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Women Proud to Have Professional Lives
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Reading an article about talented, well-educated American women opting to leave their careers to raise their children was plain frustrating for Shanghai resident Amy Sommers.

Sommers, a lawyer and mother of two who moved to China in 2004, was afraid the article would have a negative impact on the many hard-working women who struggle to balance the demands of having a career and a family.


"Media in America focus on the tendency of young women to get a degree at Ivy League universities only to get married, raise a family and never use their professional skills," she said.


Sommers is not alone. A group of like-minded women entrepreneurs, managers, and social welfare leaders gathered in Shanghai a few days after International Women's Day in March for the Business Woman of the Year Awards (BWA 2007) 2007 to celebrate their simultaneous pursuit of career and personal goals. 


Sommers, who is a partner in the law firm Squire, Sander & Dempsey L.L.P. and fluent in Putonghua, and 25 other candidates received awards at the ceremony. She won in the category for Professional Excellence.


Another award-winner was entrepreneur Jennifer Dawson, who initially moved to China as a trailing spouse in 1989. The secret of her success was to transform the frustrating experience of being unable to find help building a business when she first moved to China into an opportunity.


"No one helped us back then, but now our business strategy is to help others," she said.


The awards honor women of all nationalities who have achieved the highest level of professional success. It was organized by the EPWS, the Expatriate Professional Women's Society, a non-profit organization in Shanghai.


The group's president, Jerri Erdmann, said the EPWS provides a professional, social and cultural network for expatriate working women. She added that it also fosters intercultural awareness because its members are from numerous different countries.


Some men who attended the BWA 2007 ceremony said the ideal would be to focus less on the "women" part and more on "business".


A spokesman from the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers, downplayed gender and stressed excellence as he joked about successful individuals.


"Female entrepreneurs are found to be people who don't take no for an answer. So are male entrepreneurs."


One such individual was Kerstin Keahler, who received the award for Societal Contribution for her work with Project Integration, a community outreach group that pays for migrant children's school fees.


The winner of the Young Professional Women award was Maren Brockmann, sales manager of Bosch Power Tools. Annick de Kermadec-Bentmann, general manager of the BNP Paribas Shanghai won the award for Excellence in Business.


(China Daily April 26, 2007)

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