries and professional service. Over my 25+ years working as in-house counsel, I have not observed an obvious gender equality challenge, sometimes it has actually been the other way round, where we wanted to attract more male professionals. I have seen young female lawyers grow fast and play more important roles in their respective company/industry. Their professional skills, their business acumen and most important their confidence level has helped them reach higher. There are more and more female GCs who are active in many fields. They are passionate whilst also caring people who help their teams strive for better.
When talking about gender equality, my initial reaction is we do not have much of an issue in China with gender equality, as a famous Chinese proverb says ‘women hold up half of the sky’. However then I start to realise that within China’s unbalanced development in different places, such challenges exist everywhere. I notice these challenges in other business organisations including private corporations and in remote places where females still face unconscious bias and different treatment. I believe the situation won’t change immediately without the championing of people in different levels to carry on promoting open and inclusive culture across organisations and social communities.
I appreciate being able to work in multinational companies with the inclusion and diversity culture cultivation which provides a bigger platform for females to grow up in and would expect the same from the entire society, and this starts with each of us promoting this culture.
If you mentor professionals at the early stages of their careers, do they/have they encountered different equality issues than you experienced at the same stage in your career? What changes have you seen?
Perhaps due to my work in a metropolitan city and multinational companies over the past years, the equality issue does not seem a big hurdle for young female in-house lawyers. Although they may still face challenged with business leaders and colleagues, in most cases this is not due to gender but their life experience as look for professional advice on their business activity. Things have got better compared with the late 90s’ as at that time in-house counsel was still a new concept for people working in the company and normally a solo position even in big multinational companies. You had to prove the value you bring to the business with hard work. Nowadays in-house counsel is a well-recognised professional position which more and more companies including private and SOE have set up for their business growth.
Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company they are employed by.