Women's Roundtable at the City Club and Doing Business in China
The first event that we attended on Monday, October 20th, was a Women’s Roundtable at the City Club titled “The Problems Facing Ohio Women” put on by the Cuyahoga Democratic Women’s Caucus. The special guests were Ms. Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Ms. Sharon Neuhardt, Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor of the State of Ohio. Many issues were discussed including reproductive freedom, pay equity, current economic policies and their impact on families, the impact college debt has on families, the impact that the Ohio and United States Supreme Courts have on our lives, quality of health care that women receive, the quality of education that children receive in charter schools and state assistance to them, and the problems that women have in starting businesses all in just an hour and a half! We were disappointed, however, that domestic violence was not addressed (we felt bad that we didn’t bring it up) and mentioned this to Ms. Neuhardt who regretted this also.
Otherwise, it was a very lively and thoughtful discussion. Ms. Cynthia Demsey started things off by saying that, “we love the City Club. It is truly a place for the exploring of ideas, and so many important issues and challenges.” She went on to say that she was happy that we were fortunate to have such two outstanding women with us today as Ms. O’Neill and Ms. Neuhardt who are “really keyed into the issues.” Ms. Neuhardt said that “every time that I come into Cleveland I run into amazing women. You have no idea of the impact that you make.” Ms. O’Neill said that she has been in Cleveland since Saturday from Illinois and was also impressed by the women in leadership roles that we have in Cleveland.
We saw a lot of good friends and familiar faces there and, of course, several of them were friends of Ms. Margaret W. Wong. Ms. Ellie Sullivan and Ms. Mary Jane Trapp said hello to her and Ms. Neuhardt recalled seeing Ms. Wong in Little Italy a few months ago at an event. We recalled meeting Ms. Linda Bute at Severance Hall at the Gloria Steinem event; she gave us a flyer about a fundraiser that she was having for Nina Turner, candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, at her home which we gave to Ms. Wong who urged us to go so we did. Other people who were there today were Mr. Vern Long, Ms. Jeanne Long, Ms. Lana Moresky, Ms. Norma Platt, Ms. Sheila Markowitz, Ms. Jennifer Jaketic. Ms. Jane Buder Shapiro, and Ms. Anne Caruso.
Several points that were made that we thought were especially good which included that mail-in/absentee voting gives us time to study the judicial candidates, and who they are affiliated with, before we make our final choice. Ms. Mary Jane Trapp (former candidate for Ohio Supreme Court) suggested that we look on the local “Judge for Yourself” website. Ms. O’Neill pointed out that Oregon does all of its voting by mail and thus has the largest voter participation than any other state. At another point in the presentation, Ms. O’Neill said that women create or attempt to create their own companies because they see that they can only go so far in the corporate world. Ms. Neuhardt said that it has been her experience that small and medium sized businesses would do themselves more good in the long run if they concentrated on providing outstanding service to their existing clients and thus build-up their reputations instead of expanding right away.
One of the things that everyone was happy about was having the beloved, veteran Westside activist Ms. Erika Pilsy, whose health has not been too good lately, there with us. Ms. Pilsy wanted to make a special plea for assistance for a recently married LGBT person who is believed to have lost her job for that reason. This lead to a discussion of civil rights for the LGBT and several suggestions were made. But it is always great to see Ms. Pilsy who was honored within the last year at a special event at the Westshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River.
One other thing that came out today was when Ms. Demsey was telling us about the serious reservations that she had with JobsOhio. One of the things that she said that troubled her was that she doubted if there were any women on its board. Mr. Henry Gomez of the “Plain Dealer” was there covering the meeting so she asked him if this was true; Mr. Gomez looked it up on his computer and simply said, “no women” and even though no one was happy about the absence of women, we still cheered our friend, Ms. Demsey, for being eloquent and correct.
The second event that we attended was a special panel discussion titled “Doing Business in China” which was part of the Dworken and Bernstein Management Lecture Series at Lakeland Community College. It was presented in collaboration with the Lakeland International Education Center and featured Dr.Ka-Pi Hoh, Head of Research Development and Testing for Lubrizol Additives China; Ms. Kimberly Holizna, International Trade Administer for the City of Mentor; and Ms. Kimberly Kirkendall, CPA, President of International Resource Development/Cross Cultural Catalyst. It was moderated by Dr. Christine Barnes, Professor of Business Management.
To be sure, several areas were discussed but the thing that impressed us the most was the need for our businesspeople to be aware and be sensitive to the cultural differences that we have with China because even though both cultures value honesty and respect, they demonstrate them differently. Dr. Hoh said that “life in China is an experience in contrasts.” Ms. Kirkendall said that part of the reason that China is the way that it is is due to the fact that they have undergone 100 years of development in 20 years. Imagine the city of Mentor having 150,000 cars on the road and being told that they have to provide for 450,000 drivers in five years. Imagine the licensing, gas stations and roads that would have to be created.
Dr. Hoh talked about how the Chinese seek to build relationships with the people that they do business with before they start the negotiations. They have a banquet and drink many toasts to each other with white wine. Ms. Kirkendall said that it was like the old days in this country in a rural area where our grandfather wouldn’t run a credit report on his prospective partners but ask them over to his farm for a get-to-know you dinner. Accordingly, the Chinese want to get to know you before they start to do business with you and move much more slowly then we do. Their value system is different from ours because while we talk about creating a good product as cheaply as possible, our Chinese counterparts talk about how many people can be employed by a project. Mr. Kirkendall emphasized that we see business as “an object” but the Chinese entrepreneur sees it as an “extension of self”.
Dr. Hoh said that we must be careful about miscommunication because many times we assume that the Chinese know what we are saying when they really do not; they tend to communicate more indirectly than we do. They also tend to respect/revere their boss more than a U.S. worker who will often be inspired to move forward without approval if he/she believes he is right but an employee in China will generally not move forward on anything without the approval of his/her superior.
Plus the Chinese and the United States can be very “tit for tat” with each other. China’s visa application was once only three pages long until the United States started giving Chinese tourists a hard time so it was jumped to eight very detailed pages of required information.
Ms. Holizna said that a businessperson who is thinking of trading internationally is better not to start with China but to start with a country of a similar culture that is closer to home like Canada. Never try to go it alone, always make sure you have an agent or a consultant working you who understands China.
What really fascinated us was when Ms. Kirkendall, who has lived in China and dealt with it for many years, talked about how advanced that they often are in terms of having women in powerful positions. Part of the reason for this is that in the United States a company might be hesitant about giving a woman a position of power because eventually she will wish to leave and stay home with her children but in China it is expected that everyone must work and the maternity policies are excellent so women have found it easier to advance. Ms. Kirkendall and Dr. Hoh both agreed that even though it is a paternalistic society in many ways, attention is paid to a person’s status more than their sex and due to the fact that children are expected to take care of their parents when they are too old to fend for themselves, if the only child is a female the parents will strive to make sure that she is well-educated for their own sakes.
We had already met Ms. Holizna and Ms. Kirkendall at several events before this evening but we introduced ourselves to Dr. Hoh who said that she certainly knew of Ms. Margaret W. Wong but doubted if Ms. Wong would know her and to Professor Barnes who was happy that we drove out to Kirtland in the rain. We also met and gave our contact information to Dr. Eric Usatch, Director of the Center for International Education who was glad that we did because many international students attend college there.