I got the chance recently to sit down with Crystal Chao, VP of Education and share thoughts about parents, picking a major, and gender equality. We join the interview already in progress.
D: So Crystal, we want to hear more about you! From what you’ve told me, you have very motivated parents, you’re loving it here in Vancouver- but why did you decide to join Toastmasters?
C: Well.. I want to tell you something which may surprise you. The first time I started to talk English was four years ago. So, it took a lot of courage for me to come to Toastmasters, because there are a lot of very advanced speakers, like you, so it can be very scary!
D: Well that’s not really fair, I have about 14 more years of english speaking than you do, and here you are, taking on this role of VP of Education! What do you find is the most difficult thing in English for you?
C: I think I need a broader range of vocabulary. And I just really wonder, how can you know so many sophisticated words??
"I'm really, really passionate about eating healthy, nutritious food, having a healthy lifestyle."
D: Hahaha, well, I read a lot. When people go out on the weekends, I’m usually holed up, reading.
C: Well that’s great!
D: No! It’s terrible haha! But, I do like reading, and reading difficult books.
C: So long as you have balance.
D: Mmhm. I’ve been reading Either/Or by Soren Kierkegaard lately, and I can’t even follow it most of the time, but you’ve got to just keep plugging away! Read a lot, and read about what you like!
C: Next interview question, what books do you usually read?
D: Textbooks haha. Or rather, I should be reading my textbooks. Biographies.. the last couple of books I’ve read have all been philosophy books.. I like realistic stories, good, plot-driven dramas. I used to be into fantasy, but not so much anymore. But I want to hear about you!
Who is somebody that inspires you, in your life? Earlier on you mentioned your parents, their coming over China, making a life for themselves here, sacrificing quite a lot for you, which is obviously a huge source of inspiration. Are there any other people whom you draw motivation, or inspiration from?
C: Emily. She is one of my good friends. She is the VP of Education before Evan, and she has given me a lot of advice on public speaking, on how to run for this position, do you know her?
D: I don’t think I know her!
C: She was in Toastmasters last year and She is a very smart girl. She did an evaluation for a speaker a couple of weeks ago, and the evaluator who evaluated her could not find ANYTHING wrong with the evaluation. She is a very thoughtful girl, very considerate, and always inspires others, and was even encouraging me to run for president! But after thinking about it, I definitely think that Sasha and Evan are the better candidates, so I don’t think this is room for me right now!
D: Wow, so she is always encouraging you, that’s fantastic.
C: And she always offers help, and she told me: “If you run VP Ed, I can give you a lot of tips to help run this club well", because she has had experience as VP Education before. She is brilliant. I should introduce you one day. Sometimes she comes to Toastmasters.
D: I’d love to! Next question, how would you describe your perfect weekend?
C: The perfect weekend… I don’t want to say- I have an upcoming assignment! It is so bad. I’ll actually meet my friends and talk about the assignment, I guess, tonight is Emily’s birthday, so we’ll celebrate tonight with yummy food in a decent restaurant …. I love food. I don’t usually stay in my dorm, because I have a kitchen. If there is a kitchen, I will always go to find food. I’m really, really passionate about eating healthy, nutritious food, having a healthy lifestyle.
D: Very cool! So you’re cooking your own food- given the food scene in Vancouver, do you go to local farmers markets for ingredients?
C: … not that fancy! I just go to the grocery store, like No Frills.
D: Fair enough! And Crystal, what are you studying here at UBC?
C: Equity investment banking- it’s so stressful!
D: Oh? Why did you pick it?
C: Well, I didn’t have anything in particular I was interested in, except for maybe marketing, but I didn’t want to do brand management or advertising because I just don’t like that. I have high grades though, so I just decided to pick the most competitive one. It was a bit naÏve! I just have no choice.
D: No choice? Why do you say that? Do you feel that your parents played into your choice of what to study?
C: Oh no, they were very supportive, they told me, “Choose whatever you like”. I’m actually very into social studies, gender equality, so I may do a Masters in that area.
D: After your finance degree?
C: It’s a bit weird I know!
D: Not at all! I think that’s great!
"...Nobody wants girls anymore, so I have a background that everyone prefers boys."
C: What’s your major?
D: Science! I’m hoping to do Chemistry.
D: Hahaha, yes, I’m actually hoping to do a double major; chemistry and philosophy. Maybe. Or poli sci, or English. I dunno, arts is pretty broad.
C: Or maybe Sociology, psychology? No? Too much reading?
D: Ehhhhhh, maybe behavioural psychology, I’m not really interested in neuropsychology, or how the brain works, which chemical is released, but I find understanding why people do what they do, why they behave the way they do, is very interesting. And I think that's worth investigating.
C: I’ve never learned neuropsychology before, but I think that cognitive psychology is more interesting. It is about how people think, how people behave instead of the structure of the brain, too much lengthy terminology, it’s very hard to remember.
D: *laugh* If the medulla oblongata synapses with the hippocampus in the ventral position.. but that’s interesting! So finance, you really aren’t enjoying it?
C: Well, I guess, it’s practical, I mean, everyone has to deal with personal finance, investing, so if I have a basic knowledge of finance, that’s not a bad thing, but I don’t really want a career in the financial industry.
