How Does the Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA Empower Women Entrepreneurs?

After working at one of the top international law firms and a multinational company for many years, Xinru Zhou decided to follow her own path and start LAW+. The skills she cultivated and the multidisciplinary industry insights she gained during her time at the Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA Programme (hereafter referred to as TIEMBA) set her up for success amid a time of crisis.

Overcoming Entrepreneurial Challenges During the Pandemic

Like many other businesses, Zhou’s company was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It (COVID-19) was a test for me as a startup owner,” said Zhou, a 39-year-old from Shanghai, “and I passed it.”Despite the company’s smooth start at the end of 2019, things soon became very difficult for her.  “It basically destroyed everything we built,” she said. After many sleepless nights thinking of ways to feed her team and keep the cash flow into the company, determination, and leveraging all the resources she had, her company not only survived but thrived. They developed three additional product lines.”Change is the natural cause,” Zhou said. “You cannot control the change, but what you can do is to control your reaction to the change.”

Zhou was inspired to start her own company after joining the TIEMBA programme. It also gave her the leadership skills necessary to overcome the challenges she has faced.  She became a firm leader after enrolling in TIEMBA. TIEMBA’s Leadership Development Programme taught her decisiveness, a key leadership quality. The programme allowed her to participate in peer-coaching sessions along with a diverse group of individuals from all over the world representing both the East and the West.

Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA TIEMA female entrepreneurs

Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA as a Motivational and Inspirational Force

Zhou was attracted to the programme because of its unique nature of being a dual-degree programme between two prestigious schools. It is a cooperation between one of the top-ranked business schools globally, INSEAD, and one of China’s top universities renowned for its groundbreaking research, Tsinghua University.

Tsinghua University encompasses departments that extend beyond the realm of business. Therefore, it offers students the opportunity to interact with experts from other disciplines, such as modern technology and innovation. Students are able to get first-hand knowledge from some of the world’s top faculty members.

The TIEMBA programme is a reflection of Tsinghua’s values that emphasize social commitment and contribution. Students are taught to not only gain, but also give back to their society. This is something that Zhou has manifested throughout her career.

Another reason Zhou chose to join the TIEMBA programme was that she wanted to meet new people and make lifetime connections. TIEMBA’s unique nature enables students to build two powerful networks.

“I joined TIEMBA and realized the world is much bigger and far more complex,” Zhou said.

Zhou’s favorite part of the Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA was the after-class sessions with her peers, who she described as supportive family members. Some of her friends have even served as mentors for her company.

“It’s like the seed planted during the class,” Zhou said. “However, the flower is blooming after class.”

Being the only fellow with a legal background among her classmates and after hearing their different perspectives, she quickly realized there is a “gap” between the legal and business worlds. Soon after, she was inspired to start her own business. She used her legal expertise with the in-depth business knowledge she acquired from TIEMBA to start LAW+.

Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA TIEMA female entrepreneurs

Industry Insights and Management Advice From a Female Perspective

“LAW+ is sort of like a community,” Zhou said, “to bring the legal, business, and even technology people together to try to brainstorm more creative ways to solve the problems we are facing.”

Zhou learned that having a multidisciplinary perspective is crucial to solving problems in today’s complex world. As a result, she came up with LAW+. It combines between law and other fields, such as business, technology, and management.

“The goal of the company is to narrow down the gap between law and the rest of the world,” she said. Zhou believes business executives should emphasize the humanitarian aspect when doing business. This includes the different values and cultural backgrounds of other people. LAW+ makes sure to incorporate social values within its programs.

She sees team work and authentic communication as keys to a successful business. As an experienced legal counsel, Zhou is aware that being an in-house legal counsel at a multinational company is not an easy job due to cultural differences.

“The difference is deeply rooted in the different cultures of the East and the West,” Zhou said. “People view things differently. Maybe both have wisdom. We shouldn’t stop talking to each other.”

But this problem was exacerbated by the pandemic. Many multinational companies have changed or are considering changing their business strategy. Zhou is certain that communication is the key to overcoming this challenge.

“We are also putting government resources to these in-house counsels because they need to bring the real story, the right message back to the headquarters,” Zhou said.

Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA TIEMA female entrepreneurs

Zhou may be a busy startup owner, but she does not neglect her social commitment. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhou launched various online courses to help raise donations for Wuhan. In addition, her company has provided “LAW+” scholarships for students facing financial difficulties at Fudan University’s Law School.

She manages to balance between her career and life by inviting her family into her career. By doing so, they understand what she is undertaking and feel involved. She believes picking the right lifetime partner, who would be supportive, is essential, along with discussing each other’s priorities.

“Fundamentally,” she said, “you have to understand what is truly important to you.”

Zhou believes having support during the entrepreneurial journey is helpful, but ultimately you will be the leader making the decisions.

“It (entrepreneurship) is not an easy journey,” she said. “But it is an extremely rewarding journey.”

Zhou embodies the values of Tsinghua University. She is a successful leader, who is contributing to society, while still maintaining her commitment to those around her. She invests in “giving” as opposed to “gaining”. She is just one of many ambitious women, who graduated from TIEMBA, and are leading their companies to success.


executive mbas in chinaRanked #3 by the Financial Times in 2018, the Tsinghua – INSEAD Executive MBA (TIEMBA) is a unique partnership between INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools, and Tsinghua, one of China’s most prestigious universities. The programme takes place across INSEAD’s three campuses in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and Fontainebleau (France), and Tsinghua’s campus in Beijing.

As a participant, you will exchange perspectives within an elite, dynamic, culturally diverse class of experienced managers and be part of two powerful alumni networks. TIEMBA is where life-changing leadership development meets the technical mastery of key business disciplines. And both make an immediate impact on your organization. It is the best of East and West, learning and working, technical knowledge and soft skills — in a single programme.

Savannah Billman has a master's degree in Chinese Law and Society at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. She holds a B.A. from NYU Shanghai and has also written for The World of Chinese, TechNode, SupChina, and Sixth Tone.
Savannah Billman

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