<![CDATA[I always thought that, because of Mao’s Communist Revolution in 1949, women in China did not face the same challenges as women in the United States and elsewhere. After all, Mao made a big deal out of elevating and equalizing the role of women in Chinese society and used the slogan “women hold up half the sky” to describe the equal place of women. Imagine my surprise when I interviewed a group of Chinese businesswomen for the research published in my new book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, and found they faced some very familiar challenges, as well as some unique ones created by their cultural context. They face similar challenges both in their relationships with one another in the workplace and in systemic problems, such as a very wide gender pay gap and very low representation in both middle and senior leadership roles. The Chinese women in my research reported negative dynamics in their relationships with other women in the workplace that were similar to those described by the rest of my research participants. For example, they reported feeling unsupported by senior women, who were often harder on junior women than on men and did not try to mentor or help younger women advance. As I explain in my book, these dynamics reflect internalized negative stereotypes about women and demonstrate the structural impact of women being less valued than men in societal and organizational cultures. Evidence that Chinese culture still places higher value on men can be found in a recent New York Times article in which the authors, Didi Kirsten Tatlow and Michael Forsythe, described the resurgence of long-repressed traditional values in China. The authors noted, “More and more men and women say a woman’s place is in the home, wealthy men take mistresses in a contemporary reprise of the concubine system, and pressure for women to marry young is intense.” And we’ve all read about the preference for male children that, in the context of the one-child policy, has resulted in female babies being killed or abandoned. These are the signs of a patriarchal society. Tatlow and Forsythe, along with Yang Yao of China Daily, offer these statistics showing the impact of this resurgence of traditional values on women in the Chinese work force:
- Chinese women are losing ground in the work force compared with men and make up just 25.1 percent of people with positions of “responsibility.” This describes senior management roles, as well as supervisory and middle management positions. Women in China refer to this lack of opportunity at lower levels as the “sticky floor.”
- Fewer than one in ten board members of China’s top three hundred publicly traded (CSI 300) companies are women.
- Thirty of the thirty-one state-owned companies listed on the CSI 300 have no women in senior leadership. The Chinese government could mandate that women be represented in senior management in these state-owned companies, but they do not.
- No woman has ever served in the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest level of Chinese government.
- The gender pay gap has grown significantly in the last two decades: in 1990 it was 77.5 percent, and in 2010 it was 67.3 percent for working women in urban areas. It was 56 percent for rural women in 2010.