Grappling with Values: Gender Perspectives on Young Social Innovators’ Meaning of Work in China

Han Ling of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, will present “Grappling with Values: Gender Perspectives on Young Social Innovators' Meaning of Work in China” at The 13th Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities (ACAH2022) and The 13th Asian Conference on the Social Sciences (ACSS2022).

The keynote presentation will also be available for IAFOR Members to view online. To find out more, please visit the IAFOR Membership page.


Grappling with Values: Gender Perspectives on Young Social Innovators' Meaning of Work in China

The search for values and meanings alignment in work and life has been an important characteristic of the current younger generation. Today, many youths will not compromise their citizen subjectivity, personal values, and meanings of work. Studies have pointed out that the expansion of neoliberal management has valorised individuals and organisations as purposive actors empowered by their own vision, innovation, and entrepreneurship. In China, with the call for mass entrepreneurship and innovation to encourage more young people to engage in innovative endeavours to boost national development, there emerged a social innovation sector, a sub-sector at the intersection of nonprofits and businesses, where many young people today engage in social impact work to advance their social visions.

Through thirty semi-structured interviews with young social innovators and social entrepreneurs in China and a year-long participant observations in over fifty social innovation-related events, I show how this field is gender-ambivalent, a field with a mixture of simultaneously contradictory gender ideas and attitudes. To navigate such paradox and tension to sustain their meanings of work in this field, young women and men align different meanings and demonstrate different attitudes to sustain and make sense of their work. Women often speak about the purpose of life and building relationships. Men often talk about bringing social change, while commenting about enjoying autonomy in this field more than in other sectors. This study further highlights how structural and socio-cultural factors may facilitate different constructions of meaningful work in young people’s entrepreneurial pursuit of social causes.

Speaker Biography

Han Ling
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Han LingLing Han is an Assistant Professor in the Gender Studies Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is a sociologist researching the intersection of gender, technology, and social innovation. She obtained her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and was awarded a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) to research and manage the China Social Innovation Program. She got her BA in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and MA in China Studies and Sociology from Tsinghua University, China. Prior to joining CUHK, she was a Research Fellow at the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP), helming the research thrust on social innovation & social entrepreneurship at the National University of Singapore Business School, and also worked as a researcher for Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN). She leads research initiatives to compare the institutions, organisations, and actors that drive social innovation education and social entrepreneurship in Asia. She also co-leads the global comparative project on the Civic Life of Cities Lab – Singapore with Stanford University and INSEAD. She has extensive collaboration experiences with foundations, nonprofit organisations, corporate philanthropies, and impact investors in China and Southeast Asia. She serves as an academic advisor and a regular contributor for Stanford Social Innovation Review China (斯坦福社会创新评论) and co-founded the Asia Academic Social Innovators Forum in 2021. She will start a new research cluster on Gender and Digital Transformation.

Posted by IAFOR