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|Information Processing Management Associates, Inc.||January 1999|
Edited By Mary Ellen Bradley
A Day In the Life of a Professional Chinese Woman
By: Sheryl Hall, IT Services Manager, DRS
Back in August, I shared that five women from the state of Washington were going to China for an IT exchange. The invitation came from the China Association for Science and Technology and other affiliated computing societies. Well, we went and it was truly a trip of a lifetime! I would like to share a small fraction of it with you. I could write about many different and varying aspects of this professional experience, however, my choice is to summarize "A Day In the Life of A Professional Chinese Woman."
A typical day for any Chinese woman begins before dawn. For many women, exercise is a part of their daily routine. Many younger women rise early in order to start their very busy day with an activity. Women of all ages enjoy walking, jogging, dancing, Tai-Chi and other forms of meditating in the parks or school-yards.
In Hefei for instance, on my early morning jog, I encountered a school-yard with a track field. It was alive with people of all ages scattered about the entire field and track. Some of them were sitting in the center of the track in the grass. Others were crouched low with their legs folded tightly, hands cupped together, meditating peacefully. Still others were walking quickly around the track - alone and with partners. Many of these women were wearing high-heels, skirts or pants, with long-sleeved silk blouses, jogging and running around the track. Most likely, they don t have "work-out" clothes as a separate part of their wardrobe.
To my surprise, the women on bicycles that I came across in the wee hours, were riding out of necessity in order to get somewhere. Bicycling is still a primary mode of transportation in all of the cities that we visited. Unlike here in the U.S., where bicycling is generally for recreation and exercise.
By 6:30 a.m., the bicycle paths were much more crowded with daily commuters. The roads were progressively becoming congested with buses, taxis, scooters and automobiles. The sidewalks came alive with walkers, and markets were sprouting up. The fumes increased and the air slowly filled with thick grease-like emissions from the multitudes of deep-fried foods frying on the street corners.
Much like anywhere, many of the working women have jobs and places to be. In fact, most people in China do some type of work outside the home. Whether it be a job in a newly built office or university, a run-down factory, a department store, a farmer's market, make-shift restaurant on the street corner, or a government employed street-sweeper up before the crack of dawn, the people are employed.
Typically, there are also children (or at least one which is the limit now for all families) to get prepared for the school-day or the child-sitter. In most cases, the grandmother or mother-in-law cares for the children and often lives in the same dwelling. Dissimilar to the U.S., it is much more common for the extended family to care for each other. There are not many daycares or nursing homes in China.
The mothers and grandmothers are most often responsible for helping the children get prepared for school. Customarily, the extended families of five or more, are sharing a single apartment with one tiny bathroom. Breakfast often consists of plain white rice or sometimes noodles and hot broth or hot tea.
Self-preparation begins shortly after the children are prepared. Typically, female attire consists of simple flat shoes, ankle-high nylons, pants or skirt and light, silk blouse. They have young looking skin and many are very beautiful yet, plain. The majority of them do not wear makeup. The younger women are beginning to show signs of interest, however. Neither did they wear jewelry of any kind. Even married women were free of any type of rings or watches. Something else that is very different from our way, is that when the women marry, they do not take their husband's name.
Their transportation is most likely a bicycle. Those that live farther out from the city proper, might ride their bike from their apartment to a bus or to catch the subway in Beijing, for instance. Some will peddle their bikes one-hour each way to arrive at work. The few that are more prosperous might own a scooter bike and very few, an automobile. In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, there were noticeably more scooters and automobiles.
By 7:00 a.m. the streets were filled with thousands of commuters. The side-walks jam-packed with pedestrians. The typical work day begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp. At the China Economic Information Network (CEInet), which is a State Information Center in Beijing, I was told that employees get docked money from their paycheck if they are just minutes late to work.
It was also at CEInet, that I had a meeting with two young women that were managers over three people each in networks. Both had degrees in Science Engineering. One had a Masters degree and was a manager for UNIX Administration. The other one had a Bachelors degree and was a manager for the Routers (13 of them), that connected other cities within the provinces to the State Information Network. Basically, they were like a provider to other government entities, much like the Department of Information Services (DIS).
It was very interesting for me to learn that the people in general, do not have to wear several "hats," doing several functions and tasks. In China, things are much more relaxed and jobs are shared with many others. The downside to this, is that they also have very little authority and control. System integrators are used for long-term strategic planning, upgrades, correcting problems, and much more.
In order to have a position within a university or with other government institutes, graduate degrees and often post-graduate level degrees are necessary. Many of the women we met had Master level degrees and some Ph.D. levels as well. The youngest woman we met with a Ph.D., was 23 years old. It still appears that they study hard and start at a young age. Similar to the United States, fewer young women are enrolling in Science and Technology courses in the 1990's. When asked why, the answer was because they did not want to have to work as hard as their parents.
