Saturday, January 19, 2013

For Who I Am, Not What I Am

Look at me, not the Dad-figure on my left

This SCMP article ( that profiles Zong Fuli, the 30-year-old daughter of the richest man in China, is meant to be light-hearted. In the article, she describes herself as “rich and boyfriendless” and suspicious that men who approach her are mainly interested in her wealth and/or finding ways of doing business with her. Naturally, being the offspring of Zong Qinghou, a man reputed to be worth somewhere between US$10-20 billion as the head of Wahaha (a leading soft-drink producer), does have its share of complications. Dad can be a tough act to follow in many guys’ eyes. Fortunately for Zong Fuli, she seems to have her head on straight and be capable of taking care of herself. She received a business degree from Pepperdine University in California, and is gainfully employed at Wahaha. She is competent enough to be considered the heir-apparent to her father’s position at the head of the company.

In largely-patriarchal Asia, it’s good to witness such examples of women’s achievement. As the region continues to industrialize and achieve higher per capita income levels, more modern and meritocratic views of gender are increasingly evident. There is probably no more striking case-in-point of changing public opinion towards women in prominent positions than in macho-man Korea, which has elected its first woman president. That’s the good news. However, a few cases of women such as Zong Fuli rising to power on the coattails of preceding men in their lives (Park Geun-hye and her father, Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, Ang San Suu Kyi and her father) are only the beginning steps of real change. On a much broader basis and down at street level, Individuals need to be seen for who they are and what they can be, beyond the configuration of their chromosomes. Wages for equal jobs lag for many women. Treatment at home is still known to be oppressive, even brutal. And successful women are often seen as intimidating and un-feminine. The faster those attitudes can change, the better off Asia will be. The region’s emerging leadership in the world will only be solidified by tapping further into its brainpower, rather than low-cost structure. And the last time anyone other than the Taliban checked, women are at least the equal of men on that front. Of course, women are more than just amazing economic and political resources. Given half the chance, they are often great people. And what’s more gorgeous than that?

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