Women in China are changing the corporate culture — you are more likely to find women in senior management positions in China compared to most developed and developing nations. The ratio of women to men in China on a company’s board is also increasing, and women hold about 35 percent of the top management positions compared to only 20 percent in the U.S. and Europe. Another report stated that about 4.5 percent of CEOs in listed Chinese firms are women.
The new trend
Chinese culture’s thrust toward the importance of education has compelled both men and women in China to pursue higher education. As a result, women too are placing more importance on having a career post-university. It’s not a blanket success story, as you still see the Chinese political sphere dominated by men. However, women have been able to establish their niche in business and, specifically, in the technology sector.
It wasn’t too long ago that Chinese female business leaders were unheard of. The arguments against Chinese businesswomen were typical — family pressure, balancing family and work, and other patriarchal perspectives. On the other hand, as more and more women have pursued a career and actually excelled at it, China and Chinese men have become rather accustomed to this new culture.
The rise in private firms, as well as China’s technology boom, have helped women penetrate the business world. The new private firms and startup ventures do not discriminate on the basis of gender, allowing quality and credentials to do the talking. Private firms do not necessarily acquire talent through traditional connections, and the tough competition urges them to be more flexible and gender-neutral. In 2016, the world witnessed Uber’s defeat in China. However, it was a revelation because Uber was defeated by a local ride-sharing company, Didi Chuxing. The narrative is important in this context because Didi Chuxing’s president, Jean Liu, is a woman and a mother too!
Skilled and deserving
Chinese businesswomen are not simply on the panel to appease any gender quotas, and they are certainly not confined to HR. Women in China hold high positions, such as CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and CTOs. According to a survey, about 80 percent of the participants in China answered that they have one or more women with such high-level positions compared to 53 percent in the UK. Additionally, about 61 percent of Chinese companies have more than one female director, compared to 34 percent in the U.S. and 39 percent in the UK.
Chinese women are driven and the financial success of their companies is just as important to them as their own. In fact, China also has companies with all women board members. At the same time, Chinese firms have several programs to increase the percentage of women in leadership roles. According to a report, 63 percent of Chinese companies have established equality programs as opposed to 80 percent of UK firms that stated that they didn’t have any on board.
It is also heartening to see that empowered Chinese women support other ambitious women, and the number of women investors and firm partners is steadily on the rise. Additionally, career women in China don’t necessarily feel the need to sacrifice having a family. Chen Xiaohong, who controlled one of the largest woman-run funds in the world, raised three children while at it. She even brought her baby to the office and for most board meetings.
However, it is important to note that there is still a gender-based pay gap. Chinese businesswomen and even women CEOs earn significantly less compared to Chinese businessmen, an issue that is persistent across borders, unfortunately. While the numbers are good, China has a long way to go for women to be entirely represented. The Chinese economy needs reforms for state-owned firms and state agencies to empower more women. China’s political parties also need a heavy dose of female leadership.