Beijing’s expat community attracts some of the world’s best and brightest minds, but that doesn’t mean their talents are always put to good use. Colin Friedman has seen this time and again while working as the CEO of his FCGroup, (which, among other things, organizes industry themed networking events for foreigners and Chinese to meet and make connections).
"We, as expats in Beijing, live and work in a society where the vast majority of the working spouses are male and the vast majority of the trailing spouses are female," Friedman says. "Most of these trailing spouses relinquished well-paying, and often prestigious, jobs to become… domestic… so that their working (male) spouses could accept the assignment."
The issue prompted Friedman to take action. In 2012 he led a team that organized the first annual Wonderful Outstanding Women (WOW) awards in 2012 (and each of the subsequent ceremonies).
"Our original plan… was to find a way to encourage expat women to take the plunge and break out of the trailing spouse… role, by showing that there are many ‘Wonderful Outstanding Women’ here in Beijing," Friedman says.
Before long, it became clear that Beijing’s expat women were far from the only ones deserving of such accolades. "We quickly realised that, despite the fact that we still wish to encourage trailing spouse to constructively exploit the duration of the assignment, there are many non-expat Chinese women who are also doing wonderful and outstanding things."
From there, the WOW Awards became an occasion to celebrate women of every demographic in Beijing. The WOW’s categories are eclectic– from the Business WOW to the Charity WOW, the Media WOW to the Medical WOW, and more. But the ceremony’s most popular award of all may have been the Young WOW Award (eligible for applicants born after 8 March 1985; meaning the daughters of many Beijing parents are eligible of this award).
Paloma Almoguera, a journalist who has worked in Kenya and China, won the 2013 Young WOW. She described herself (in a bio that all nominees prepare for judges) as "independent" and passionate about her career. She also wrote about her adventures "while travelling in my early-twenties throughout Africa" and how she "learnt that patience –a virtue I am not blessed with- is a treasure that needs to be pursued." Mina Yan won the 2014 Young WOW award because, in part, of her experience as an event planner for a music festival at the Great Wall headlined by pop star David Guetta. However, her volunteer work at the the Stars and Rain Education Institute for Autism was an equally deciding factor in her garnering of the award.
"The world is full of songs of unsung heroes," Friedman says of the under appreciated wonderful women that deserve recognition and inspiration from such a ceremony. He adds: "We want to do something to congratulate these hard working women for their outstanding work.”
The WOW awards will be held at The Hilton Beijing on March 8 (which is also International Women’s Day). For more information visit this link or email Friedman at
Photo: Tekniska Museet (Flickr)