Promoting women entrepreneurs; mind your finances


Do we need specific initiatives to help female entrepreneurs? Some say no, because men and women face similar obstacles in business. However, there can be no denying that women face challenges not experienced by their male counterparts.

LAST May, the SME Association of Malaysia organised a talk on women entrepreneurship at its regular SME Club get-together. We were worried that the topic would not be interesting, but to our surprise, the event was well received.

About a hundred people participated in the talk.

When we told the SMEs that we were going to have a talk on women entrepreneurship, some of them asked: Why talk about women entrepreneurship? Does it matter? Why bother?

After all, business is a men’s world. The place for women is at home.

Others said there was no need to differentiate women entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs in general, as many of the barriers faced by female-owned SMEs were similar to those faced by male-owned SMEs.

To this, I would say: Yes and no.

While male and female entrepreneurs may face similar constraints in general, women face specific barriers and challenges not experienced by their counterparts.

While women make up about 50% of Malaysia’s population, less than 20% of the SMEs are owned by women. Even though the number for women entrepreneurs is small, it’s nonetheless encouraging as it shows that women no longer buy the stereotype of business being a male domain.

There are several key reasons for women to get into business. Running your own business provides flexibility in managing career and domestic responsibilities.

Also, it gives some degree of personal freedom to women who are dissatisfied with “fixed” employment. Job flexibility, like work hours, office location, environment, and the people they work with, is appealing to many women.

Other reasons for women to start a business include income security and career satisfaction. Some women become entrepreneurs due to some personal circumstances, like being laid off, divorce, or the retirement of their spouse. They start a business to improve or maintain their social or economic status.

Some women who do not have any previous work skills or experience start a business in order to prove that they can be productive and useful.

The majority of women-owned businesses are smaller outifts than those owned by men, and they are mostly concentrated in the service sector (about 90%). Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with few employees and limited capital for expansion.

Access to financing is one of the biggest challenges. They are less aware of the options relating to loan and grant opportunities. In addition, women usually lack the collateral required compared to men, stemming in part from restrictions on asset ownership.

Women entrepreneurs are also less likely than their male counterparts to have a history of interaction with formal financial systems, lowering their credit-worthiness and potentially raising interest rates on loans assumed.

They also encounter obstacles in accessing opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills that underpin successful entrepreneurship. This may be due to impediments in access to education, training and job experience. These are usually compounded by the demands of domestic responsibilities.

Time constraints further limit women entrepreneurs’ formal networking, which, in turn reduce access to skill and capacity-development opportunities. Formal networks, such as business associations, provide a wealth of information on business opportunities, access to government officials, grants and support programmes, as well as credit credentials and access to loan packages, to name a few.

Good networks provide good access to information and resources. First-hand information allows entrepreneurs to move one step ahead and grab the opportunities. A good pool of resources would help entrepreneurs to survive in bad times and to expand more effectively.

The Government needs to take a proactive role in promoting women entrepreneurs. We need to put in place gender-responsive policies and capacity-building initiatives to address the structural, institutional and socio-cultural inequalities.

It would perhaps be best to start by enhancing their access to finance, which is essential in building a good business foundation.

By Datuk Michael Kang who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

Mind your finances

Up to 36 of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the ACCA. —123rf.com

IN GENERAL, more than 50% of startups fail within five years, and up to 36% of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) entitled “Financial management and business success – a guide for entrepreneurs”.

The report says many entrepreneurs are not equipped to make informed and effective decisions about their financial resources.

“Having the right financial capabilities remains vital throughout the life of a business, whether you are just starting out, have an established business or are looking towards a final exit from a firm,” explains Rosana Mirkovic, ACCA’s head of SME policy.

“Businesses are changing and innovating more rapidly than ever, and the financial management needs of organisations must continue to evolve alongside their developments. Recognising the right financial management capabilities is therefore imperative to their success,” she explains.

Mirkovic adds that understanding financial information is vital for offsetting the risk of business failures as it reveals the early warning signs of impending problems.

The report by ACCA addresses the financial literacy skills gap, potentially serving as a guide to those starting their own businesses and are new to financial management.

