Women in Computing
||China Experiences: The Trip in Review
By Anne Baker
In our last newsletter Sheryl wrote about the impending trip for 18 delegates from AWC to China. Now we're back and it's my turn to write. The majority of the group left San Francisco for Beijing on Thursday, September 10th. After a 13 hour plane ride we had an hour layover in the Shanghai airport before we reached our final destination. At 11pm Beijing local time Friday, September 11th we arrived in the Beijing Airport. After a flawless pass through Customs and a short trip on the bus we arrived at our hotel. And thus we began our adventure in China.
Now that we're back the trip all seems like a blur. We visited 4 cities in 11 1/2 days. We took buses, trains, planes, taxis and some even rode the subways. Each city had it's own distinct feel. Beijing was large with 12 million people and what seemed like twice as many bicycles. Hefei, a smaller city of 1 million people, greeted us as diplomats, an experience I'm sure none of us will forget. Wuxi, also a city of 1 million people, let us experience a typhoon. And Shanghai at 13 million people, gave us a taste of the West mixed with the East.
In each city we had group meetings that ranged from very formal to very relaxed, small group meetings and one-on-one's. Each meeting had a presentation from the Chinese side on what they do. Many of them talked about the standing of women in their organization, the number, equal opportunities, pay, etc. Then the floor was opened for questions. We found that we got a wide variety of answers on the state of women in China as it relates to pay, opportunities and responsibilities. Some contended that women are completely equal in all of these categories, while others gave us the impression that they are not quite there yet. However, the overall impression that we came away with was that women in China have made great strides in the past 10 years. Coming from a history of arranged marriages and bound feet, they now outpace us in the number of women in government decision-making positions. In some companies women hold a number of executive positions and receive pay that is commensurate with that. In other companies the highest position a woman holds is assistant manager. So, you can see that they have the same issues that we do.
From a technology standpoint, China seems to be learning from our mistakes, or at least starting from a point beyond where we started. While many places are still using 286's and 386's as their standard computers, they do not have to deal with many legacy systems or the issues of switching from a mainframe to a network. Also, their Internet connections are being built mainly on satellite, cellular and microwave technology as opposed to existing phone lines.
We also attended many banquets, which gave us the opportunity to try a large variety of foods. Some of them were familiar, like Cashew Chicken. Others were more on the fringe of what we normally eat in the US. We had eel, turtle and frog, as well as silverfish, shark fin soup and lotus root prepared many ways. All in all I think the impression of the food was that it was good, plentiful and filling.
In between all of the meetings and banquets we had some time to explore a minute portion of China. We visited Tian'anmen Square, The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Giant Buddha, the Grand Canal and the Bund among other things. And we even found time for shopping, whether is was in Silk Alley or the large department stores or the vendors at all the tourist spots.
The Seattle delegates will be giving a presentation to the Puget Sound membership shortly. We also recorded a professional journal which will be made available to the general membership. And the website (www.awc-hq.org/president/chinamain.html) that was started by Independent Member Lisa Willson will be updated and continued by the rest of the delegation in the coming months.
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