As the coronavirus outbreak continues into its sixth month in Hong Kong, upending work and home lives, the pursuit of career goals has become even more challenging for women.
But fulfilling work aspirations is also more important than ever because it allows women to widen their network exposure, achieve financial independence and improve their perception of self-worth, said Si-si Liu, director of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres.
Moreover, achievements at work can ease the anxiety arising from a heavier burden of domestic chores, including childcare, which are often seen to be of lesser value because they do not bring income to the family, Liu said.
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Eureka Chu Lai-nga and Carmen Ng are examples of women who are determined to chase their career dreams, recognising the importance of seeking career-advancement opportunities even in the difficult coronavirus environment.
Chu’s ambition lies in architecture, despite the industry being under-represented by women in leadership roles, and even though it meant going against her parents’ wishes for her to study commerce and get a job in banking.
Chu, who is confident that a woman can be an architect just as well as any man, is passionate about creating multifunctional and versatile spaces that can influence people’s social activities.
Chu’s dream came true in 2012 when the firm she worked for, Ronald Lu & Partners, along with Canada-based partner Revery Architecture, secured one of 17 big development projects in the West Kowloon Cultural District, to build a grand theatre to promote traditional Cantonese opera.
Many in Hong Kong consider Chinese cultural heritage a rather boring pastime that only old people enjoy, so Chu was set on joining the team to design the Xiqu Centre and inspire the public at large.
The performing arts theatre draws its design from traditional Chinese lanterns, with its undulating exterior covered in a weave of aluminium panels. The massive, arched entrance is shaped to resemble stage curtains being drawn apart, through which visitors are led into a modern, white atrium with a raised podium that can be used for temporary exhibits, festivals or simply for visitors to rest.
Chu said one of her achievements amid the coronavirus pandemic has been taking a leadership role to convey stories and influence design through online meetings with diverse project teams that include clients, consultants and construction contractors. Chu also took consultancy advice from Hong Kong’s celebrity Cantonese opera performers, including Franco Yuen Siu-fai, to accommodate the operational needs of Cantonese opera.
The Xiqu Centre, which opened in Tsim Sha Tsui in early 2019, won several industry design awards and had its image featured on the HK$100 note issued by Standard Chartered Bank later in the year.
However, as a result of anti-government protests and the coronavirus, many performances there have had to be cancelled since the second half of last year.
Carmen Ng is also blazing a trail in the legal practice, despite the months-long suspension of Hong Kong’s court and judicial services due to the pandemic, which has put her work on hold, including court hearings and filing court documents. The judiciary resumed social-distancing measures last week, resulting in a reduction in the overall capacity of the courts to handle business.
Ng, who became a partner at Hong Kong law firm Deacons in 2018, said she opted against becoming a corporate lawyer and instead became a litigator so she could seek justice for her clients and help them resolve legal problems.
Hong Kong’s rule of law has given Ng the ability to develop her career in litigation, and to play an important role for businesses. It is not uncommon for Hong Kong courts to rule against the government and big corporations based on the merits of a relevant case. Court rulings in Hong Kong have also been cited in other jurisdictions such as the US, the UK and Singapore, showing the respect for Hong Kong’s judicial system around the world, Ng said.
“We have a very good, independent judicial system, which is very important to litigation lawyers in Hong Kong,” Ng said. “For international companies that operate in Hong Kong, the strong rule of law and independent judiciary provide significant protection to them.”
I would be content if I could create a space that makes end-users feel happy or gives them a sense of belonging.
Eureka Chu, architect
For these two Hong Kong women, there is also a shared sense of hopefulness as they passionately forge ahead in their careers, despite challenges posed by the pandemic.
“What I admire about architecture is what it can bring to society,” Chu said. “I would be content if I could create a space that makes end-users feel happy or gives them a sense of belonging.
“In the beginning, we had imagined erecting a landmark building for Cantonese opera. But a building can last for many decades, so it can actually evolve into something else if people in the future think of something they want to add to it – to bring new meaning to it.”
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This article Hong Kong women’s pursuit of career goals more important than ever amid coronavirus first appeared on South China Morning Post