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Financial Secrets of 100 Chinese Women

ASIA, the Journal of culture and commerce, News Report, Leonard Novarro Posted: Jan 06, 2010

Wan Ling Martello might have remained a behind-the-scenes accountant instead of becoming the CFO of Wal-Mart International if she hadnt volunteered for a job no one wanted.

Lily Lee Chen may not have become the first Chinese female mayor in the United States if she had not walked door to door in the rain to register Asian voters in Monterey Park while sacrificing a pair of shoes in the process.

D. Alice Huang may not have done pioneering work in the area of pediatric AIDS if she had listened to people tell her that women dont make scientists especially Asian women.

These women became successful not because they beat the odds, but because they persevered, were driven by an indefatigable work ethic, possessed an unstoppable desire for success and never quit pursuing their dreams -- core principles that come from being Chinese women.

Their stories and 97 others are featured in a soon-to-be-released book Why Chinese Women Are Not Broke: Real Life Stories and Proven Keys for Success available at www.whychinesewomenarenotbroke.com and, after Jan. 7, on www.amazon.com.

Among the profiled: Diane Tang-Liu, vice president of research and development for Allergen Inc.; Sonya Gong Jent, vice president of operations for State Farm Insurance; JennieChin Hansen, president of AARP; Jenny Ming, president of Charlotte Russe; Ivy Chin, vice president of QVC; U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, former San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong, U.S. Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch and, from San Diego, HIV researcher Flossie Wong-Staal and former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam.

The author, Giovanna Pang Garcia, herself could easily qualify as a subject for her own book, after taking over her mothers Hong Kong toy business at the age of 11, operating a computer solutions business in Orange County and retiring after selling it 10 years later before turning 40. But staying retired was not in the cards for Garcia, who turned to giving motivational talks and seminars before deciding to put those same bits of advice to paper. Before she did, however, she thought to herself that there must be other women like her successful and maybe not quite as known as the Bill Gateses and Warren Buffets of the world.

As she points out in her introduction, the average annual income for Chinese women in the U.S. in 2005 and 2006 was more than $30,000, compared to the national average of a little over $26,000 for other women. Unemployment for Chinese women is 3 percent compared to 4.6 percent for all women and 45 percent of Chinese American females are college graduates, compared to 26.7 percent of Caucasian females and 28.9 percent of all males.

Hence the idea for the book.

When I started out to write the book, I had one vision in mind. I thought I would write down my personal feelings and keys to success I took to help others, said Garcia. Then I thought Who else can I interview with similar backgrounds and wisdom? I started with 25 and it grew and led to people and names I never thought of and the whole project became bigger and bigger.

As she collected her stories, Garcia discovered a common thread and in her book writes that despite adversity, limited opportunities, modest backgrounds and gender stereotyping, every single one of these women succeeded by combining their Chinese values with the freedom and abundance of opportunities here in America. That key to any success, she added, is to embrace the same core values.

In Martellos case, she saw opportunity when a management job at another company opened up. No one would take it because the two previous managers were fired. Without any management experience, she volunteered and credits that with her rise in the company and later landing her the position at Wal-Mart, where, in four years, she took the company from $60 billion to $100 billion in earnings.

Adversity never got in the way of Lily Lee Chen. Deciding to run for mayor of Monterey Park, she stood no chance of election without the Asian vote. The problem: Asians had the lowest voter registration of any group. The big challenge was getting them registered, said Garcia. She walked in the rain door to door, getting her shoes drenched. One woman handed her a pair of shoes. She did everything. She would have booths in front of supermarkets. In the evening she would leave the house in the middle of dinner to be at those booths. There were a lot of hurdles, but she won.

Garcia also found that most of these women experienced prejudice. Huang was told by so many men that as a woman she didnt belong in science, according to Garcia. In 1979, she went on to become director of the Laboratories of Infectious Diseases at Childrens Hospital in Boston, where she established a unit dealing with childhood viral diseases and founded the second National Institute of Health clinical trial group for pediatric AIDS.

Underlying every story, said Garcia is, the possibility of hope. I love any story that gives the message that there is always hope and there are always going to be better days.

Garcia, herself, lived such a story.

Working in her mothers shop in Hong Kong, she ran everything by the time she was 11, opening at 8 a.m., stopping by after school to relieve her mother so she could run chores, doing homework for two hours, then returning to work until 9 p.m.

Toys for me were never fun. It was about money. It was a business, she recalled. Wanting more, she persuaded her father to send her to this country for an education.

Arriving in America to attend school, like most immigrants, she encountered prejudice. I didnt speak English. I thought If I could be American, it would never happen again. I tried so hard to be American and never looked back.

In exchange, she left her cultural identify, and it wasnt until she had a son, Dylan, now 2, with husband, Craig Garcia, that she realized how much she was not in touch with her own roots. Then I wrote the book and everything synchronized for me, said Garcia, who is determined that her son not only remains in touch with his culture, but that he enjoys the balanced childhood she never had.

Success is not magic. Nor is it luck, Garcia maintains. Its about approaching business with a somewhat different frame of mind than most Westerners.

For one, be flexible and adjust to the economic climate, she says. When the dot-com bust hit in the early 2000s, Garcia converted her business from hardware to solutions. If youre narrow-minded, you will miss out on opportunities, she said. More millionaires are created in a depression, like the one were in now. Make adjustments quickly.

Also, do what you are passionate about. You have to live with your passion, she said. Its a natural high for me to stay up to three and four in the morning to do what I do. Theres no taking shortcuts. Working hard is the right way.

Garcia refers to her book as Chicken Soup for the Soul Meets 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People.

She says: What inspires me the most is the human spirit, the drive, the faith in what we can do and continue to plow away despite impossible odds and when no one sees our vision. And that goes for anyone man or woman, Chinese or otherwise.

Her favorite movie?

Rudy, most naturally.

And Im not even a football girl, she says.

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