Business planning plays a critical role at every stage of the business, says the report.

“Preparing a business plan pushes you to identify and assess the opportunities and threats facing your business. It helps ensure that you have an in-depth understanding of your market, the competition and the broader business environment,” it elaborates.

Effective planning takes into account long-term goals, objectives, strategy, tactics and financial review.

ACCA also advises startups to seek good financial advice and involve their accountants or individuals with financial expertise at the planning stage to take full advantage of their expertise in areas such as business planning, raising business finance, tax planning and setting up financial management systems.

Significant financial expertise may be needed to understand and evaluate the different financial options entrepreneurs may have. This includes knowing the company’s financial strength, financing cost, financial flexibility, business control, financial risk, personal finances and business strategy.

“Good financial control offers far more than just keeping track of purchases and sales. Rather than approach financial control as a chore to be left to the bookkeeper, your aim should be to see how the right capabilities can improve your business,” the report advises.

ACCA notes that business owners should gradually develop the capabilities of their in-house financial team.

“Choosing the right solution for your particular business takes careful planning. Your overall investment in financial capabilities — whether you are paying for additional employees, higher salaries for more skilled employees, training costs, use of external providers or upgraded systems — must be affordable and offer value for money,” it adds.

But financial management is at its most powerful when used to drive improvements in business.

Moreover, for many entrepreneurs, it could also lead to a successful business exit. Preparation for a successful exit typically begins far in advance of its final date.

Effective exit planning needs to start early and take into account a whole range of issues like timing, succession, management systems and tax efficiency.

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Chinese women’s marriage criteria,logical search for a mate


72% of women consider housing as a key requirement for a marriage partner, says the latest report of the Chinese Marriage Status Survey 2014, issued by China’s leading marriage service provider Baihe.com on Jan.11, 2015.

Researchers collected the results of 73,215 online questionnaires and held in-depth off-line interviews with 200 single men and women from 34 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.


Why still single?

The report shows that 63% of single men and women spend an average of more than six hours alone on their rest days; and 32% spend more than 10 hours alone. Surfing the internet, hanging out with friends, and just “quietly” staying at home have become the top three activities for single people.

32% of single women follow TV dramas while 67% of men scan websites, killing their private time at home.

The report concludes that the main reasons for remaining single is too much time spent alone – too few social contacts is the top obstacle to meeting the right person. 80% of single women report this.

Gender differences in marriage requirements

Nowadays, love is no longer the only passport for two people to enter marriage. The report says that more than 40% of single men and women are only willing to get married with a person in a suitable situation. People are becoming ever more rational and realistic when choosing their spouses.

The top three concerns for single men are appearance, physical health, and emotional experience. Single women attach more importance to a partner’s financial situation, physical health, and career.

33% of single men and 27% of single women have experienced interference from parents in their relationships.


Focus on housing

The report shows that 71% of women view housing as a key requirement for a potential marriage partner. 18% of women counted car ownership as one of the basic requirements, a rise of 9% compared with 2012. Both men and women said that a stable income and some savings were important factors.

Nearly 60 percent of women do not intend to have a second child, according to the report, although China has relaxed its birth control policy to allow couples to have a second child if either parent is an only child.

The report also shows that 33% of women think that Chinese men do not deserve Chinese women, in terms of “self-accomplishments and ability to care for themselves.” – (People’s Daily Online)

Home_Love The logical search for a mateChina_Love

‘Love’ takes a back seat when seeking prospective life partners

LOVE is not the only criterion for marriage in China. A recent survey shows that more than 40% of Chinese look to marry someone who suits them in appearance, educational background, social status, income and other characteristics.

Baihe.com, a major dating portal in China, released its 2014 Chinese Marriage Status Survey Report on Sunday.

The site has tracked marriage trends in the country since 2007.

The latest results show that 44.4% of male and 49.7% of female respondents said the reasons for their choice of a marriage partner include their prospective mate’s coming from a family of equal social rank.

“This means people are much more rational when it comes to the marriage decision,” the report said.

“They would like to match each other under every single standard. Love is no longer the only pass.”

The report also said that more than 70% of female respondents said they would consider marriage only if the male partner owns property.

