‘Women Hold Up Half the Sky’

March 28, 2024

Shiqi Tao.

Shiqi Tao.

Like many, Shiqi Tao's perspective of women's role in society was shaped by movies and the dynamics between successful couples that were portrayed in the romantic scenes.

“In my twenties, I saw flowers as symbols of romance, likely influenced by romantic movies. It was common to think that if a girl received flowers, they were from a boy who liked her. My perspective shifted as I got older. Now, I believe women can, and should, buy flowers for themselves whenever they want, without waiting for someone else to do it,” she shared.

Born and raised in China, Tao immigrated to the United States to continue her studies and start a career, which became a reality when she joined MCD Global Health as an eLearning Training Coordinator for U.S. Programs in late 2022. But her journey toward her new destiny wasn't a straight line.

With her decision to move to the U.S. alone, she made a move that was unexpected for women in her family at the time. This resulted in her overcoming her self-doubts and fears about her new path as an immigrant as well as the beliefs of others regarding what a woman could achieve alone.

“Back then, it was believed that the outside world was tougher for girls, but boys could grow stronger by living elsewhere. This belief posed a challenge when I decided to move abroad. Many friends thought it was a crazy decision, and my parents were worried,” Tao recounted.

Arriving in a new country, Tao was met with an exciting adventure that also included some challenges that were fostered by cultural differences. For example, speaking a different language and adapting to the local food were some of the expected challenges while others were more difficult to navigate, such as limitations faced when working on routine tasks, like finding a job. It proved to be different for her despite being a legal immigrant with a rich educational background.

“Although I wouldn't say I've completely overcome this challenge, as life abroad is tough, I successfully earned my master's degree in the U.S. and landed a great job at MCD,” she said.

The differences that seemed overwhelming to Tao during her first few months in the U.S. were not limited to her personal experience, but also to aspects pertaining any woman, like the lack of maternity leave and the cultural standard of women taking their husband's last name when married.

“In my country, that is not an option. When you marry your name doesn't change, your name is always yours. A tendency that is on the rise nowadays is for families to give some of their kids their father's last name and others their mother's,” she shared.

What helped her be successful in her new life included motivation from the strong women in her life who inspired her to take such risks. She has a deep admiration for her grandmother who, despite being illiterate, remains open to learning and having new experiences.

“When cell phones became common and she didn't have one, she insisted on getting one despite us thinking that she couldn't use it without being able to read. She proved us wrong by learning to use it. I can't express how joyful it makes me when she FaceTimes or sends pictures,” Tao said.

Tao's grandmother experienced the transition of when women were expected to be housewives and mothers and seen as not fit for hard work, to a time when women have proven to be excellent multitaskers, being outstanding professionals, and able to hold their ground, or better yet, the sky.

“In my country, there's a saying, ‘Women hold up half the sky.’ This reflects our view of women as strong and powerful, acknowledging their equal role and contribution to society.”

“In my country, there's a saying, ‘Women hold up half the sky.’ This reflects our view of women as strong and powerful, acknowledging their equal role and contribution to society," she said.

When reflecting on her decision to move abroad and her journey since then, Tao describes it as “fantastic” and wants to inspire other women who might be having the same doubts and fears she once had and encourage them to make an informed life-changing decision.

“Ask yourself if you can handle being alone and decide what's more important to you, but be fully prepared, covering financial, language skills, and mental and physical health, as you'll face many challenges abroad, but remember, brave souls savor the world's wonders first.”

Learn more about International Women's Day