In 1987, the United States Congress passed a proclamation declaring the month of March to be Women’s History Month. To celebrate this year, the staff at Committee of 100 sat down virtually with a few of our amazing female Committee of 100 Members for a new blog series called Chinese American Women Shaping the World: A Special Q&A Series. In these interviews, Committee of 100 members will talk about their career paths, the challenges – and opportunities – in being a successful Chinese American woman in today’s society, as well as their hopes for the next generation of Chinese American women.
Committee of 100 recently spoke with Member Anla Cheng. Anla is the Founder and CEO of SupChina, a New York-based, China-focused news, information, and business services platform. SupChina informs and connects a global audience regarding the business, technology, politics, culture, and society of China through news articles and investigative reports, the Sinica podcast along with an ever-expanding podcast network, social media, events and more. SupChina has won five awards over the years for its excellence and is home to the largest number of China podcasts under one roof.
Prior to founding SupChina, Anla ran a family office of Asia hedge funds, Centenium Capital. Her career includes being Asia Head, SVP at Robert Fleming (acquired by J.P. Morgan). She began her career at Goldman Sachs, then moved on to Citi, where she was a Pacific Basin analyst, and subsequently an Asian portfolio manager for the institutional and private wealth group. Anla received her MBA from The Wharton School. She is Vice Chair and a board member of The Nature Conservancy and the China Institute, former Trustee at the Riverdale Country Day School, The Browning School, Facing History and Ourselves (former Chair of the China Project), and a current active member of Committee of 100. She is also a member of NCUSR, Brookings China Council, and Columbia University Global/China Council. Anla has been a keynote speaker at the Economist (London) and has had guest speaker roles at the Milken Institute (Singapore, Abu Dhabi); Columbia University, NYU, Harvard, Canada Investment Group amongst many others.
Committee of 100: What is one of your achievements that you are most proud of, which helped dictate the course of your career?
Anla: One of my achievements that helped dictate the course of my career is when I applied to Goldman Sachs after working as a journalist. This enabled me to attend NYU night school to get my MBA. Eventually I enrolled full time at Wharton, which helped me land jobs at Citi and the rest is history. The career switch equipped me with tools to invest and save, which eventually enabled me to start SupChina, digital news to inform a global audience on China. I came back full circle.
Committee of 100: What is a major lesson you learned from a failure or setback in your career, which also helped dictate the course of your career?
Anla: One setback in my career, which also helped to dictate its course, is when I fell just short of successfully launching a China PE fund. Not being on the ground full time, even with eight annual visits to China, I could not rely on my local partners to institute corporate governance standards tantamount to having a successful PE fund. As PE in China was in its infancy at that time, there were many issues in lack of transparency which made investing difficult. After four years, I decided to exit. Were it not for that, SupChina would not have been created. One door closed – another door opened.
Committee of 100: What topic/s do you feel are not being talked about enough when it comes to the advancement of women as leaders?
Anla: There is simply not enough publicity about women as leaders. China has the largest number of women billionaires, yet very few people know who they are. There are over 37 female CEOs amongst Fortune 500 companies – how many can you name? Women are not sought after as frequently as men for public speaking opportunities, therefore we lose out on publicity that would boost our name recognition. It is a two-way street, women also need to stand up more and speak publicly. The press needs to interview women more and continue highlighting their accomplishments. This is what we are doing with our annual SupChina Women’s Conference – featuring, awarding and highlighting high-achieving women and awarding the rising NextGen women leaders, all in the U.S.-China space. This way, the senior women can inspire and empower our next generation of leaders – mentor them, serve as role models and show them the paths to success. Young women want to see what success looks like for women. They are curious about balancing personal life and career; what kind of mentors are effective; choosing between large companies vs. mid-sized companies vs. startups; how to get promoted; how to get on boards. These are some of the topics we cover at the annual conference and that I get asked about most when speaking on women’s issues.
Committee of 100: What qualities do you see in the next generation of Chinese American women that brings you hope and joy for the future?
Anla: The slate of Chinese American young women is incredible! They don’t have the stereotyping and brainwashing my generation had – they are fearless, undaunted and well educated. They have no limits in terms of what they can achieve and overall have a positive outlook on their career path, with great support systems. This brings me great joy and hope for the future. There are many studies that prove having more than two women as board members actually improves ROI, ROE, ROA of corporations (Catalyst, EY, Peterson Institute). We still have not figured out optimal solutions for childcare, a very important component in balancing family and career.
Committee of 100: If you could go back in time and give advice to your 20-year-old self, what would you say to the younger version of you?
Anla: I was raised in a Catholic school in Japan/Taiwan to be a “good girl”, to be a dutiful wife. Today I would say, ” Go out there and explore your career choices – do whatever you want – reach whatever heights you can achieve – nothing is stopping you!” My mother was born the year foot binding was banned in China. When I was born, she told me to explore whatever I can because she was not allowed to ride bikes nor touch a radio. With her freedom to walk and go places, she explored but within strict limitations. She wanted me to do the same – which is why I ended up in the U.S. But I faced many obstacles – racism, sexism and more. Today, while some of that still exists, one cannot compare to decades ago. The stars are aligned for today’s young women to explore their careers to the fullest!
Committee of 100: Who is your inspiration and why?
Anla: I have the good fortune to have had not one, but many inspirational leaders in my life – both women and men. Over time I read about and heard from people who succeeded – many times from rags to riches – and learned about their paths to success. I am totally inspired by their grit, resilience, relentlessness and positive outlook on life. Those characteristics stuck with me and helped me pick myself up again and again – to keep trying no matter what adversity I may face. I cannot name just one as there are too many – every leader has inspired me each in his and her own way.
More information on SupChina can be found at https://supchina.com/
SupChina’s signature event “How Women Are Shaping The Rising Global Power” will be on May 12-13. More information can be found at: https://go.supchina.com/2021-womens-conference
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