Hui Luo: "A Leader Is Not Built Within a Day"

Hui Luo, Gender STI's #WomenInLeadership nominee from the China Centre for International Science and Technology Exchange.

Hui Luo was nominated for Gender STI's #WomenInLeadership Campaign, which celebrates women leaders in science, technology and innovation, by the National Academy of Innovation Strategy in China.

She is the Executive Director of the China Centre for International Science and Technology Exchange (CISTE) and the New Technology Development Center of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST). Luo’s major research areas are science and technology (S&T) strategy, innovation evaluation, S&T diplomacy and science culture, among others.

Luo spoke to Gender STI about her experience as a woman leader in honor of International Women's Day 2021.

Can you tell us a bit about your job and your responsibilities?

As the Executive Director of China Centre for International Science and Technology Exchange, China Association for Science and Technology (CISTE/CAST), I take full responsibility for all the tasks of our institution, which include: actively engaging in the affairs of international scientific organizations, and serving Chinese scientists to help them better perform their duties; planning and holding international conferences, programs and exhibitions at home and abroad in an attempt to provide a professional exchange platform for both Chinese and foreign scientists and engineers; promoting people-to-people exchanges between Chinese scientists and their foreign counterparts so as to establish cooperation and friendship; building a platform for overseas professionals with science and technology backgrounds through the HOME Program to engage them in the social and economic development in China; opening up new channels for science and technology exchanges and cooperation through the CAST Belt and Road Initiative; providing a better foreign affairs service for the whole CAST system.

Did you face any challenges on your journey to become a woman leader? How did you overcome them?

I have had a long career journey which began when I was the director of the High-tech Zone Management Division of the Torch Center of the State Scientific and Technological Commission in 1990s. That has led me to become the director of CISTE today. I’ve worked as a leader in the  Strategic Research Session of the Ministry of Science and Technology, as the First Secretary of the Science and Technology Section at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America, the Deputy Director of the Research and Publicity Department, the Director of the China Research Institute for Science Popularization, the Director of the Development Research Center of CAST, and the President of the National Academy of Innovation Strategy (NAIS), CAST. Immediately before my current position, I served as the Vice Mayor of the Suining Municipal Government in Sichuan Province.

Like all the other women leaders today, I face greater challenges juggling family and work, maintaining physical endurance and work intensity, time management, public evaluation and social culture. The greatest challenge that I face daily is how to keep my career moving forward brilliantly and my family sweet and secure at the same time, as they are equally important to me.

At work, I need to raise my abilities and focus on improving quality performance to bring our institution to higher levels with global vision. At home, it is my responsibility to care for my family, and together with my husband provide guidance and companionship for our son.

Some people think that career and family are just like the sun and the stars and that they cannot be shining at the same time; we must abandon one. However, I am committed to managing and integrating career advancement and our son’s education together. I believe it is the continuous observation and study that makes it possible. I have learnt knowledge on campus as I earned my PhD. I have been working at different posts in various institutions, and have learnt a lot from my work and from the summary, accumulation and cerebration after my work. Learning enables me to improve my skills and identify possibilities to meet higher requirements and standards and create the future I want to produce. The efficiency ascension has helped me gain me recognition and confidence, as well as more free time for our family. In the meanwhile, the process of my efforts and success witnessed by our son is also a silent education for him. Sharing with him what I have learned and seen also gives him high quality guidance.

I am still exploring and determining ways to attain better balance. Often, it is not easy, but the challenge and energy is worth every little bit of effort I give to it.

What goals do you have as a leader?

As the institution leader, I am committed to the international stage for science and technology communication.

My immediate goal is to cultivate young people's, especially women’s, ability and talent; serve and attract more scientists, especially female scientists, to engage in international STI exchanges and cooperation; and to transform scientific and technological achievements into the power of the development of society.