And more than 70% of the women hoped their future husband’s income would be double their own.

Zhou Xiaopeng, the chief marriage consultant at Baihe.com, characterised the phenomenon as “supermarket marriage”, where people come with “money in hand” and want to select the best “products” after shopping around.

Tu Ying, a researcher at the portal, said that seeking a partner with quantifiable requirements is efficient.

“In everyday life, it is more and more difficult to find the right person and get to know him or her – not to mention the cost it comes with,” Tu said. “If people start with quantifiable standards, and then develop their relationship based on that, it is more likely to be a stable relationship.

“Starting marriage with money cannot guarantee stability from the beginning.

“Every relationship needs cultivation from each side.”

Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of sociology at Renmin University of China, attributes the new approach to marriage choices to changes in society.

“Chinese people’s view of choosing a mate has undergone many changes,” Zhou said.

“In the past, marriage was arranged by parents, which reflected the will of family or country. Then it became a personal choice, or socalled love choice. And now it is more related to material standards, or what we call materialism in marriage.”

“This is simply because people live in a materialistic world: A couple needs an apartment to live in, which costs a lot; the couple needs to find a good school for their children, which costs a lot; the couple who live far away from their parents need to find a way to support them, which also costs a lot,” Zhou said. “It is a vicious circle.”

Zhou said to reverse the materialistic trend, the country needs to continue its anti-corruption campaign and improve social welfare, and young people need to know that money is not the solution to everything. – China Daily/Asia News Network

Measuring your Heart Rate for fitness


Why do you need to know your heart rate? What heart rate zone will give you the absolute BEST results for fat burning from your cardio?

I was recently inspired to write this article on heart rates in relation to fitness due to the numerous questions I have received lately about it, and the importance of knowing what it is, and why. Even though the heart rate is a huge element to achieving an optimal workout, and its been around forever, many individuals do not know what theirs is, or how to measure it, or even to care about it. So I am going to clarify this simple yet important component to fitness.

Resting, Exercise and Maximum
Heart Rates
 
There are three HR to consider when training to get fit, or as it relates to cardiovascular fitness, as well as your Target Zone.

The first is the Resting HR. This is your HR when you are not engaging in any physical activity that elevates it, or when you are in a resting state such as sleep. As you become more fit, this number will decrease because your heart and lungs have become stronger. The heart is then able to pump more blood, which is called stroke volume, throughout the body with less effort. The lungs are able to pull in more oxygen, which is called maximum oxygen uptake, with less effort, which means more blood and oxygen to the working muscles makes up the endurance portion of being fit. Having enough oxygen going into the blood keeps the lactic acid out-thus you can sustain a prolonged aerobic workout.

A normal Resting HR can vary as low as 40 BPM to as high as 100 BPM. 70 BPM is usually the average for a man, and 75 BPM is average for a woman. The Resting HR should be used as an index to improve your cardiovascular fitness level, with a focus on decreasing it. The best time to measure your Resting HR is when you first arise from sleep in the morning. The palpation (beats) of the Radial Pulse is accurately measured in your wrist in line with the base of your thumb. Place the tips of your index and middle fingers over the Radial Artery and apply a light pressure to it. DO NOT USE YOUR THUMB. It has a pulse of it’s own. You may count the beats for one full minute to get the HR, or for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 for the number of BPM.

The Second is the Exercise HR. This is the rate at which your body is in motion from a sustained exercise, and the rate increases. Of course you measure it during exercise. The goal here is to stay within your Target HR Range or Zone, which is normally between 75% to 85% of your Maximum HR which is the third. Maximum HR is the rate at which your heart beats at 100% Max. during a sustained aerobic activity. You never want to work at 100% of your Max. HR unless a professional has you on a specific program designed for that, and your fitness level can sustain it. 100% of Max. will cause you to cross over into an Anaerobic Threshold. These numbers can vary depending on your age and fitness level.

