by Elynn Guo, Account Coordinator, Public Affairs Practice, Golin Beijing
as told by Laura Zhao, Associate, Public Affairs Practice, Golin Beijing
As the only girl in a large family, my parents were always more lenient and encouraging towards me because, after all, “I was a girl, and a girl needs to be tolerated and cherished, soon you will be married into another family and, soon you will have children of your own.” While my brothers would constantly be lectured to strive for excellence because the family was depending on them.
I accepted such praise wholeheartedly at first, but soon I began to wonder: is my excellence or lack thereof connected to my gender? And did any of my choices in life need to be made based on my gender?
The answer is “no.”
I gravitated toward communications and journalism when choosing my major. This was accepted as “a more suitable career path for girls” by my family, while my brothers were encouraged to select “manly pursuits that will allow them to support their families in the future.”
I later realized I was not “better suited for it” instead I was more passionate about it. Once I graduated, I entered the finance, artificial intelligence, and computer data industries. This was a significant shift from what I studied at university. However, I wanted to prove to myself and my family that women can work in any field.
My experience studying and living in the US and UK has given me a unique perspective on gender roles and expectations. In these countries, there is a greater emphasis on individualism and personal freedom, and the roles of men and women are viewed in a more egalitarian manner.
This exposure to different cultural perspectives has encouraged me to break free from traditional gender roles and expectations.
In traditional Chinese culture, gender roles and expectations are strictly defined. Women were expected to be obedient and quiet and get married before 30. These ideals were deeply ingrained in society and passed down from generation to generation.
Parents today still encourage their children to lean into their gender to make very different choices at different stages of their lives.
But as the younger generation in China gains more economic mobility and strength, attitudes toward gender roles are shifting. Young girls now have greater options and freedom to live on their own terms rather than being confined by traditional gender expectations.
However, it can still be difficult for girls to break free from the pressures of cultural norms and expectations. Many young women continue to struggle with the idea that they must conform to traditional gender roles in order to be accepted by society.
I was lucky I had the encouragement of strong female mentors. My mother’s life was so different from mine. She worked hard to give me a better life so I could have the opportunities that she did not have.
I will always be grateful to her for the environment she created for me growing up, the economic prosperity I enjoyed, the books I devoured, and the discipline and strength of character she instilled in me.
As I look at my life now, I am so proud of how far I have come. I currently work for Golin, one of the world’s largest PR firms, where I can use my skills and expertise to positively impact society, helping more young girls who look like me and want to live up to their fullest potential.