The American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai held its first Women’s Leadership Conference in Suzhou on 29 March. The event, sponsored by the International Business School Suzhou at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, attracted more than 100 female leaders, business professionals, and IBSS students and academic staff to exchange ideas on innovation, diversity and inclusion, self-empowerment, and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.
The conference was hosted by Dr Ellen Touchstone, Associate Dean for Responsible and Sustainable Business Education at IBSS, and featured presentations from Rosa Lee, Executive Vice President of Bosch China; Gebi Liang, Vice President of Engineering at Microsoft Suzhou; Aiying Wang, President and CEO for China, Southest Asia and India at Envac; and Lisa Podolny, Chief of Provincial Relations at the US Consulate General in Shanghai.
“All of the speakers were phenomenal, sharing both new ideas and their personal experiences,” says Dr Touchstone, who helped organise the conference. “The event was the culmination of three years of planning by Gebi at Microsoft Suzhou, Aiying at Envac and myself. We knew that the women’s business community in Suzhou needed a networking organisation, so we set out back in 2019 to create one. Covid-19 disrupted our plans but we persevered and now are so pleased with the success of this conference sponsored by IBSS.”
In addition to leaders’ presentations, Dr Li Pan, director of the W.E leader Mindfulness Centre at IBSS, delivered a lecture on the importance of mindfulness followed by a brief practice session.
“Women leaders often take on more emotional pressure than their male colleagues, which can deplete their energy just as physical and mental labor does, but this is often undervalued,” says Dr Pan. “In the age of artificial intelligence, emotional labor is less likely to be automated, which may suggest a change in the important role women leaders play.”
Mindfulness can be beneficial for women in leadership because it promotes stress management, reduces burnout, improves emotional regulation, and enhances empathy, she adds. “By cultivating these skills, women can become more effective and successful.”
At the conference, Haina Sang, a Year Four student in the BSc Economics and Finance programme at IBSS, also shared her thoughts and experiences working for Sustainable Future Talents, a group that promotes sustainable development, and her involvement in the XJTLU’s annual Climathon, a carbon neutrality project at XJTLU.
“I used to know that women can be powerful, but today, talking so closely [with women leaders] and hearing about their lives, I learned that as well as being powerful, brave and enthusiastic they can be calm and tenacious,” Sang says. “Seeing these outstanding women in leadership I spontaneously develop the feeling that I can also do this.”
The conference ended with the #IAmRemarkable workshop, in which participants discussed the cultural and societal issues that can make self-promotion difficult and how to identify and overcome internal biases.
“The workshop, which was originally developed by Google, was particularly helpful for some of my IBSS students, as they learned the importance of self-promotion,” Dr Touchstone says.
In her role at IBSS, the first Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) Champion school in China, Dr Touchstone is working to raise awareness of the UN Global Compact’s Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including gender equality.
More women’s leadership events in Suzhou are planned for the near future. For more information, contact Dr Touchstone at email@example.com.