The Exercise Pulse is most accurately palpated at the larger Carotid Artery on the side of the neck. It is usually located beside the larynx. Place your index and middle fingers alongside the base of your ear lobe and slide it down to the side of your throat and apply a light pressure. DO NOT apply a heavy pressure to the Carotid Artery when measuring your Exercise HR. These arteries contain Baroreceptors that sense increases in pressure and will respond by slowing down your HR. You will feel this pulse easily during a workout, so heavy pressure is not needed to locate it. The Exercise HR should be taken for 10 seconds, always counting the first beat as “0,” then multiply by 6. This number is your Exercise HR. Which brings me to the point of all of this information.


For Determining Your Max Heart Rate 

To determine your Maximum HR, use the calculators below. The simple formula: Take 220 and minus your age which is accurate to approximately +15 BPM. You then take that number and multiply it by .75 – .85, which will give you your percentages of 75% — 85% of your Max. HR. This is the Target Range or Zone that you want to stay in when doing any type of cardiovascular (aerobic) activity. When in this range your body is getting an optimum workout with maximum benefit, and it stays in a Fat Burning mode.
There are two different ways to calculate your maximum heart rate and your target heart rates. The method I just explained is the simple method.
Simple Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the 220 – Age formula.

HEART RATE CALCULATOR
Enter Your Age
Results
Max Heart Rate
75-85% Max Heart Rate
THR 15 sec count

 

The Karvonnen formula is more advanced since it also takes into account your resting heart rate. This is your heart rate at complete rest. To determine this, take your pulse for 60 seconds just before you get out of bed… or take it for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.
Advanced Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the Karvonen Formula.

  • For your age, use a whole year. (Between 0 and 100)
  • Put your Resting Heart Rate in the next box. (Between 30 and 100)
  • In the % box, use a number between 50 and 85. Do not include the %.
  • Click on the Calculate button, and it will calculate your target heart rate or that percentage.
Your Age in Years
Resting Heart Rate
% of Maximum Effort
Your Target Heart Rate
%

When you start to work over these percentages, not unless you are in great shape and can push yourself into a higher range, then you have gone into an Anaerobic Threshold. Which means that you are pushing yourself way too hard, and no healthy benefits are being obtained. You are defeating your purpose. If you push yourself into an Anaerobic Threshold your body can no longer meet its demand for oxygen. You will start to feel exhausted, your HR increases above the Max. (which is 100%), you will stop the fat burning process, and you will start to hyperventilate due to the excessive amounts of lactic acid in your body. In other words, you are not pulling in enough clean oxygen through the lungs to clean it out of the blood. Your heart can no longer pump enough blood to your working muscles to sustain your activity, and you are overloading yourself. You prevent this from happening by staying in your Target HR Range. As you become more fit, you can push yourself into a higher range without going over into the Anaerobic Threshold. The purpose of this article is to give you insight to perceive that, and always know where you are in your range or zone when working out.

AN FYI Remember that Aerobic means “with oxygen,” and Anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Aerobic exercise is training at a certain level of intensity for a sustained period of time, usually 20 minutes to 1 hour as on a stair-climber, treadmill, or in an aerobics class. You need oxygen rich blood to maintain this.

Anaerobic exercise is training at a level of intensity that does not require a sustained period of time, usually 30 seconds to 1 minute. Such as weight training, strength circuit, circuit and interval training sessions when sets/reps are involved. Because the time period is shorter and faster in cases of intervals and circuits, you use all of the oxygen rich blood more quickly to complete your sets/reps before lactic acid causes you to stop the exercise. That’s what “The Burn” means. Then you take a break so the blood can be cleaned of lactic acid and you catch your breath before your next set.

One more element to consider is the Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale. This scale provides a standard means for evaluating your perception of your exercise intensity. You can use this scale on a 1 – 10 basis with 1 being “very very easy,” and 10 being “very very hard.” If you’re like me, I don’t like to stop during my aerobic exercise sessions to measure my HR, so I use this scale to measure where I am in my Target Range. I know how I feel at 75% — 95% of my Maximum HR, so I can either increase or decrease my intensity before I cross over into an Anaerobic Threshold, and maintain my work out and Fat Burning process. If you are going to use this scale, make sure that you too know how you feel at 75% — 85% of your Max. HR so that your perception is accurate on this scale.