Over and over again, the women were asked the question about equality and discrimination. We met several women in the IT field yet we heard more clashing opinions from the older generation, than the younger women. Here are some statistics from the Institute of Plasma Physics Academia Sinica. Women make up 26% of the total faculty members at the Institute of Plasma Physics Academy in Hefei, Anhui Province, China. Directly within the Science and Technology area, 28% of the faculty members are female, 14% of the professors are women, and 23% are assistant professors. Women make up 11% of the total Master degree faculty whereas, only 4% females make up for the Doctor degree faculty. On the other hand, females make up 38% of the Associate Section Chiefs. And, in September 1998, there were 11% females enrolled in the Doctor program and 24% females were Master students.
Government benefits for women were also shared with me. It was very interesting because they always included their weekend days off as "holiday" time. Their actual holidays were very few. This is because, I was told, they have no place to go. In many cases they can not afford to travel to another city. However, maternity and paternity leave was quite generous. And, often any time off is to care for the extended family.
Lunch breaks begin at 12:00 noon and end around 2:30, plenty of time for a nap! Up until recently, the Chinese worked six days a week. They seem to be very grateful to work only five days.
The day ends at 5:00 p.m. for most employees and the commute home begins. Back home, they usually spend time with the children and work on school work. Dinner comes later. For evening entertainment, most families sit together and watch TV. More and more families are purchasing TV's. Often, they are shared with others outside their home who live in their complex. The movie "Ghost" is a favorite with young women and Michael Jackson is their favorite singer. They love American movies and TV. The Titanic was a family favorite too!
The computer is still very new to individuals. At work and in the universities, many people now have e-mail accounts, however, they are often group accounts. One must assume that ALL e-mail exchanges will be read, especially something that is sent out of the country.
Many women own Cell phones. In fact, they are very common throughout China. This is because it is very slow and much too costly to have a dedicated line into your apartment. This is very much like central, middle Europe and other populous places where communication lines are difficult to reach.
I met a mix of young women that were more interested in having a family than in a career. This too, is really no different from here. In light of all the differences, when all is said and done, things often seem to be more similar than different!
December Board Meeting
Members Present: Jim Albert, Darrel Riffe, Mary Ellen Bradley, Bob Monn, Phil Coates, Dennis Laine, Thomas Bynum, Shelagh Taylor, Judy Schneider.
Jim Albert, IPMA Chair, opened the December 10, 1998 meeting of the Board at 7:40 a.m. He welcomed Jon Brock and Sara Phillips as guests from the Cascade Center for Public Service.
Secretary: The minutes from the November Board meeting were approved.
Forum: Dennis Laine reported final close out of the 98 Forum has been completed.
Treasurer's Report: Phil Coates presented the monthly financial activity report which was approved by the Board.
Business Planning: Judy Schneider reviewed the investment report which indicates a favorable profile of the IPMA investment portfolio.
Executive Seminar: Darrel Riffe reported the Skamania Lodge has been reserved for the September 1999 Executive Seminar.
Professional Development: Bob Monn reported the next bi-monthly event is scheduled for January 7, 1999 at the Tyee. The subject is Data Warehousing, and Oracle will be the presenter. Tentatively, March 4th the topic will be Database Access and Analysis.
Communications Committee: The Board complimented the Communications Committee for the improved look and content of the IPMA web-site. Mary Ellen Bradley reminded the Board that she receives many comments on articles included in the IPMA Newsletter, so it is a good forum for showcasing agency project success stories.
IPMA Annual Planning Retreat: Shelagh Taylor confirmed the retreat dates are February 11th and 12th. The retreat will be held at the Shilo Inn at Ocean Shores.
IPMA Board Election Results: Thomas Bynum reported he was still tabulating the election results.
Cascade Center for Public Service: Jon Brock and Sara Phillips described a new Information Technology course they were developing as part of the Cascade Management Series. The course will be targeted to managers who have oversight of IT functions, but are not IT managers. They and the Board discussed ideas for the course that would result in making these managers more comfortable with IT, and able to assess and make better decisions about technology choices and issues.
The Board meeting was adjourned at 9:00 a.m.
In Memory of Warren Ronald Lindlauf -
Warren was born May 7, 1942 in Minot, North Dakota. The day after Thanksgiving, November 27th, 1998 Warren passed away. On that day we lost a fellow information systems manager, a colleague and a friend! Warren had over 25 years of service with Washington state. In fact, Warren was due to retire in less than two weeks. Besides working for the Department of Licensing as an Information Systems Manager, Warren had many other interests and passions. He enjoyed sports; alpine skiing, road biking, traveling in his RV, motorcycling, water skiing, and reading. One of his favorites was alpine skiing. Warren was a ski instructor for over 20 years with The Evergreen State College Ski School and was planning to instruct for Crystal Mountain full-time after his retirement.
I will always remember Warren as someone that had a "zeal" for life. He was always up-beat and interesting to talk with. Whenever I ran across Warren, whether at an IT conference or IPMA seminar, skiing at Crystal Mt., or bicycling, he was always kind, supportive, enthusiastic, and a really great person! We will miss him.
IPMA, P.O. Box 1943, Olympia, WA 98507-1943