I grew up in the very career driven culture of China! I’ve am very proud of the STEM education I got! STEM and my career opened up amazing travel and growth opportunities for me.
I spoke in detail to “Her STEM Story” about my Travel and my projects during our podcast interview. Click on the link below to learn more about me.
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For this post, I wanted to write about something other than travel and point out the issues my peers have faced being women in STEM. I wanted to take this opportunity to express the disappointment I feel at how women and young girls are expected to confer to gender stereotypes! This issue transpires through countries and cultures. In this post, I am sharing my experiences of growing up in China!
Growing up in CHINA
I did my schooling from Beijing, China. Chinese education system is known for its aggressive teaching methods for mathematics and science. I benefitted from them and excelled at both the subjects. We had a rigorous school schedule, during my senior year in high school, school timings were 7:00 am to 10:00pm. We had extensive school load and exhausting studies. High school life in China is very contrasting to how it is in the US. It’s all work and no play! Fortunately, it did teach me to work hard and be passionate about my work.
Before starting college, I came to the US for a one-year exchange trip. After that trip, I decided to come back to pursue my further education. I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), which is ranked as No. 7th Top Engineering School by US News and World Report. My harsh Chinese education experience prepared me well for the college life here. The classes were challenging but the schedule was way more comfortable! That’s the thing about hardships; they make you stronger and prepare you well for challenges!
In college, I got to try different sports, join varies organizations, and take leadership positions in different collegiate groups. I have always been very proud of China’s education system because of its unique challenges. But, I was shocked to find out (from my peers back home), that there was a much bigger gender disparity in higher education in China.
Equal Upbringing, Unequal Expectations
Recently one of my friends shared this experience with me; She got her master’s degree from the UK and works at the marketing department of a well-known IT company in China. In order to get the job, she had a plastic surgery on her eyes to make them bigger. Nonchalantly she said, “Everybody does it! Every woman in my department is exceptionally gorgeous.”
It saddens me to hear this because, up until college, girls and boys are treated equally in China. We were all encouraged to pursue whatever we aspired to achieve. However, once in college, things changed dramatically! While guys were still encouraged to study hard, girls were encouraged to learn about make –up, fashion, and hairstyles.
Though it is important to always look your best! I found out from my girlfriends that they feel the immense pressure to “look pretty”. For us, this pressure did not exist in high school. It seems like girls are pressured to be glamorous and presentable instead of being skilled and worthy of the job!
Let’s Close The Gap
I think this kind of pressure greatly affects the career path girls choose and leads to the gap in STEM professions to keep growing. It is not just China, but across the world we pressure young girls to follow a timeline for their life, to always put marriage and appearance before anything else. This makes them more vulnerable and they quickly give up on their dreams. I was very lucky that I didn’t grow up or face any similar roadblocks during my personal career. That’s the kind of experience, I wish for all girls! No pressure, no stereotypes, only equality in everything they wish to pursue!
I strongly believe that women of all age groups from schools to colleges and young professionals need to be inspired through platforms like this. We need to come together to break stereotypes and societal pressures. We can achieve this by creating a nurturing community for girls/women who dare to dream big. We can and will change how the world perceives WOMEN not just in STEM but in every field around the world through these baby steps!
Always remember; We are way more than “JUST A PRETTY FACE!”
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About the Author:
Jinghan Wu is a Design Engineer at General Cable, Cincinnati. She is an avid traveler and loves to learn new things. She is a Women in STEM advocate and wants to spread her message of equality. You can learn more about her on our podcast episode 2: 23 Countries & More.