Why #TigerWife And Facebook Are Not Role Models

Rupert Murdoch pie

[credit provider=”AP Photo”]

At a grocery checkout line the other day in my neighbourhood in Singapore where I’m based, a teenager was asking her mother about Wendi Deng. She asked if her mother thinks Wendi Deng is a role model. Her mother, shocked, exclaimed “No she is not!”Almost everyone knows who Wendi Deng is by now, but in case you don’t, read this Reuters article. The problem is that in this part of Asia, in particular, China and Hong Kong, while many people can see through the #TigerWife drama, there are still many young Asian women out there with an ambition and set to grow up and “be just like Wendi Deng”. There is even a Facebook fanpage.

I must state here that while I work in media and know friends who have worked with Ms Deng when she was interning at StarTV in Hong Kong, a channel owned by Murdoch, I don’t know Deng personally and am not commenting on her personal nature — this article mainly refers to the ‘tiger wife’ label linked to the recent incident involving Deng.

The Chinese forums are abuzz about ‘Tiger Wife’. Is she a role model or is she not? In China Daily, her role as a ‘tiger wife’ is examined and summed up the Chinese netizens’ thoughts on the matter.

Meanwhile, in an article in AFP:

“…netizens said Deng “should be praised for protecting her husband” and that her lightning reactions would “boost the positive image of Murdoch” as well as “improve the image of Asian women in Western eyes.”

In an article in Sydney Morning Herald, the author posed a question:
“Despite feminism and female advancement, more modern women want to marry a rich man than women in the 1940s. So has feminism failed?”

China has a population of an estimated 1.4 billion, and from that, a sizable number of women executives, many of whom may seek their fortunes and destinies in foreign lands.

Imagine what would happen in the corporate world and what values that would be perpetuated by the women who follow Deng’s footsteps.

This brings us to the point on ambition.

Ambition vs Aspiration

Many years ago, I asked a former schoolmate I know when we started out in the working world what defines her. She said confidently, “Ambition.” I knew she would go places, sensing her purpose so early on. Thank goodness, it was the good kind of ‘ambition’ i.e. she’s not afraid to learn the ropes, put in the hours and doing a great job.

We, both men and women alike, always thought that ambition is a must-have to succeed in this world. But, have we paused to think of what we know as ambition, is really?

I believe that there should be a mixture of ambition (of the good kind) or drive, PLUS aspiration.

According to Mark Goulston, M.D., a well-respected business advisor and coach trained as a clinical psychiatrist: “Aspiration directs you towards a goal fuelled by passion and ambition.”

It’s not about getting = ambition. It’s about growing towards = aspiration.

Now, let’s translate this to role models in business…

Facebook vs LinkedIn

In actual fact, the main factor which spurred me to write this article was not Wendi Deng but the following TechCrunch article (See: Attn Entrepreneurs: Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the role model. Reid
Hoffman is

More often than not, sexy stories (i.e. Facebook) get picked up easily. That’s why I particularly appreciated this article by Sarah Lacy – a take on how quiet businesses with good values (as opposed to Facebook’s manifesto which prompted this hacker group’s plan to bring down Facebook on 5 November) can sometimes be overlooked.

Facebook may have its masses but LinkedIn has been bringing in profits steadily.

On LinkedIn, as a profitable Web 2.0 business:

“..LinkedIn now has an IPO priced at $45 a share, or $4 billion-plus valuation, the highest valuation for an Internet company debut since Google…. LinkedIn that is the first social network to go public, the first multi-billion Web 2.0 IPO.”

In comparing Facebook’s PR coverage scores to LinkedIn’s lesser headline count, Lacy wrote:

[However]… “A lot of times the companies we should be writing about more than we do are admittedly boring infrastructure or enterprise software names. But there’s a category of consumer names that should be sexy, but for whatever reason don’t get the hype.”

I believe in good businesses, and have always appreciated the amount of thought LinkedIn puts into its interface for its users. The company chose to take the seemingly boring path and chose to make hard decisions which paid off in the long run. Does this sound eerily familiar — i.e. Microsoft vs Apple?

So this brings us back to this: how does one define a role model, person or company? Does one take the short cut, which comes with certain sacrifices that may go against the ‘do-no-harm’ ethos, or the longer and perhaps boring path to success?

In writing this, I came to reflect upon the following story in which a judo association has finally agreed to confer a 10th degree black belt to a 98-year old judo woman sensei.

According to San Francisco Gate:

“She gave up marriage and left her homeland to dedicate her life to judo, fighting gender discrimination that kept her at lower belt levels decades longer than men less skilled than she.”

“…”All my life,” Fukuda said, “this has been my dream.”‘

Now that, to me, is a true role model.