All-China Meets AAUWAugust 08, 2011
As a part of AAUW’s ongoing commitment to improving the status of women and girls globally via fellowships, grassroots programming, and advocacy, AAUW recently hosted 18 women from the All-China Women’s Federation. The Federation was established in 1949 by the Chinese government and has become the largest women’s nongovernmental organization in that country. It represents and protects the rights and welfare of women and promotes equality between men and women. The visit was sponsored by the U.S.-China Exchange Council, an education and service organization dedicated to professional exchange programs between the United States and China.
The delegation consisted of 18 Women’s Federation executive officials from multiple provinces of China, including Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Yangzhou, and Guangdong; a representative from the Tibet Women’s Association; the People’s Bank of China; and several state ministries. The group was very interested in meeting with AAUW to exchange experiences and views on advancing educational and professional opportunities for women in both countries.
AAUW staff shared information about our programs, membership, and research to break through barriers for women and girls. The visitors were particularly interested in learning about the administration and management of AAUW (including media relations, membership, leadership, and staff jobs). They were surprised to learn that government funding is not a major revenue source and that AAUW members raise funds to support the organization. “But isn’t the government obligated to support these issues?” one participant asked. There were many questions about our International Fellowships, and the women were pleased to learn that AAUW is funding five fellows from China during the 2011–12 academic year and that we have supported more than 100 individuals from China since the fellowship program began in 1917. Staff spoke about our global connections, our recent international delegations abroad, and our upcoming trip to South Africa this fall.
We discussed the gender stereotyping common in both the United States and China — a dominance of women in the arts and social sciences and fewer female scientists and engineers. Similar to the United States, high school girls in China have better grades in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, but it is strongly “hinted” that they should consider the social sciences. We could relate to their revelation that women scientists lack funding to pursue research and professional opportunities and that they often suspend their careers after pregnancy; they then experience great difficulty in “catching up.”
The visit ended with a flurry of photos and gift-giving. We stood together for photos, and we shared many thanks, language being no barrier for gratitude. There was mutual admiration for the visit. They thanked us for hosting them, and we were honored to connect with women from across the globe but not so different from us. They care about what so many women care about: education, economic security, the ability to support and nurture our families, and being valued for our contributions to society.
We all smiled as the cameras flashed, happy to create a memory of a common bond we share with all women.