D: Gotcha. So how did you get interested in gender equality, if that’s what you want to do for a Masters degree?
C: Well, I was brought up in a rural area of China, and especially in those poorer areas, parents usually prefer to have a boy instead of a girl, so my parents were a bit... disappointed that I was a girl instead of a boy, because I have an elder sister. Nobody wants girls anymore, so I have a background that everyone prefers boys.
D: I’m so sorry to hear that!
C: I feel that it’s not fair, I mean, just like I’ve only been speaking English for four years, and you’ve been speaking English for twenty years! It’s unfair! *laugh* I’m joking... but I always felt that I was inferior to boys when I was a young girl, because for example, if I had a younger brother, my parents would probably spoil him and ignore me.
D: Wow, so there is really a stigma against having baby girls then, and that boys are much preferred. I’m not as familiar with Chinese culture, but from what I have read and heard other people talk about, there is an expectation that boys will carry on the family name, and provide for the parents. Are there other things that are playing into that idea? Why is that attitude so prevalent?
C: Well, yes, it’s usually the boys who take care of the parents. For my parents, if my sister and I get married, there will be no one left to take care of them, but of course that’s not the case because I will definitely take care of them, but in traditional Chinese culture, if daughters are married, they are the belongings of their husbands. It’s terrible. I guess that as China’s economy transitions, people have very open minds, so these kinds of traditional ideas are abolished by a lot of Chinese people.
D: Is it still prevalent in more rural areas?
C: Yes, but in big cities, people don’t care as much, and a lot of parents prefer daughters because they are usually more... caring, lovely, very obedient, not causing a lot of trouble when they are teenagers.
D: Us boys, we like to get in trouble *laugh*
C: Well, maybe… Also, when my grandfather passed away, he just passed all his property to his sons, not my mom.
D: Wow, so it’s like when you get married, you really switch families entirely.
C: Exactly. It’s like you belong to the other family, even though you are my daughter, you are not technically in my family.
D: And how do you feel about that?
C: I totally disagree! Girls and boys are equal!
D: Absolutely! You mentioned that people in big cities are more open to new ideas, how did your parents feel about this, from having lived in the rural and in the city?
C: My parents are very well educated, my dad has a masters degree and my mom graduated with a bachelors, so they are okay with having two daughters, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. A lot of Chinese parents just.. abort girls when they’re in their mothers womb. That’s why the gender issue in China is such; there are are 113 males to every 100 females.
"I think that if a girl doesn't receive an education, she is boring. You just can't communicate at the same level"
D: Wow, so over the whole country, there is an enormous shortage of girls.
C: Yeah, well those girls are either aborted or just abandoned on the street, it’s a reality in China. By 2020, there will be 30 million males who cannot find a wife, because there are not enough girls, so the society will become even more unstable.
D: 30 million males who can’t find a wife? That’s seriously problematic.
C: Maybe at that time, girls will become more valuable, because it is just so competitive to find a wife.
D: Oh man, you think getting into school is competitive, try competing with 29,999,999 other males for a single girl!
C: I heard that 1 in 5 men cannot find a wife in China. 5 years later.
D: 1 in 5. That’s crazy.!
C: It’s bad. Because a lot of girls are aborted.
D: So, what do you think about Western views of males and females, versus more traditional views? Are you in support of the way women are perceived in media? Are there some things that are bad, or wrong, or could be improved?
C: Well, even here, I can still see gender inequality. I mean, for the same job, males are usually paid more than females, and I guess women are quite, physically, not as strong as men, so it’s hard to achieve absolute equality, even in Western countries. In terms of career, education, a lot of my friends are considering doing a Master’s degree, but they are afraid of not being able to find a husband, being too educated to find a guy who can accept such a highly educated girl. Because usually, men want women to be not as… accomplished as them.
D: Okay, I’ve heard that here, as well as in China, that if you are a man, you should marry someone who makes less than you, that you need to “exceed” them, and that some men have difficulty accepting a wife who makes more than them. Even in Western countries, if the wife has a better career, or is more accomplished, a lot of men may feel threatened by that.
C: Yeah! There’s an enormous amount of pressure, like my wife is better than me and make more money than me, so there is a lot of pressure on men, so they would rather find a wife who is lovely, pretty, and…
D: Empty headed?
C: Hahaha, not empty headed, but less educated. Just, less.
D: I think that’s sad.
D: Personally, I find that only educated women are interesting. Even listening to some conversations here on campus.. an empty mind is not an attractive quality.
C: Definitely. I think if a girl doesn’t receive an education, she is boring. You just can’t communicate at the same level, she can’t understand what you’re saying, so that’s another dilemma.
D: So ideally.. everyone should just get Masters degrees?
C: Maybe! Are you thinking of going to graduate school?
D: Hahaha, well, I’d like to do surgery, but that’s a long way away.
C: Surgery! You need like a… PhD to do surgery!
D: Yeah, it would be a medical degree, and then an additional specialization afterwards, so looking at about… 12 years of schooling.
C: Wow, Very promising future!
D: Eventually! Thank you very much Crystal, and I look forward to seeing what you do in your role as VP of Education!
C: Thank you!