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Girl Power

Lerra Ye,Johnny Wan 2017-04-30 09:09

Fear Not The Path 


Raised in the Appalachian region of Virginia in the eastern part of the United States, Eleanor Moseman is a photographer, writer, and a bold solo adventurer. Over the years, she’s also been crowned a humanitarian and an activist for helping minorities, women, and the poor in some of the most remote and undeveloped regions of Asia. Moseman, in just the last decade since her 27th birthday, has travelled the far reaches of Kazakhstan, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, and Kyrgyzstan… but what compelled her to do so? 

 

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Moseman reveals that before her decision to take on the challenge of travelling, she was suffering periodically from depression and confusion. Born to a blue-collar working class family, financial stresses held her back from attending the college of her dreams and forced her to instead go to a mediocre public university where she still had to work 20-30 hours a week to afford the tuition fees. Since then has she been struggling to balance a life between surviving and pursuing the meaning of life, which cast a shadow on her mental state. She felt a sense that days were passing her by and she felt a redundancy in her place in the world. 


Rather than accept a lifetime of mediocrity, Moseman decided to challenge herself and shake up her daily routine. Through a journey that required rough sleeping, being isolated, and marching through harsh winds and unforgiving rain, she unveiled a world far beyond our normal interactions hidden beneath the superficial harmony of a mainstream modern society. It was in these foreign and remote lands where she felt a joy of humanity unconstrained by race or cultural differences. 


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Moseman acknowledges the potential dangers of a woman travelling alone, but she follows her heart, which wills her to go on. “My biggest fear is not living my life to the fullest,” she says, “wasting this precious time that I am so fortunate to have.”She takes pride in this philosophy. While many women fear the creeping onset of age, Moseman does not worry about it: “I think I enjoy this and appreciate it more than a young 20 something.” 


Q&A


VANTAGE: Is it hard to be not just an adventurer, but also a female one? 


Moseman: Life is hard as a man or a woman - I don't see myself at a disadvantage. I am allowed into homes with women and children which gives me an inside perspective of lives among cultures that are often kept from men. Not many photographers or storytellers can share stories of spongebaths by an old Tajik woman or spending weeks living with families, taking on role of a sister or an aunt. I can share stories of deep human connections and I'm not sure I would have these if I weren’t a woman. 


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Honestly, as a woman traveling through Asia alone, specifically into remote and desolate areas of China, my gender is often the most obvious aspect of my identity. I have been touched, groped, and assaulted more times than I can count while working and traveling. I take responsibility for my choices and yes, it's dangerous to be a woman out there alone and I take every precaution to not find myself in a situation I can't get out of. Often I just have to be assertive, demanding “no”, or threatening that if they don't stop there will be problems. I also never ever let them see my weakness or to see me cry – unless it's been very very bad. 


I was once photographing a hotel in China and the general manager looked at me and said with a smile, “I've been working in hospitality for 20 years and this is the first time I've ever seen a girl photographer.” That makes me proud, and I hope that other young women will see my life and career as a possible opportunity for themselves. Living by example is the best that I can do. 


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VANTAGE: From a Chinese perspective, your being a female adventurer is a very extraordinarily case. What’s your biggest spiritual strength? 


Moseman: Yes, I am a “rare case” back home.But what keeps me pushing is the women I've met along my journeys that remind me what real guts and fear are. Women that will never be able to leave their home, travel alone, or pursue an education. They are my personal inspiration to take advantage of anything and every opportunity that should lay before me and to wrangle fear into submission. 


One being that I've known my general destination for a long time, even though it's been somewhat of a moving target. I don't give up and I will fight and sacrifice everything for what I believe in or want. Too often people give up when they don't see immediate progress but I've stuck with this for so long because, I trust myself. That is one of my biggest spiritual strengths, that will be okay. To trust yourself. 


Breaking Gender Barriers 


There is a general conception that men are better with numbers, and therefore better at the venture capital industry. For women who want to enter this field, breaking such a prevalent mindset is undoubtedly a big challenge. In America, middle-aged white men dominate the venture capital industry, which leads to the lack of acknowledgement of the female contribution in the field. Therefore, many excellent innovative technologies are being overlooked, resulting in unbalanced development between different fields. At the same time, the lack of female perspective in investment industry also causes imbalance of inflows. 


“Women are inclined to think less of themselves. In the venture capital and technology industry, women have accounted for less for so long that it seems difficult for women to enter the industry.” The post-90s Chinese woman, Pocket Sun said. In 2014, she founded SoGal in Los Angeles, a global venture capital club focused on young women. She labeled SoGal as fresh, hot, and fearless. Committed to encouraging women to explore the world of entrepreneurship, SoGal has organized various activities such as one-on-one meets, forums, summits, and competitions. In the first year, we can see SoGal all around the world and its branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Vietnam and many other countries. 


