Women Battle Discrimination In Emerging Markets
While businesswomen such as Dong Mingzhu, Cheung Yan and Yang Lan are celebrated leaders in China, they’re still the exception in a country where the Confucian attitude towards women still pervades society.
Dong is president of air-conditioner manufacturer Gree Electrical Appliances; Cheung is co-founder of Nine Dragons Paper and is one of China’s richest women, and TV presenter-turned-businesswoman Lan has been nicknamed “China’s Oprah Winfrey”.
Yang Lan was an Olympic ambassador during the Beijing 2008 Games
However, according to Qianqian Du, assistant professor of finance at Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF), Many Chinese women still believe that men should take a dominant role in economic and social life. “This is not to say that Chinese women are not capable but their traditional views will limit themselves from doing too many things,” she says.
According to Chinese government data, 45 per cent of women made up the national workforce in 2007 and in the service sector there is a “higher number” of women workers and executives, adds Du.
However the professor cautions against excessive optimism. Chinese women in business still face as much of a struggle as their Western sisters. Like their Western counterparts, women are under-represented at board level, still have to find the solution to the work-life balance, and still have to overcome institutional discrimination and a glass ceiling in many organizations.
To drive female participation at executive level Ms Du would favor the implementation of quotas, criticized by some as they place the focus on a woman’s gender rather than her capabilities. However, Ms Du counters that “it can help restore women’s confidence to succeed at work.”
In a country infamous for favoring baby boys, the BRIC nation has made some progress.
“Nowadays, many women have very good education and well-paid jobs…These are definitely positive changes, and quite often seen in the new generations (born in 1970s and 1980s),” says the professor.
According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which runs the GMAT test worldwide, a majority of Chinese examinees – 62 per cent - were women in 2009.
Meanwhile in Turkey, a country more famed for oil wrestling than producing female CEOs, only 28 per cent of the workforce is female.
“The reason for the low percentage lies in the low involvement of women with lower education levels (such as high school graduates) in business,” says Seda Saraçer, an MBA at SDA Bocconi and member of Bocconi’s Women in Business Club.
Turkey's Guler Sabanci is head of Sabanci Holdings, a conglomerate with diverse interests ranging from tire production to finance.
“When given the chance of an education... women are more likely to [finish] university compared to men. [The] percentage of... graduates who complete university education is 25% in men while it is 40% in women,” says Saraçer.
Annual rankings focussing on women’s achievements at executive level offer a one-sided picture of women’s progress.
“Progress depends not only on titles and positions but on having equal benefits packages to men, the same salary level, the same authority level compared to similar positions occupied by men,” says Saraçer.
“Turkey doesn’t really have structured diversity management in HR management. In order to speed up progress diversity management programs [should] be launched.”
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