Working out in the Target Zone helps me get lean!
(Editor’s Note: This pic gets MY heart going.)

Knowing this simple information will help you greatly in evaluating your progress when training to get fit, or when training to compete. You can develop your training sessions and know what you need to change or add in your program by being in tune to your Heart Rate. Always be aware that you are in THE ZONE!

Train for Success!!!

Source

 

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Rightways for Heart Health

Rightways for Heart Health


Work to stretch and strengthen your body for 30 minutes, and you will pump up your heart

Heart_running_healthy_man_woman
Run For Heart Health!
Heart_health_Women

Unless you live on another planet or under a rock, you probably know by now how important exercise is to overall fitness and heart health.

It is a message that is hard to escape these days. There is plenty of research to suggest that exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

It can also help lower high blood pressure and lift your mood. And it has been shown to improve self-esteem and help with weight loss.

Yet despite the many studies backing the role exercise plays in heart health, a lot of adults aren’t listening. Two-thirds of them are considered overweight and one-third fall into the obese category with a body mass index over 30.

For many, getting fit and healthy might seem like an unachievable goal, but experts say you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to see the benefits of exercise.

A minimum of 30 minutes of cardio exercise can do the trick.

“It doesn’t matter what type, as long as you do it,” said Dr. Daniel Clearfield, Cowtown Medical director and a sports medicine and primary-care physician.

“Ideally, you should do it five days a week but even two is beneficial.”

Casual exercising is not going to do the trick, said Dr. Benjamin Levine, director of the Institute of Exercise and Environmental Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources.

It has to be something that you are committed to doing on a regular basis.

“Exercise should be part of hygiene, just like brushing your teeth,” said Levine, who is also a professor of medicine and cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Running and swimming are excellent. But cycling, walking on a treadmill or working out on an elliptical can also be beneficial.

Even yoga or tai chi can make a difference if the workout is strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate.

Any combination of endurance exercises that get the large muscle groups moving is going to get results.

Whatever exercise you chose, you should be moving enough to produce a sweat. Runners should be moving at a clip that is fast enough to make talking possible but not easy. A Zumba class can get you the same results, if you are moving fast enough.

“Anything that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat a little and makes you short of breath,” Levine said.

To improve your overall health and keep your ticker pumping effectively, add strength and stretching exercises to a cardio routine one or two days a week. Yoga is great for stretching, and you can build strength with or without the use of weights.

Commit to exercising regularly and your body will respond.

The heart is a muscle, so you want to strengthen it, but you also want to tone the arteries around the heart, just like you would tone your arms, Clearfield said.

“When you work your biceps, you’ll find it easier to lift things,” he said. “It’s the same thing with your heart.”
With regular exercise, the heart starts pumping more efficiently and your stamina improves. That can pay off in big ways.

If someone is sedentary and one day has to run hard to catch a bus, he may end up having a heart attack, Levine says, as an example. “But for someone who is fit, that’s barely a blip,” he said.

Although the younger you start exercising, the better, you are never too old to get into shape. Someone who is really committed to fitness when they are young could have a heart that is as youthful as a 30-year-old later in life.

If you start at 70, you won’t be able to protect against arteriosclerosis but you can protect your heart against sudden death and see the health benefits of regular exercise, such as lower blood pressure, Levine said.

It takes about six weeks to start seeing an improvement in physical fitness, but the payoff continues over a lifetime, Clearfield said.

“Exercise is great at combating obesity and keeping the heart healthy,” he said. “In the long run that can mean more years of life.”

Expert tips on starting a healthy, heart-wise excercise rountine

We asked three fitness pros from the Amon G. Carter Downtown YMCA to demonstrate three ways to kick off a healthy routine that includes cardio, strength and stretching.

Stretching

Yoga is one of the best ways to stretch the body, but a lot of people steer clear of this type of exercise because they are afraid it is just too hard to get into those pretzellike poses.

But you don’t have to be limber like a rubber band to benefit from yoga. Poses can be modified, and most teachers are more than willing to do what it takes to make yoga accessible.

Yoga is all about focusing on your mat and not worrying about how flexible your neighbor is. The best way to enjoy the many heart-healthy benefits of yoga, including stress reduction and lower blood pressure, is to just do it.

