We've joined up with four HERproject brands as part of a campaign to promote and accelerate leadership for and by women. As part of this, we asked Katrina Zhou, HERproject Trainer in Shanghai, China, for her experiences of and views on this topic.
How long have you been working as a HERproject trainer, and what did you do before?
I’ve been working at BSR and on HERproject for five years. Before that, I was working in the production of medical supplies and instruments. BSR offered me the chance to work directly with women workers and contribute to the empowerment of women. I had never encountered that possibility before, and the idea excited me.
What is your day like when you are training people?
If the factory is located out of the city, I usually wake up at 6:00 a.m or earlier to catch the train or a flight. If the factory is close, or if I arrive the night before the training day, I will wake up at 7:00 a.m. and then get a ride to the factory.
At the factory, I give the trainings, which last about three hours each. I also spend some time with the peer educators, who will take the knowledge and skills and pass them on to their colleagues and families and communities. I come back to Shanghai in the evening, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.m to have dinner with my family.
What do you like about working with women in factories?
Women workers are always eager to learn and acquire new knowledge, especially when it relates to health, which they know is vital for themselves and for their families. They are also quite open and willing to show their appreciation for the trainings, and also to talk about the results and outcomes they see following the trainings. Those are the times when I am filled with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
What kinds of knowledge do you share and how do people receive it?
I share a lot of different information, on topics such as female reproductive health, awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS, effective communication, gender equality, and so on. I am always told that the peer educators and women workers have changed a lot coming out of the trainings. They have changed not only their attitudes and behaviors towards health, but those of their families too. They are also getting closer to their colleagues and getting more respect from them. I can feel their happiness at these changes. And sometimes, I am excited to hear that they have been recognized by their management or promoted in recognition of their continuous improvement at work.
My proudest moment is when I saw a previously shy and timid woman becoming confident and assertive after being encouraged to speak publicly during a training.
What qualities are important for leaders?
I think it’s important to have a positive attitude to life and work, and to be inspired by what you do. For women and girls who want to be leaders I would say: stay curious about yourself and about the world because you never know who you can be. And keep trying! I feel like some women are prevented from becoming leaders because they lack self-confidence and guidance. So there is an internal aspect to it: we need to help women believe in themselves.
What do you like about working with leading brands?
We have a lot of positive brands who work closely with BSR and factories to understand the challenges and provide the support that’s needed. I really like when they proactively engage in the project: observing the training, for instance, or attending the kick-off and closing meetings. That helps the factory understand the importance of the program and allocates greater resources to the project. Cooperation and engagement always gives the most productive outcomes.