In celebration of International Women's Day, our speakers, partners, and sponsors have gathered together to share why they celebrate their teams and themselves. Together, we can work to shape a more diverse and inclusive future.
Dr. Elizabeth Xu, Group CTO at C.P. Group, shares her inspirational story.
Many asked me where I got my confidence, courage, and curiosity toward science and technology from. And how I have been able to break the glass + bamboo ceilings - becoming the only lady in the room with highly competitive, intelligent and accomplished technical male peers. Looking back through my life, two people planted the seed and nurtured me to the confident person I am.
I was born as an inquisitive and shy girl in China. My grandma said I had an old soul because I cared about things adults would care about, thinking and trying like I was a grownup. She encouraged me to pay less attention to little things but instead focus on the bigger picture.
My father was an English professor and dean of a college in China. He spoke four languages. Despite many challenges from the Cultural Revolution, he was very optimistic, open and inclusive. He was sporty and had a beautiful voice. My father was my hero. I loved to sit on his lap, listening to stories both in Chinese and English.
One day I played in the rain with boys, made a mud house and a basket with wildflowers. Mud was everywhere. I was guilty and ashamed. He held me on his lap and said, "my dear Ling Ling, you can do whatever boys do, and wear pretty dresses". His smile and voice have been with me since then.
My father raised me in a micro-western culture, filled with love and encouragement. When my mom, who was a precise math teacher, was mad of me for losing two points at the final math exam, my father embraced me and said: "I believe in you, you will be great." I worshiped my father and got into Peking University, which he had attended, to study Space Physics. He supported my decision.
"I came to the United States with $45 in my pocket the early 90s."
I studied Master Computer Science and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science at the same time. I have built and trained large computational models, similar to the modern Machine Learning models, to predict fog dissipation and automatic raindrop size recognition. I was so proud that I earned both degrees in 3.5 years.
I studied harder than my male classmates; the newspapers arrived at my door each morning - they were waiting for me at 4:30am each day.
"The perception of ladies who wear pretty dresses has been "not technical enough".
Early in my career, people who didn't know me well would assume that I didn't understand the topic and ignore my input. I was never mad, but instead, I studied the subject, and become the expert at the right level.
I was able to carry out a meaningful strategic or technical discussion that business requires.
"I gained respect from my highly technical peers because of my intellectual capacity, my deep understanding of the topics and my leadership."
My father’s and my grandma's unconditional love gave me the confidence, not just in the male-dominated science and technology field, but also in my life and family. I encouraged my children and my friends' children the same way they did.
I love fashion, beautiful shoes and pretty dresses.
"I would do what boys do and take what the boys can take, with no complaint at all, but with the joy that I can do what boys do with style."
Catch Dr. Elizabeth Xu's talk 'Winning with AI' at Women of Silicon Valley on March 21.