“Yoga is how you get flexible,” said Lisa Rodriguez, a trainer and instructor at the Downtown YMCA. “You don’t have to start off flexible to do it.”

Two to try at least twice a week:

1. Downward-facing dog – (Watch your dog stretch for hints on how to do this)

What it does: Strengthens shoulders and back. Stretches hamstrings and calves.

What to remember: Breathe through your nose. Keep your core muscles tight, your spine long and your shoulders down.

Kneel on all fours with your hands providing support and your fingers spread like starfish. Lift your hips so your tailbone is pointed toward the ceiling. Your body should be in an upside-down V shape. Shoulders should be down. Your hands and feet should be your foundation. If your hamstrings are less flexible, you can bend your knees to lift your hips up and back. Listen to your body and only stretch as far as you are comfortable.

2. Side gate

What it does: Increases strength, balance and flexibility. Opens hips.

What to remember: Maintain your alignment so you don’t injure your rotator cuff.

From all fours, turn toward one side, bend one leg and use it for support. Raise the other leg, pushing the heel forward and keeping it flexed. Raise your arm to the ceiling, keeping your hand and shoulder aligned, fingers spread. Hold the position for a few seconds.

Strength

3. Lunge

What it does: Strengthens glutes, thighs and calves

What to remember: Keep your knee behind your toes when bending.

Standing tall, step forward with one leg, bending at the knee. Drop the other leg toward the floor, then slowly return to starting position. Repeat on the other side, working up to 12 reps. If this too easy, try holding light weights in each hand.

4. Pushup

What it does: Strengthens chest, triceps and shoulders.

What to remember: Keep core muscles tight

Start on all fours with your spine in a neutral position and hands spread wide apart. Drop toward the floor, keeping your spine straight. Repeat.

Cardio

5. Running

What it does: Improves endurance, stamina and heart health

What to remember: Start off slowly and gradually build up. You need to walk fast or run about 30 minutes five times a week for heart health.

For fitness, you need to move fast enough to sweat for 30 minutes.

For interval training, alternate between 1 to 2 minutes of running at 85 percent of your maximum heart rate and 2 to 3 minutes at 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Repeat for up to 30 minutes.

By Jan Jarvis jjarvis@star-telegram.com
Related post:

Laws of attraction


Are men attracted to women who look like them?

THE Laws of attraction_men-womemnext time you happen to be with your spouse or your partner, take a good look at their features. Do they look a bit familiar?

And no, I don’t mean familiar just because you’ve been with that person for a while. I mean familiar in the sense that you’ve seen those same features, or at least some of them, somewhere else. Like, in the mirror every morning.

If the results of a French study are anything to go by, men are most attracted to women who look like them. That being the case, my partner must have left his glasses at home the day we met. I mean to say, his eyes are blue, while mine are brown, his eyebrows are thick, while mine are thin (too much plucking back in the 70s), his nose is slender, while mine is more rounded, and he has full lips, while mine are lacking plumpness.

I can only conclude that he is more attracted to my wit, charm and personality than some narcissistic ideal. Either that or the female versions of him were a bit thin on the ground when he was looking for a partner.

According to another study, physically attractive people generally date other physically attractive people. Leaving the not-so-attractive people to date other not-so-attractive people. It’s almost like a caste system that’s difficult to break out of.

Right about now you might be asking, “How do these researchers account for those not-so-attractive, rich men who opt for a “trophy wife”? Shouldn’t Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Woody Allen be seen around town with women who are more homely than the much younger, more attractive women who currently appear by their sides?”

It seems that attractive women who date someone below their level of attractiveness tend to justify their choices by saying something like, “He sure is ugly, and it’s kinda embarrassing to have to appear in public with gorilla man, but as long as I have access to his money, my life will be beautiful.”

However, such cases are the exceptions.
In a nutshell then, the so-called experts will have you believe that attractive people generally date other attractive people who look a bit like themselves; while ugly people generally date other ugly people who look a bit like themselves.

When the experts talk about people dating others who look like themselves, this concurs with yet another study that indicates that a woman often looks for a man who looks like her father, while a man often looks for a woman who looks like his mother.

