Making the grade? - 'Just forget you're a woman'

Updated: Jul 30, 2019 By Luo Weiteng in Hong Kong Print
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Annie Wu Suk-ching, founder of Maxim's Group and the supervising adviser of the Hong Kong Federation of Women

For women seeking to carve out an independent career path, the first thing they have to put behind is the gender issue, as the key to success lies in their exceptional ability, broad and deep knowledge base, as well as a strong desire for continuous learning, says legendary Hong Kong businesswoman Annie Wu Suk-ching.

Such a belief drove Wu to head north as the bellwether of the first batch of Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs along with her father James Tak Wu, who founded the city's largest catering group Maxim's Group from scratch, to embrace a daring, near iconoclastic spirit of change in 1978 when the Chinese mainland launched its historic campaign for economic prowess.

It also motivated Wu to overcome all difficulties to set up the country's first joint venture, Beijing Air Catering Co, and play a zestful role in the nation's four decades of reform and opening-up.

"As a businesswoman, one of the good lessons I've picked up is from my late uncle, who gave me the opportunity to learn some business, but at the same time reminded me not to work too hard because, after all, I'm a woman. This gave me a very good brainstorming idea that if I want to be recognized by my work and ability, I have to forget I'm a woman," Wu told China Daily on the sidelines of the Women Power Forum in Hong Kong on Monday.

"Instead, I've to think of myself as a worker and improve my know-how and knowledge to prove that I can be on the same level to compete with men in different fields of work," said Wu, who is also the supervising adviser of the Hong Kong Federation of Women and honorary chairperson of the Women Power Forum.

In the business and technology fields, she pointed out, ability counts more than how you look and how you actually will be perceived.

The trip to Beijing that set the stage for the birth of the mainland-Hong Kong joint venture was "totally new" for Wu, who would even use the word "alien" to describe the "culture shock" encountered and the entirely different business environment she tried so hard to adapt to.

Believing that women should never confine themselves to one particular job, but try to test their potential in various fields, Wu saw the trip as a great opportunity to feed her never-ending thirst for learning and chart a course of standing at the front line of the country's decades-long development miracle.

Today, with a constellation of influential businesswomen fighting to find their places in male-dominated industries, and proactively reclaiming and reinventing spaces once reserved for old-school views on femininity, Wu believes the meaning of being a woman has also been reshaped.

"Looking back to my mother's generation, what it was meant to be a woman revolved very much around the family. But, for our generation, we have already been able to dedicate more time to our own careers aside from the family," she noted.

As the sheer power of economy scale, social media and cutting-edge technologies brings about dramatic changes more than ever before, Wu foresaw the generation of her nieces and nephews is moving into another plateau where young people have more flexibility and time to devote to both their own family and career.

Amid talk of the rise of the "She Economy", Wu believed the much-discussed topic should be further expanded to "We Economy" and "Young Children Economy" as "nowadays, it takes everyone to work together in partnership on issues of children's well-being".

In that sense, the younger generation is much more dedicated to the "betterment of society" and takes on the role of "global citizens". Their visions are not restricted to issues concerning one person, one family, but everyone and the next generation, she said.

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