China is emerging as the leader for women in business – my piece in the Guardian

This year let’s celebrate … China leading the world in wealthy self-made womenInternational Women’s Day: But Chinese women’s participation in politics is seriously lagging behind other countries

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Lijia Zhang, Thursday 8 March 2012 08.00 GMT Article history About this articleClose This year let’s celebrate … China leading the world in wealthy self-made women | Lijia Zhang
This article was published on at 08.00 GMT on Thursday 8 March 2012. It was last modified at 11.05 GMT on Thursday 8 March 2012. Chairman Mao’s famous statement that “Women can hold up half of the sky” remains as illusive as the sky itself. Yet one thing to celebrate is that China is emerging as the leader for women in business.

According to September’s issue of the monthly magazine, the Hurun Report – which is best known for its rich list – seven out of the world’s top 10 wealthiest self-made female billionaires are Chinese. The richest is Wu Yajun, executive director of Longfor Properties Co, south-west China, who has a net worth of 42 billion yuan (£4.2bn), and had overtaken talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey (the eighth richest). Of the five wealthiest women, four, Wu included, have made their fortune through China’s booming real estate market.

In fact the country now boasts the most self-made female entrepreneurs in the world. I’d attribute this to Chinese women’s strong work ethic, determination and aspirations to such success. In China, 70% of women work – which is among the highest female employment in the world. Moreover, working mothers have the support of grandparents or cheap childcare.

Yet despite the impressive achievements, Chinese female entrepreneurs lag behind their male counterparts. Only 11% of the richest people in China are women; with women representing only about 20% of all entrepreneurs.

It’s true that in 1949, when Mao’s Chinese Communists, took power, women were granted equal rights and opportunities. Yet some old habits die hard and the business world remains male-centred.

Yet for women, the most pressing problems include participation in politics, which seriously lags behind other countries. Only 21.4% of the representatives in our parliament, the National People’s Congress, are women, which is short of the 30% of female political participation set in 1995 by the UN, and a woman’s promotion in the government too often still depends on her male bosses – who tend to give women subservient roles.

So sadly, there’s still a long march before women can truly hold up half of the sky.

• To comment on this article please visit our interactive map of what can be celebrated around the world this International Women’s Day


One thought on “China is emerging as the leader for women in business – my piece in the Guardian

  1. Thanks for bringing the status of women in China to our attention Lijia.
    Yesterday’s NY TImes (excerpt below) also provides an up to the moment view of just how dire things are for women and freedom In China. Men are not about to give up much to women in the West either.
    “America”s Merchant of Hate”, radio ‘entertainer’ Rush Limbuagh is now feeing the effects of a national boycott for 56 or so vile comments about a 30 year old law student who offered testimony before US Congress regarding women’s heathcare. “Over the years, Limbaugh has directed some of his ugliest attack against women: branding all feminists as “feminazis,” comparing Nancy Pelosi to a “suicide bomber” and calling the National Organization for Women a “terrorist organization.”

    For twenty odd years Limbaugh, the most listened to radio host has been given free reign to assault women by the Republican Party. Opression starts at the top and filters down into society and bums like Rush reinforce all the negatives without offering any real solutions.

    So ladies, don’t give up the’ve only just begun.
    Letter from China
    In Art, a Strong Voice for Chinese Women
    By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW Published: March 7, 2012
    BEIJING — It almost wouldn’t be a real Chinese art opening without security officials barging in and ordering paintings off the wall.

    By that yardstick alone, the Saturday opening of Bald Girls, a feminist art show in the 798 arts district of Beijing, was a tremendous success. Plainclothes officers rushed into the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art shortly before the afternoon opening and demanded the removal of two paintings by Lan Jiny, an artist based in Germany, according to the show’s organizer, Xu Juan.

    Feminist art in China, a country where very few women dare say they are feminists for fear of social ostracism, is still a tiny phenomenon. But, in fact, the show on Saturday didn’t need the censorship to have an impact. The artist’s actions were dramatic enough. And what they said was: The world’s attention may be transfixed by a handful of female Chinese billionaires, but the true situation of the country’s 653 million women is parlous. Bald Girls exhibit and lots of art from China

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