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Even though the foundation of such a club is a sure step in the right direction, women still account for a small slice of the workforce in venture capital and technology industries. Sun recalls that in the first six months of SoGal, although everything was developing very fast, “every day I was dealing with different women entrepreneurs, listening to their stories, bottlenecks, and problems." However, they always came to financing difficulties. Women entrepreneurs always find themselves overlooked and disrespected when asking a male investor for investment and support. Often male investors cannot really understand their starting point. “Because of gender division of labor in society, it never occurs to a man how women endeavor to solve the ‘pain point’. If women are short of investment, there is little chance of developing a company into a Unicorn (a privately held company with a valuation of $1 billion or more).” Sun explains. A lot of female entrepreneurs therefore give up venture capital, but wonder how to turn a potential enterprise into a small but specialized company. It is a vicious circle, “if there is no woman who can create a Unicorn, investors will have more reason to claim that 'women’s companies are doomed to be small and I will not finance a woman CEO'.” In order to break the circle, Sun realized that there must be someone to pave the way, to finance SoGal on behalf of tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs. Only in this way can women entrepreneurs earn fair opportunities to compete. 


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That’s how SoGal Venture was founded. Currently, SoGal Venture has invested 16 projects in the United States and Asia. Sun said those companies have developed well. A company that she invested in previously has started its A round of financing with a valuation of twice or three times itself. However, Sun said, she hopes SoGal can be diversified in the future, maybe in stores, maybe in accelerators, and education. She will figure out more derivatives based on SoGal spirits, like an ecosystem.     


Q&A



VANTAGE: How do you balance between work and life? 


Sun: I don't think balancing between work and life is a problem for me. I’m always thinking about the future and development of SoGal, but I also go on vacation, go to the gym, and watch movies. Actually, they are complementary to each other. When I’m getting a massage or on a plane, new ideas just come to my mind. Then I will write them down and work on it. 


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VANTAGE: What do you think of all the time young people spend on social media? 


Sun: I think social media is somewhat being misunderstood. Indeed, the young generation spends a lot of time on smart phones, but meanwhile, at least for me, social media gets me through the world. Almost all of SoGal has been built on the basis of social media. It redefines connections between people. In the development of SoGal, with the help of WeChat, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, we have contacted a lot of mentors, experts, influential figures and so forth, who were extremely out of reach in the past. Meanwhile, social media has armed SoGal to be a global venture capital brand in a short time, getting rid of geographical limits. 


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VANTAGE: Has your gender been a factor or issue in your career? 


Sun: After planning to be a venture capitalist, I was devastated by some male investors. Some of them questioned me, "who do you think you are, how do you think you can do investments?" But the thing was, they themselves also did not have any qualifications to work as investors before, they just did it at that time. It seems men just feel uncomfortable when women enter a male dominated industry and compete with them. They will tell you, "You could just plan community activities", "you could just be an influencer, why do you aim to develop products?” At first, I thought these were sincere suggestions, but later I found they just considered women as inferior and held that women should stay out of this male-dominated industry. However, this gave me the drive to proceed. There are things in history that have contributed to women’s status, such as the invention of oral contraceptives, women’s right to receive education, the abolition of foot-bounding, and the move towards abolition of traditions like female circumcision. The women’s rights we enjoy nowadays don’t come easy; they are results of those predecessors. I feel obligated to create a more equal environment for the next generation. 


VANTAGE: Your story has inspired a lot of people, but who inspired you at first? 


Sun: Too many people. Every time I hear a new start-up story, I find out more possibilities in the world, and new ideas occur to me. It never came to me at first that I could start up when I was young. However, I found plenty of people under 20 had started up in our SoGal community. I finally realized that I just started late. So I suggest we should cooperate with those most courageous people, then you will shape out infinite possibilities of life. As a venture capitalist, I am dealing with a group of cleverest people with big dreams to change the world. It is always great to be inspired by them. 


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VANTAGE: In careers, what differences do you think exist between men and women? 


Sun: Female identity was long oppressed in human history. Women around the world were once forbidden from leaving their homes, having their own opinions, fighting against their fathers, husbands, or sons and receiving education, and they would be married as fertility tools in their teens. In the last few decades, women have begun to earn more legitimate rights. In general, society demands women to be “gentle, smiling, and not aggressive”. But it is far from how we define leadership. Therefore, when a woman is in the position of a leader, it is hard for her to balance between socially preferred femininity and qualities a good leader should have. As a result, even an excellent female leader is not welcome. Often women leaders draw a lot of criticism for various reasons, such as her hair, dress, and accent... society is not open to women in a high position because women have been in a low position for thousands of years. Therefore, there does exist differences between men and women in the workplace, for example, women are less respected and successful women are less popular than men. 


VANTAGE: What is your life goal? 


Sun: I will promote the development of women’s rights. I am glad to figure out my life goal in my early twenties. In primary school, I once dreamed to be a useful person for society. But now I exactly take it up. I believe the development of women will promote progress of humanity as a whole. With development of artificial intelligence, science and technology, we may witness incredible changes in society during our lifetime and I wish myself to be a helpful promoter rather than a spectator. 


