Diana Vidal at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing (COURTESY PHOTO)
Through well-defined actions, all women have the power to change the future and create a more equal society. Diana Vidal is a beautiful example of this, helping women who come to Beijing to forge their own path and give it their all in a new environment.
A female-focused community
Even as a little girl, Vidal was fearless. Despite her deep-rooted love for Cali, the most populous city in southwest Colombia where she was born and raised, her desire to explore other corners of the planet pushed her into great adventures from an early age. "My mother always told me I was a citizen of the world and that she knew I was going to live in different countries simply because of my 'being' and thinking," she said.
Before coming to China, Vidal had lived in Germany as an exchange student. "My plan wasn't to stay, but I met the love of my life there," she admitted. "Germany was a spectacular country for me, but my husband was definitely my main motivation for staying. It was about that feeling of having found your other half."
She arrived in Beijing together with her husband in September 2020. "It was a culture shock, but one that didn't last long thanks to the friendliness of the Chinese and all the facilities Beijing had and has to offer," she said.
Because of her personality and experiences during her time in Germany, Vidal decided to create a community of support among women. According to her own research, in 93 percent of cases it is the woman who has to sacrifice her personal and professional projects to follow the partner when they venture abroad.
"I feel all people possess the ability to adapt to a new environment and achieve anything they set out to do as long as they know what they want and are willing to fight for it," she said. This is how BOSS LADIES was created. The female-focused community began with just six people—all friends of Vidal's, and today involves almost 400 members. Most of them are expat women from different parts of the world, but the group does include several Chinese women interested in interacting with people who have other traditions and cultures.
The community organizes coaching sessions, girls' nights, cooking classes, meditations, as well as Chinese culture and language classes, among other activities, which seek to enable women to expand their social networks and support one another. Vidal said the project has focused on addressing a dilemma many women face when they decide to postpone their personal projects in favor of their families' or partners'. And so she figured: Why not take advantage of the new opportunities the host country has to offer instead of leaving dreams behind?
"This is what it's all about: doing our very best, focusing on fulfilling our own expectations—by taking up a new hobby, learning a new language or excelling at work, you name it—and knowing that we are not alone in this process," she explained.
When asked about her thoughts on the role of women in Chinese society, Vidal emphasized a sense of continuous progress. "China is a country where I have never felt that I was being treated differently because of my gender," she said. "Here, you have women working in every field you can possibly imagine." The country's female workforce accounted for 45.2 percent of the total in 2021, as opposed to 39.7 percent for the world, according to the World Bank.
This Colombian woman marches to the beat of her own drum. Chairing BOSS LADIES aside, she is an industrial engineer and works in the research and development department of a renowned automotive company that produces electric car batteries.
Over the past few years, China has dedicated many resources and efforts to the country's transition toward a greener economy. One of the government's most important commitments is the dual carbon goal, i.e., peaking the country's carbon emissions before 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality before 2060.
"Seeing the rising number of electric cars driving through the streets of Beijing and other cities, you can easily see how the government is doing its part to change certain consumer attitudes and behaviors," she said, adding she believes the country is moving in the right direction.
Throughout her 2.5 years in Beijing, Vidal has assembled many experiences and lessons pushing her to grow. For most expats, living and working in China means doing a 180. Because of this, she has learned that the best thing to do is to adapt or, in her own words, "to go with the flow." "China has taught me the extreme kindness that many Chinese possess, to appreciate more those loved ones we have living far away and that I am capable of doing so much more than I'd ever expected," she said.
For the time being, BOSS LADIES will keep its focus on Beijing. "I don't have any plans to replicate the concept in other cities because I'm the one planning everything, and I'm already spending too much of my free time on this, so setting it up in another city would prove difficult," she said.
Located in Valle del Cauca, southwest of the Colombian capital of Bogotá, Cali will always have a place in her heart. "I am from that beautiful city where the Colombian empanada (a type of baked or fried turnover consisting of pastry and filling), was born, where salsa music is around every corner and where one can feel the kindness of people everywhere," she proudly stated.
But the fondness for her roots by no means diminishes her feelings for Beijing. "Saying what I enjoy most about Beijing is difficult because I love this city," she said, hailing the sense of security at all times as one of its most outstanding aspects. "Being able to walk down the street at any time of day or night all by yourself and not having to worry is amazing," she added.
The future certainly holds many possibilities, but, at the same time, it is a "relative concept," according to Vidal. "The future could be tomorrow, next week or two years from now," she said. And for that reason, this Colombian woman concentrates on the here and now, giving every moment her all and supporting other women so that they, too, can achieve their goals.
(Print Edition Title: Run the World)
This is an edited translation of a Spanish article first published in China Hoy magazine
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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