China leads the world in female billionaires, but obstacles remain for gender equality

China 24

China leads the world in female billionaires, but obstacles remain for gender equality

Among the themes at this year’s UN General Assembly is female empowerment and gender equality. Women have made great strides in the world but challenges remain.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo has more on women in China – how far they’ve come  and how much they still have to go.

Zhou Qunfei is on top of the world. Last year, Forbes Magazine named her the world’s top self-made female billionaire. She’s the founder of Lens Technology, which makes glass covers for phones and tables.

China, as a whole, also ranked high, representing half of the lists’ top 50. Making it in the top 100 was Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman of Gree Electric Appliances, a top air-conditioning manufacturer. She says the rise of women in the country is partly due to opportunity.

“Our country attaches great importance to entrepreneurs. Our government has created a better environment for entrepreneurs to do business,” said Dong.

That’s especially true in China’s technology sector where close to 80 percent hold top positions.

“I’m definitely seeing more women entrepreneurs these days,” said Nie Weiwei, Founder of Nainiumama, a post-natal care online service company.  “We have many groups that bond us together and help us through the process. There’re venture capitalists that now pay special attention to start-ups by women.”

According to the Hurun Research Institute, 68 percent of the richest women in China started their business from scratch. The same report said the average year-to-year wealth of China’s richest women climbed by nearly 50 percent.

But with successes come challenges.

In the age of the “Me Too” movement, more women are feeling more courageous to speak out about sexual harassment. But one survey from the Guangzhou Gender and Sexuality Education Center says only four percent of women in China report incidents.

“Women do not get enough empowerment to help them to speak out about their story,” said Wei Tingting, Founder of the Guangzhou Gender & Sexuality Education Center.  “But because of our traditional values and morals, it’s really a shame for women to speak out.”

Another difficulty is balancing career and family. Though China ended its one-child policy, some mothers are opting not to have a second child.

Chang Na is raising two young sons. She says her employer was less than accommodating.

“I only breastfed my first baby for about three months,” she said.  “The company was pushing me to make a choice between the job and my baby.”

Chang Na is not alone. Mothers have reported employers worry that women who have a second child will not be able to devote themselves entirely to their work.

“We just lack a balanced mechanism,” said Professor Feng Aihong, Taiyuan University of Technology.  “More effective measures and regulations should be made to ensure women’s employment, like using national finances to increase maternity subsidies and more favorable policies for the companies.”

Just one of the measures women in China say is needed to put them on equal footing. Another is not only speaking out, but making sure a system is in place for someone to listen.

Rachel Zheng discusses gender equality in China

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Rachel Zheng about the role of women in China. Zeng is a journalist who focuses on culture and society in China.