The 2015 Her Village International Forum kicked off in Beijing on April 11. Yang Lan, president of Sun Media Group and founder of the forum, delivered a keynote speech themed "equal development for women: a wise choice for society." The following are excerpts from her speech.
Over the last 20 years of development in China, the concept of "Women hold up half the sky" [as was famously proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976)] has evolved into China's fundamental national policy of "gender equality." As a part of China's social security framework, women's equal rights are protected by the country's laws and societal systems. Both women and men's rights are human rights, and they depend on each other.
Our enemy is not men but concepts and systems that discriminate against and oppress women. Gender equality means not that women and men do the same work but, rather, respect for gender differences and the guarantee of everyone's right to free choice and equal development.
Since the [UN] World Conference on Women [held in Beijing in 1995], the National Bureau of Statistics has begun providing data with gender breakdowns, and more than 40 universities have set up institutes focusing on women.
Women's education continues to improve. In China, half of all university students and more than half of all postgraduate students are women. Independent and confident women are active in every industry. Currently, Chinese women have made significant progress in self-assessment and personal growth. More than 80 percent of Chinese women are "confident in their abilities." With their increasing awareness of their personal rights, women are encouraged to speak out to pursue the rights and opportunities they deserve, to seek personal development and happiness, and to share in the fruits of economic growth and social progress.
A supportive environment is as important as women's awareness and ability development. Speaking of which, women's development is humankind's development, and the emotion, wisdom, productivity and creativity that can be released by the development of women is beyond measure. Therefore, equal development of both sexes is wise and moral choice — a wise choice for the state, enterprises and other organizations, and a wise choice for each family.
It is wise for the state to choose women's equal development.
First of all, equal development is a measurement of social progress. It is a part of a county's image and soft power, a reflection of civilization, and an important part of diverse culture and values. Today, women have become major entrepreneurs, consumers and investors in the dot-com economy. It is women who have helped [Alibaba Group's] Jack Ma become [China's] most wealthy man.
In addition, women are advocating the sustainable development of natural and social ecologies. Women are participating in the management of social affairs and social governance. They are naturally and directly concerned with charities for food safety, environment, education, medical care and disadvantaged groups, among other causes. Currently, some outdated concepts and social criteria on gender roles are lagging behind the needs of our times, and some collective subconscious gender stereotypes are still playing hindering roles. "Masculine women," "leftover women," and "female Ph.D. students" [who are often referred to in China as the third gender] are typical subconscious stereotypes. There is also a tendency to commercialize women. For example, some members of the media take advantage of the sex appeal of female presenters in order to increase audience ratings.
Women's equal development is also in the best interest of enterprises and organizations.
First and foremost, in an era where development is boosted by innovation, a team's having a diverse range of perspectives — a diversity of gender — gives enterprises more advantages in product development, customer service, PR and marketing.
Furthermore, companies that focus on equal development for both sexes are in better positions in terms of internal governance and decision-making.
Women's equal development is a wise choice for families too.
Two independent, equal people who love each other with all their heart are more likely to establish a lasting and harmonious family and to form respectful and supportive relationships. Statistics show that men married to women with higher-level degrees tend to live a longer life. Women's health, mentality and education have a direct impact on children's physical and mental growth in addition to a profound influence on their confidence, values and means of coping with emotions.
However, traditional culture, mindset and stereotypes tend to limit women and hinder their development. "Men earn the bread, and women take care of the family" is considered [by Chinese traditions] to be the natural role distribution of both sexes.
The stereotypes surrounding men limit their right to free choice as well. The Chinese notion of "housing price is decided by the mother-in-law" (Before getting married, many potential husbands in China are required by their future mother-in-law to provide an apartment to the bride-to-be.) means that earning bread is largely men's major responsibility. Men have to afford houses to be qualified for marriage, or men have to spend most of their time making money to prove their manhood. We can see that, in many countries, male statesmen try to prove themselves to be good husbands and fathers in election campaigns. By contrast, our media tends to describe responsible leaders as those who "don't go home, even should their wives fall ill." So we appeal to give more choices to men, to break stereotypes and to give them liberation. Only once women and men shoulder social and family responsibilities together can they become true partners, can gender equality and harmony be realized.
Finally, the development of women's equality is about the free and all-around development of humankind. When a society gives men and women equal rights in their choices, individuals are creative; families are happy; society is harmonious; and the country is more competitive. This is not only women's issue but the country's issue. Women's power is the power to grow, create, cooperate, love and make a difference in the world while also making a difference in themselves. The best way to adapt to changes is to participate in and promote change. To set the wheels of change in motion, please send this message to those around you: "Equal development for women is a wise choice for society."
(Source: weibo.com/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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