Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012

  • Women as China's Way Forward

    By Geraldine Chin Moody

    Thursday 13th September 2012 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm

    Download PDF

    • The empowerment of women in China has come from the top down rather than from the bottom up, as has occurred in some Western countries.
    • Cultural expectations sometimes prevent women from progressing in the workplace.
    • Women need to use their own power and ambition to influence the business environment.
    • To improve the number of women in corporate leadership positions, companies need to provide opportunities for women as well as men to network with senior leaders and decision-makers.

    Yang Lan, chairperson, Sun Media Group, said that empowerment of women in China has come from the top down rather than from the bottom up, as has occurred in some Western countries. “If you look at China … for my mother’s generation, the policy was that women could hold up half the sky, but it was a top-down policy. It wasn’t fought for by women themselves. In the business world we’re now in, we can see that women are starting to reflect on their own choices.”

    In this session, we heard that this top-down policy has helped to transform China so that the gender gap in areas such as education and health has closed. It was observed that given the current market economy, there is a desire to see women fully contribute to economic production so that women are participating in the workforce more than in some other countries.

    However, while there are high-profile examples of educated and successful senior business women and entrepreneurs, China ranks 61 on the Global Gender Gap index, with particular gaps in the participation of women in senior positions in politics and business, and a pay gap.

    The panel observed that cultural differences in upbringing and expectations may explain this gap. Despite the equal access to education, there is not always an equal upbringing and as much focus on a woman’s development as she progresses through her career.

    Some panellists noted that this is against a background of the undervaluing of women, expressed in the birth rate and choices to give birth to boys rather than girls, and the effect that family planning policy can have on the culture, particularly in rural China. There were different views on whether there was a gap between urban and rural China – with one panellist noting that it was common for women returning home for the spring festival to be asked whether they had found a husband and for men to be asked about their careers.

    In terms of the business environment, social networking within companies can be very male-orientated and women may not get the opportunity to build relationships with decision-makers.

    Some panellists also noted that one challenge for women was to balance the expectations that they be more masculine in the workplace and more feminine as mothers, daughters and daughter-in-laws. This requires a difficult balancing act for women and creates different expectations within women themselves. For example, a dignified woman may think she can ask for a pay rise or pursue a promotion aggressively.

    There were a number of suggested solutions or ways to address the participation of women in more senior roles and gender equality in China:

    • Women entering business should make their own rules and choices and use their own power and ambition to influence the business environment to survive and thrive. Rather than try to follow the traditional masculine role models, they can combine masculine and feminine ways in a more harmonious way.
    • To improve the number of women in corporate leadership positions, companies need to provide opportunities for women as well as men to network with senior leaders and decision-makers.
    • Men need to be participating in discussions about gender equality.
    • Workplaces should allow for a greater balance between work and family.
    • Additional government support for maternity care, including breastfeeding facilities in the workplace to encourage women to breastfeed for the benefit of the child.

    It was also noted that many of the challenges discussed in the session were similar to the challenges and issues being discussed in developed countries and there is an opportunity to learn from each other and share experiences.

    Press Release

    China Seeks Culture Shift to Close Gender Gap in the Workplace

    Disclosure


    These insights were written by Geraldine Chin Moody. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.

    Watch below an introduction to the session

Session objectives

How are the roles of women in Chinese business and society shaping the future economy?

Changing female role models
Capitalizing on equality and diversity
Applying best practices for gender parity 

Related Issues

Global Gender Gap

Rapporteur

  • Geraldine Chin Moody Geraldine Chin Moody
    Group Executive, People, Culture and Sustainability, Virgin Australia, Australia

    Former: COO, Baker & McKenzie; GM People & Development, Australian Stock Exchange; President, Refuge...

Speakers

  • Deborah Dunsire Deborah Dunsire
    Chief Executive Officer and President, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, USA

    Doctor of Medicine, University of Witwatersrand. More than 20 years of experience in the scientific,...

  • He Zhenhong He Zhenhong
    President, China Entrepreneur Magazine, People's Republic of China

    MA, Journalism School, Wuhan Univ. Joined the Economic Daily Group, working as: Deputy Director, New...

  • Yang Lan Yang Lan
    Chairperson, Sun Media Group, People's Republic of China

    Bachelor's in English Language and Lit., Beijing Foreign Studies Univ.; Master's in Int'l Affairs, C...

  • Geraldine Chin Moody Geraldine Chin Moody
    Group Executive, People, Culture and Sustainability, Virgin Australia, Australia

    Former: COO, Baker & McKenzie; GM People & Development, Australian Stock Exchange; President, Refuge...

  • Wang Jingbo Wang Jingbo
    Chairman of the Board, Noah Holdings, People's Republic of China

    Over 15 years of experience in the asset and wealth management services industry. 2000-05, in severa...

  • Han Jian Han Jian
    Associate Professor of Management; Co-Director, Centre on China Innovation, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), People's Republic of China

    PhD in Human Resource Management, Cornell University. Associate Professor of Management; Co-Director...

Moderated by

  • Hu Shuli Hu Shuli
    Editor-in-Chief, Caixin Media, People's Republic of China

    1982, BA in Journalism, People's University of China; 1987, World Press Institute Fellowship, US; 19...

Gallery