Like, how creepy is all that? Fancy waking up in the morning to find someone resembling your mother or father snoring on the pillow next to you!

Researchers are quick to point out that there is nothing narcissistic about these attractions. We are attracted to people who look like ourselves (and possibly our parents as well) simply because of the comfort we get from familiarity.

I’m not disputing the results of the research, but they certainly don’t apply in my case. My father was an Irishman with light brown hair and green eyes, whereas my ex is a Chinese Malaysian. One of my sisters married a man of Italian origin, another married a Hispanic guy, and yet another married a blond-haired, blue-eyed Scottish man. None of our partners, past or present, look remotely like my father.

Of course, other researchers might tell me that my father was not a good role model and so we were all looking subconsciously for completely different men.

But who gives a toss, anyway?

All of this research into the laws of physical attraction really tells me just one thing: we are wasting a lot of money on studies that can’t be put to any practical use. Unless of course, you’re a fortune teller.

I can just imagine the scene in the fortune teller’s tent as she gazes into her crystal ball, with a young woman sitting opposite her: “Ah, I can see a man with blond hair and blue eyes in your life. He even looks a bit like you. Cross my palm with silver and I will reveal more.”

Most research costs money and is time consuming. As such, I think we ought to be more discerning about how we apply our research funds. Instead of focusing on who we might be attracted to and why, it might be better if the funding could be used to finance research on things like climate change, green energy, and how best to persuade newspaper editors that you really deserve a raise.

Perhaps I can get someone to fund a study on how much money has been wasted on useless studies.

But Then Again

By MARY SCHNEIDER

Check out Mary on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mary.schneider.writer.

Reader response can be directed to star2@thestar.com.my

Shy boys given rooms to grow as they are lagging girls


Shy Boys Schoolboys do relaxation exercises in an all boys class at the government-run Shanghai Number Eight High School. Shanghai, whose school system produces the world’s top test-scorers, has launched China’s first all-boys high school program with an eye on elite overseas institutions like Eton. Source: AFP

SHANGHAI: Teenage boys in a Shanghai school are on the front line of teaching reform after the world’s top-scoring education system introduced male-only classes over worries they are lagging girls.

Rows of white-shirted boys are put through their paces as they are called up individually to complete a chemical formula by teacher Shen Huimin, who hopes that a switch to male-only classes will help them overcome their reticence.

“We give boys a chance to change,” she said.

The Shanghai school system topped the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) worldwide assessment tests of 15-year-olds in 2009, the most recent available, ahead of Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

But even so officials are concerned that some male students may be slower than their female counterparts in development and certain academic areas, such as language, and the shift towards single sex classes aims to boost boys’ confidence.

Girls do better than boys in secondary school across the developed world, an OECD report found.

A prominent Chinese educator, Sun Yunxiao, found the proportion of boys classed among the top scholars in the country’s “gaokao” university entrance exams plunged from 66.2 percent to 39.7 percent between 1999 and 2008.

Across the developed world, girls do better than boys in secondary school, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found in a 2009 report on the educational performances of 15-year-olds.

“There are significant gender differences in educational outcomes,” it said, adding that high school graduation rates across the OECD were 87 percent for girls but only 79 percent for boys.

In response, Shanghai’s elite Number Eight High School is halfway through the initial year of an experiment, putting 60 boys into two classes of their own – a quarter of its first-year students – and teaching them with a special curriculum.

Schoolboys solve a math problem in an all boys class at the government-run Shanghai Number Eight High School in Shanghai.

 “This is a big breakthrough,” said principal Lu Qisheng. “There’s lots of hope – hope that boys will grow up better.

“Boys when they are young do not spend enough time studying,” he explained. “Boys’ maturity, especially for language and showing self-control, lags behind girls.”

— “We lack confidence” –

China shut most same-sex schools after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, and the only all-boys junior high schools in the country are privately run.

The number of male students scoring top marks in China’s university entrance exams has plunged from 66 per cent to 49 per cent

Shanghai does have an all-girls state-run high school, the former McTyeire School for Girls, which marked its 120th anniversary last year and counts the three Soong sisters – Qing-ling, Ai-ling and Mei-ling – among its former pupils.

