Question from Crystal @ Taking a Chance on Baby
I'm curious what it's like to be a Western Woman working in your position here in Asia. As a stay at home mom I see a very different side than I imagine you do. Are you treated with deference (as I sometimes am because of skin color and implied privilege) or is it quite sexist (see a billion different examples of sexism inherent in Asian culture)? Are you treated differently than male co-workers?
Interesting question Crystal. In the past 10 years, 9 trips, I've plowed through my work much like a bull in a china shop (my boss's description of me). I've butted heads with past male co-workers who did not like my tone - I can be shrill when something is wrong - or maybe it wasn't my tone of voice but my absolute refusal to back down in any argument. Black is black, when plush is wrong it's very very wrong. I've had to learn to be more diplomatic in personal interactions or I'm perceived as too aggressive.
I remember one guy in particular who I butted heads with constantly. Everything I requested would result in an argument - it could be a simple question like - why do two different Toy Story packages have different colors when they come from the same style guide and he'd defend the vendor! Just fix it!! It's wrong, so fix it! Well you can see my attitude needed some adjustment.
In recent years, we've opened our own Hong Kong office and it's run by a very strong woman general manager. Since she's taken the helm, I've not had one problem with a male co-worker. I guess she only hires men that she can manage well and the guys are all extremely pleasant to work with.
In general, when I visit new factories I believe I'm treated with respect but not with an overabundance of deference. The plush world seems to have many women leaders and I'm treated as an equal. In my recent trip, the women factory managers were extremely helpful in offering me places to breast pump. I was very thankful to be surrounded with women leaders on this trip!
Now the question about being treated differently than male co-workers is only different in what is offered. Business men are still offered bribes by factory owners (cash), I've yet to meet a business women who has been offered or accepted bribes. Business men are still sent to karaoke clubs which seem to masquerade as a place to meet easy women. Business men are still expected to drink with factory owners. I've not been offered or pressed to do any of these things - much to my relief! Although I did read an excerpt from Carly Fiorina's story where she was on business in South Korea and felt compelled to drink with the men in order to get the business but she learned to dispose of a portion of the drinks with the help of a kind waitress. Personally I don't think any business is worth that effort!
I've had success in getting through development issues over the past 10 years. Factories have followed my suggestions for improvements, changes have resulted in bigger business which makes everyone happy. In summary, people will follow a leader who has a successful track record.
Please note these are simply my observations and written with the highest respect to my co-workers who have treated me with complete and utter kindness. I adore visiting Asia in part because the people I visit make the trip an absolute pleasure.