Gill Zhou: Why We Should Value Women

[Beijing, March 9, 2020] To celebrate International Women’s Day, we interviewed our alumna Gill Zhou, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Greater China Group, who shared with us her insights on how women are using their strengths to play a positive role in the challenging time we face due to the COVID-19 outbreak and why people should abandon stereotypes.

Gill Zhou, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Greater China Group; Student of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB)’s Business Scholar Program

In my view, the female medical workers at the battlefront in Hubei have proved how important women’s roles are at a time of crisis. In fact, more than half of the doctors and 90% of the nurses fighting this virus are women. Among them are many pregnant medical workers. They ‘hold up half the sky’ with professional and selfless dedication as they safeguard our health. They are fearless women in the face of adversity! So today, instead of talking about women’s responsibilities, I want to talk about the value of women.

Chinese women’s inborn tenacity, warmth and dedication enable them to step forward in times of crises. When crises are over and they go back to their regular lives, they are again tagged as “wives,” “mothers”, “daughters”, and “iron ladies” if they are successful in their careers. Personally, I regard the term “iron lady” as a derogatory and offensive expression. Why doesn’t anyone say “iron gentleman”? Ultimately, this is the result of a stereotype formed by women’s gender roles, which insinuate incorrectly that women cannot juggle both a career and family.

Lin Qiaozhi, a famous Chinese obstetrician and gynecologist, was honored as the “Mother of Ten Thousand Babies.” After she graduated from Peking Union Medical College, her contract stipulated that “during the period of employment, if the employee marries, becomes pregnant or gives birth to children, the contract will be automatically terminated.” Thus, she gave up on love and remained unmarried all her life, dedicating herself to the cause of obstetrics and gynecology. But this could have been a better and more inspiring story. Prominent women at her time were forced to choose between career and family. Years later, although women have come to hold up half the sky in all walks of life, many still struggle under the pressure of having to choose either a career or family. According to the data released in 2019 by UN Women, female leaders only accounted for 9.4% in China’s listed companies. However, female talent is certainly higher than merely 9.4%. We see that in many companies and government departments – women lack influence. We live in an ever-changing era, when “Black Swan” and “Grey Rhino” events emerge in an endless stream and where unexpected disasters and diseases occasionally occur. Women’s unique tenacity and resilience are qualities that are urgently needed.

Women at IBM Greater China, for instance, make up half of the employees. IBM Greater China’s proportion of female scientists is 24.4%, and our proportion of female managers has reached 32%, higher than IBM’s global average. As early as 1909, the founder of IBM advocated that women should have equal rights in society, the economy, culture and politics. Since its establishment in 1911, IBM has always embraced a diverse and inclusive culture. IBM believes that talent from different genders, religions, cultures, and races makes up the foundation for IBM’s innovation, which has helped the company last a century.

In the face of this epidemic, 100,000 female medical workers at the battlefront in Hubei have shown Chinese women’s courage and ability to share responsibilities with men in difficult situations. Moreover, successful cases of female scientists, female engineers and female managers prove that women can be entrusted with important posts. I often say that women should transcend themselves and shoulder responsibilities. Today, I want to speak for the women who strive to succeed in their careers and families. I call on corporations, organizations and society to make a new strategic focus that promotes women in leadership positions. Let’s give equal treatment to female and male employees, and to reward their achievements equally. We need to truly understand and recognize the unique value women bring to the table.

*Gill Zhou is a student of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB)’s Business Scholar Program, a Chinese-language program run by CKGSB in partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU). For more information about the program, please visit *Gill Zhou is a student of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB)’s Business Scholar Program, a Chinese-language program run by CKGSB in partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU). For more information about the program, please visit https://english-dev.ckgsb.edu.cn/worldwide/programs/cn-lan-program/dba/

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