Live Free, Love Recklessly


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Valerie Brown from New Jersey has a smile that can light up the whole room. Despite her current job as the Director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Office, promoting U.S. food and agricultural products in Eastern China, Valerie Brown is a multitasker who founded the Women Of (American) Wine (WOW) group in China, and happen to be the author of motivational book entitled Go Team You, and the host of Cooking with Mei Mei; all at the same time. It seems to people that someone who leads a fulfilling life so passionately and jauntily should, as expected, to be independent, resolute, efficient and always well prepared. We might also guess that she’s free of family obligations. Yet contrary to expectation, Brown is a mother of five, and claims to be a procrastinator. She says, on the contrary, thanks to procrastination, she’s able to boost her creativity at the last gasp and thus she focus greatly on studying and constantly improving herself since that’s precisely where creation comes from. In addition, she appreciates the chance of accompanying her kids in their journeys. 


Q&A


VANTAGE:: What keen interests have taken you, as a procrastinator, this far? 


Brown: My first assignment overseas was promoting U.S. wine in London, which was California wine’s number one export market at the time. My interest and respect for wine grew from there. And I also have an appreciation of learning so I love to read, write, create recipes, and I take classes. Also, because I mentor women all over the world, I have recently decided to go back to school for psychology. After receiving my Master’s degree MANY years ago, I never thought that I would go for another degree but the desire to really help people has taken over and I feel that this is what I must do now in my life. 


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VANTAGE: How do you balance between family, career, hobbies and your life-goal? 


Brown: I think the most important thing that I have learned in my life is to say “no”. And this is not just saying “no” to other people but also saying “no” to myself. I have learned over time I cannot live my life for other people. I have decided to focus on where I will have the biggest impact and what fits within my “purpose,” to everything else I simply have to say “no”. Once I came to the realization that I cannot do everything, I became a much happier and much more productive person. 


VANTAGE: How would you describe yourself in three words? 


Brown: Happy. Different. Loving. I am happy because I choose to be. I do experience other emotions but everyday when I wake up, I make a conscious decision to be happy. In making that decision, I also decide that no one person or event will take that happiness from me without a fight! I am different because I choose to be. I want to be the pink cow that you see when riding down a country road. No one will ever remember the brown cows that they passed but if they saw a pink one they would never forget it…that’s me! I am loving because I choose to be. Everyone serves a purpose and I adore the essence of people, who they are, why they are that way and more importantly what we can share. 


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Enter A Whole New World 


On the TED platform where originality glows and inspiration bursts forth, there have stood such elites who are among the most innovative in their fields, spanning from science to the arts. By sharing their points of view, these people have attracted more than 40 hundred million online views so far by sharing their ideas in a highly engaging way. As their words spread, the humorous, characteristic way they make their speeches went viral. But only few know that not all the extraordinary speech performance on stage shall give credit to their own speechmaking attainments. 


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With more than two decades of professional public speaking experience, Mary Rezek, global executive coach and leadership advisor, also the founder of Saatori. Ltd, she has also been coaching senior leaders from a wide range of industries to ‘find their voice’ for years. Transforming ordinary speakers into extraordinary storytellers is exactly what she does for TedxShanghai these three years. As a diplomatic leadership coach and a female entrepreneur, Mary Rezek takes her own insightful understanding that to move others and encourage them to take action by expressing your ideas properly through words hold a extremely decisive force among the rising population of female. 


Q&A


VANTAGE: How exactly would you describe your job? 


Rezek: As a global executive coach and leadership advisor, I link high-level strategy to what's concrete and feasible. As a TED speaker coach, I stimulate speakers to claim and assert their idea in a personally compelling and connected way. 


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VANTAGE: What’s the best part of it? 


Rezek: I get a rush accessing and igniting what speakers really wants to say. There is always one moment when their words convert into a core message - their call to action. They know it when it happens. A quiet pause, a look of surprise and delight beams from them. At that moment, they know that they found their voice. 


VANTAGE: What are the challenges? 


Rezek: It is a six month process to get a speaker TED ready. Shifting a speaker from PowerPoint presentation mode to a TED talk – it’s an iterative internal and external transformation. Distilling their ideas and stories into a cohesive talk that has a red thread linking all the disparate pieces into a final call to action. The time that is needed a speaker to commit to be TED stage ready is a significant commitment. All speakers are working so they have to make TED a priority with their other priorities they are juggling. TED is about what a speaker believes…it is not about their business. It is not a marketing platform. 


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VANTAGE: What touches you the most while working as the TEDxShanghaiWomen speakers' coach? 


Rezek: The amount of effort, care, grit and tenacity that the TEDxSW committee, speaker buddies, speakers and volunteers dedicate to one event is a powerful force. It is a privilege to be involved with women who are shaping the world around them from behind the scenes to on the stage. 



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