Interview: Zing Tsjeng

This month we got in touch with another inspiring woman, Zing Tsjeng, who has written two very important books, Forgotten Women: The Scientists and Forgotten Women: The Leaders, part of an ongoing series.

Hello Zing!
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?

I'm a journalist, documentary host, podcaster and now a published author! My full-time gig is UK editor at Broadly, where I also host the My First Time podcast. I also host videos for Broadly and VICE.  

What inspired you to write your books?

It just felt like the right time to come out with a book series like this. You only really need to look at the internet's reaction to that viral tweet "name a bitch badder than Taylor Swift" to see how people are embracing and celebrating lesser-known feminist heroes.

Out of all the women that you have researched, was there one in particular that especially shocked you that she was forgotten?

To be honest, I'm pretty shocked that any of them were ever forgotten or marginalised from history in the first place! When you look at incredible scientists like Emmy Noether or Ynés Mexía and daring pirate queens like Grace O'Malley and Ching Shih, it literally boggles the mind as to why they aren't being shouted about more.

Ynés Mexia via Rafael Lopez

What can we do to make sure we don't continue to forget about women and their achievements in the future?

I think we have to attack the problem on several different fronts. First off, children should absolutely be educated more about outstanding women in the subjects they study – and it should happen from an early age, not just in secondary school or college. Second, we should be looking to commemorate these women in public forums: think banknotes, statues, etc. And then we should hammer home their legacy in culture – movies, TV, the whole lot. I say this a lot, but I honestly feel like everyone in Forgotten Women deserves their own Netflix show!  

Has it been important for you to have other women to look up to?

Oh, massively. I think it's hugely important to feel like you're not alone in pursuing your dreams or aspirations, whatever those might be. Writing the books has been great because I just sat with these women's stories for months on end. I might not be an inventor like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner or a civil rights pioneer like Sylvia Rivera, but I take a huge amount of comfort from their integrity and their determination, and I hope that others do too.

What's the best advice you've been given?

Don't be afraid to ask for help. I'm still struggling with that one, though!

Do you have any advice to give to other women?

I mention this in Otegha Uwagba's Little Black Book, but I always tell women to ask for 20% more than they think they deserve. The reason being that you're probably undervaluing yourself and the little bump is just to bring you back in line with what your (mostly) male colleagues naturally assume they're worth. And even if you don't get it, it's always good practice for next time.

We sometimes feel that women are exposed to unnecessary competition against each other. What do you think we can do to instead support other women around us?

Just be kind! Just treat each other with kindness, respect and professionalism – the same way you'd like to be treated. Try to leave your ego out of it.

What's your biggest hope for the future?

This sounds counterintuitive, but I hope that there won't be a need for Forgotten Women to exist in the future – mainly because society will have realised that all women's stories are worth valuing and remembering.