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Girls should dream big, too

By Zhang Yue | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-13 00:31

She has achieved many firsts in both China and the United States, but her main concern is to encourage leadership qualities among the young, especially women. Zhang Yue sits down with her to find out more.

This will be Shirley Young's third visit to China this year. The 78-year-old Chinese-American has been traveling between China and the United States often during the past four decades, both because of family, and to work at increasing cultural exchange between the two countries.

Born to a diplomatic family in Shanghai, Young is widely known as the first and only Chinese vice-president at General Motors in the history of the company since 1908.

She currently lives in the US with her mother Yan Youyun, and leads the Committee of 100, an independent nonprofit group of prominent Chinese-Americans based in New York.

Girls should dream big, too

Top and above: Shirley Young is in Beijing for an all-women seminar on "Global Political Challenge: Women Leading Change", with most participants from Wellesley College and Peking University. [photos by Zhu xingxin / China Daily]

Many of her previous trips to China were made for the Committee of 100, which aims to encourage a stronger relationship between the people of the United States and China, and the full participation of Chinese-Americans in all aspects of American life.

This June, Young visited China with some members of the board of directors of Wellesley College in the US with one aim in mind: promoting leadership in women.

Girls should dream big, too

"The notion of leadership is not very clearly and openly rooted in ladies at a very early age for most females around the globe, including China," she says.

"Girls are usually taught to have good academic performance at an early age, especially in China," she continues. "The leadership education is lacking in basic education of China."

That is why female undergraduates from Wellesley College came to Beijing for a one-week seminar with 20 counterparts from Peking University on June 20.

The workshop also invited women with great influence in both countries, such as Mona Lee Locke (wife of US ambassador Gary Locke), professor Wu Qing (daughter of renowned Chinese writer Bing Xin) and Chen Zhili (former president of the All-China Women's Federation).

As a permanent trustee of Wellesley College, Young made great effort to ensure the one-week event ran its course successfully.

"This is our first time holding the forum, and we hope to make it an annual event so female students from both China and US can keep long-term communications," she says.

During that week, the students heard lectures on urbanization and environmental protection.

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