My bigger goals are, through our work, to contribute to higher quality service for society, deepen understanding between countries and promote the spread of science and technology; empower more women scientists to take the leading role in ST innovation; and provide a solid foundation for long-term development of international science and technology and gender equality for women on a global scale.

How would you describe the gender balance in decision-making in science, technology and innovation (STI)?

Women are disproportionately represented in science and technology decision-making, and in some fields even absent. Many tech companies, organizations, various groups and functions involved in gender diversity rarely collaborate or coordinate on strategy. With no clear leader designated to oversee the company’s approach to increasing the number of women leaders in technology overall, women overwhelmingly still have limited access to positions of leadership and are less likely to occupy executive positions.

Fortunately, the situation is gradually improving. Because with the progress of society and the development of the economy, the traditional restriction that held that girls can only study liberal arts no longer exists, and more women engage themselves in the field of science and technology. Key principal job opportunities are being provided to women, child care services are being provided by society addressing the need for sharing the burden of family responsibilities that women have held, and women's equality in the organization, including pay equity and maternity and paternity leave, is improving, among others.

As the improvement of these conditions continues, I believe the proportion of women in the decision-making of science and technology will eventually be equal with men and possibly even more than men.

What would you tell young girls and women who would like to become leaders in their professional fields one day?

A leader is not built within a day. It takes countless hours of study, research and sacrifice. Besides all the good qualities that every leader has, from my own experience, I would tell young girls and women that confidence, perseverance, determination, decisiveness and endurance will guide you on the path to be a successful woman leader in your professional field.

Perseverance is the key to success. It is perseverance that makes you passionate on the marathon to success, which is definitely fraught with challenges. It is the perseverance that makes you climb one more step further after each failure.

Determination is the power to success; it is the strength of every footstep you take. With every firm and powerful step, your confidence will grow, your strength will increase and the challenges will be easier to face and conquer, assuring a successful journey. These steps can become a powerful pattern of action to take as each new obstacle arises.

Be decisive, grasp the fleeting opportunity, you may taste the joy of success; or it may drift away while you’re hesitating or judging, and leave you with permanent regret. So, embrace your courage and seize the opportunity with your firm hands and heart, telling yourself that you are ready for it.

Endurance is the projection of your will; it is the guarantee of your success. It helps you get through the most difficult waiting period you have to bear before you succeed. It is just like how you feel about your late shopping delivery, it didn’t arrive at the time you wished, but it is coming to you and it is just on its way to you.

As you may know, the Gender STI project focuses on promoting gender equality in international cooperation in STI. Do you have any ideas on how we could promote gender equality in this area?

From my point of view, the following measures will promote gender equality in this area:

  • Establish international organizations that give support and services for women by empowering them to engage in STI;
  • Set up education and capacity-building for young girls and women in science and technology. This should be carried out in the form of seminars, programs or training workshops; 
  • Institutions at all levels in the industry must create policies to encourage and support the development of women;
  • Call on men to align and support women's development in this area; and
  • Discover best practices and popularize them worldwide.

What do you think needs to be done to increase the number of women leaders in STI?

Increasing the number of women leaders is a key element to the healthy development of STI, it is also an important embodiment of human equality and social balance.

As the saying goes, if you want go far, go together. So, in addition to women's own efforts, society also needs to provide corresponding support to this, such as:

  • Developing international academic organizations of women, building a platform for exchanges and support increasing more excellent women leaders;
  • Strengthen early awareness, guidance and training for young girls and women in science and technology as well as accelerate their leadership;
  • Provide necessary social services for women to lessen their domestic responsibilities that consume a large portion of their own time so that they can invest in their professional pursuits and balance their lives;
  • Give equal discourse power for women, let their voices be heard; and
  • Build a positive social consensus so that women can be excellent leaders that they are.

Follow Gender STI's #WomenInLeadership campaign on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for more great interviews. Join the conversation using #WomenInLeadership, #IWD2021 and #GenderSTI.

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