With the world economy going digital at an accelerated pace triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need to strengthen girls’ education and equip them with the necessary technical and leadership skills to reduce gender inequality, according to Jennifer Yu Cheng.

The deputy vice-chairwoman of CTF Education Group, a unit of 
Chow Tai Fook Group
, last month launched a charity called the Jennifer Yu Cheng Girls Impact Foundation to educate and empower schoolgirls to become “future-ready leaders”.

“In Asia alone, women hold one in five leadership positions and comprise just 13 percent of company board members,” Yu told the South China Morning Post in a written reply. “I believe we need to close the gap, to equip teen girls with the tech knowledge, skills, and mindset to position them to have more career options and become leaders in a digitalized economy.”

Yu is the wife of 
Adrian Cheng Chi-kong
, executive vice-chairman and chief executive of Hong Kong-listed 
New World Development
. Cheng is also an executive director of Chow Tai Fook, which is ultimately controlled by the Cheng family.
Yu said over the next 12 months the foundation will partner with NGOs and other institutions to extend scholarships to teenage girls in marginalized or underprivileged communities, starting with China’s Guizhou province. Scholarships will be provided to 100 girls in the province over four years, allowing them to complete their university degrees.

It plans to partner with similar organizations across Asia on education-related development initiatives over the next few years.

Poverty is one of the most important factors in determining whether a girl can access and complete her education, according to the World Bank. According to Unicef, 132 million girls worldwide are out of school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper secondary school age. Investing in girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequality, Unicef said.

Jennifer Yu Cheng, deputy vice-chairwoman of CTF Education Group, has founded a charity for girls. Photo: Handout
Jennifer Yu Cheng, deputy vice-chairwoman of CTF Education Group, has founded a charity for girls. Photo: Handout

Yu, who co-founded the private education institute ARCH Education in Hong Kong more than 10 years ago, is also in charge of developing CTF Education’s K-12 schools in Hong Kong and China. CTF Education operates the Victoria Educational Organisation and Delia School of Canada in the city.

In Hong Kong, the foundation is partnering with schools to involve schoolgirls in webinars and workshops to improve their tech skills and provide wider exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The programs and events are free of charge and open to all female pupils.

“Through rich STEM exposure, we hope to empower teen girls to think like innovators and solve problems like scientists and engineers,” she said.

“We will position them to succeed in a rapidly changing digital economy.”