Between them they married two leaders and an industrialist. Qing-ling married Sun Yat-sen, the first President of the Republic of China, while Mei-ling wed Chiang Kai-shek, who would also later become president.

Student Li Zhongyang, 15, said he felt less shy about answering questions in his all-boys class, but drew hoots of laughter from his fellows by suggesting an absence of girls let them concentrate more on study.

“We lack confidence,” he said. “The teachers like girls, who answer more questions in class. This programme lets us realise we are not worse than girls.”

It is something of a contrast to males’ traditionally dominant roles in Chinese culture, but principal Lu said the programme “doesn’t have much relationship to equality in society”.

The scheme was launched after China’s government called for more “diversification” in educational choices within the state system.

A Peking University professor has called for an even bolder reform, suggesting in September that boys should start school one or two years later than girls.

“The Chinese education system needs to improve and allow various education methods,” Wu Bihu said on his microblog. Now Lu hopes to create China’s first all-boys school one day.

“Ten or twenty years ago, there was no need for an all-boys class – just put everyone together,” he said.

In an increasingly aspirational society, he added, some families saw the new programme as having connotations of top overseas private schools, and so promising an advantage in the highly competitive gaokao.

“The parents know: England has Eton,” he said. – AFP

Women driving car market growth


Women seek foreign brand cars for style, performance and confidence boost.

SEOUL: After years of driving Korean cars, Chung Ji-eun, a 33-year-old businesswoman, recently purchased a Benz C-Class sedan for herself.

“I used to enjoy shopping for European designers’ bags or shoes. But the satisfaction level with the Benz was the highest,” she said.

“I like the luxury design and performance. But, above all, I feel more confident driving alongside the tough male drivers on the road.”

The number of female drivers has surged in Korea since 2000. By the end of 2011, female drivers made up 29.5% of the nation’s drivers, up from 19% 10 years ago.

With their number growing recently, female drivers are expanding their presence in the local car market, especially the market for import car brands that are seeing soaring popularity.
For Korea’s largest car maker Hyundai Motor, 25% of customers are women. At the same time, the figure for import cars is 40% on average.

Hyundai, which claims about 40% of the domestic car market, said it is very difficult to figure out the exact number of female customers in Korea since many of them buy cars in the name of their husband or father.

Thus far, compact cars with cute styles such as Nissan’s Cube and BMW’s Mini have been favoured by female drivers here.

“For all Nissan cars, the male-female ratio is about 6:4. But for the pastel-coloured Cube, the figure is nearly 5:5,” said a Nissan Korea spokesperson.

“I feel the preference of females has become a more important factor in choosing cars (to sell) here.”

According to BMW Korea, the biggest selling foreign brand in Korea, 40% of their customers are also female.

A rising trend is the moderate growth in the number of women choosing sport utility vehicles in recent years, a BMW Korea PR official said.

“The age of our drivers is getting younger and the rate is more aggressive.

“And the number of female SUV drivers is increasing 2% to 3% every year nowadays,” he said.

Of the total BMW SUV drivers, female drivers accounted for 26% in 2011, up from 21% in 2009 and 24% in 2010.

Drivers say import cars are easier for women to drive as most of them are high-performance, luxury vehicles. Of course, the nation’s never-abating appetite for luxury goods may have also affected the growing trend.

Roh Hyun-jung, 50, drives the BMW 5-Series sedan that she bought two years ago on the recommendation of her husband, who still drives a Korean car.

Driving a BMW requires a middle-aged woman like me to spend less energy. The luxurious interior design was also another reason for choosing the car,” she said.

Kim Jeon-kyu, who teaches at a local driver’s training institute, gave an interesting perspective based on a driving culture unique to Korea.

“I sometimes recommend my female students to buy an import car,” he said.

“Female drivers, especially those who have just started driving, are highly likely to be bullied by tough male drivers here. But if you drive a luxury car, they would just avoid you because they are well aware of the high maintenance costs.”

Korea Herald By Lee Ji-Yoon, AsianNewsNetwork

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