By Edwin Chan, Chief Commercial Officer
Growing up with a working mother gave me my first experience of gender bias.
My mother was one of seven children in her family, and she excelled at school. She learnt English in her youth which was a major achievement in Hong Kong in those days. Even though she was a top student who took naturally to Maths and Sciences, she was not given the opportunity to attend university. Her parents had very strong views on gender roles which were consistent with the time and culture. Her brothers were the only children who were able to attend university and were sent abroad to study in Canada, whilst my mother went straight into the workforce.
She started her career in banking but found limited career progression because she didn’t have a degree and the lack of female role models in senior positions. She did not let this hold her back though as after two years, she retrained as a cartographer specialising in the creation of coastal maps for the Hong Kong government where promotion was more based on skill and expertise shown in day-to-day working, so she was able to rise up the ranks where she finally became Principal Cartographer leading a team of 10 people.
I’ve grown up watching my mother accept the societal constraints imposed on her and find a way around it. She has a quiet determination to succeed and not be held back by societal constraints around gender in her era.
I now have a daughter who thankfully will not have the same kind of constraints imposed on her, who knows that she can pursue any job she wants, whether that is in finance, medicine, engineering or the arts. And I’m so proud that she has these opportunities because of women like my mother.
I find it interesting how gender stereotypes are disappearing, my daughter has become a very well-rounded person in that she likes Marvel movies, sport, sciences, art, crocheting and textiles. And I have even surprised myself by how much I enjoy watching The Great Pottery Throwdown, which a few years ago I would have never admitted!
Gender bias occurs at a young age and is omnipresent, children can become pigeonholed into their respective gender expectations from a young age.
How we use our respective language also impacts gender bias. Phrases such as “boys don’t cry” or “girls are sensitive” also reinforces the bias into young children; and trying to change their perception of what gender should do when they’re adults are far harder to achieve.
The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” rings as true now as before, and the need for all of us to help change the gender bias is a collective effort and the advantages are immeasurable.