By Yining Su
A new study released shows that China ranks at the top globally for proportion of women in senior management, with 51% of senior management positions in mainland Chinese companies now held by women. Yet the release of this study has set off a discussion about what the state of gender equality in China really is.
The new study (PDF) released the day before International Women’s Day and conducted by Grant Thornton, and picked up by Xinhua shows that the percentage of women who hold senior management positions in Chinese companies increased from 25% to 51% in the past year. This is an impressive figure, considering the fact that the global average is 21%, the figure for the United States is 20% and for the United Kingdom, it is 20%. Even Sweden is only at 27%.
Sounds great. And it probably is, for women who are in senior management or looking to get into senior management. But this one statistic does not show the whole picture of women’s position in China. A few news organizations have been quick to point this out.
As the Wall Street Journal China Real Time blog points out, in 2012 China ranked 69th globally on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (PDF), which is based on economic, political, education- and health-based criteria.
Also according to the China Real Time piece, surveys show that the number of people in China, both men and women, who think that a woman’s place is in the house is actually increasing.
A piece on Radio Free Asia reminds us of the many overt and covert women are discriminated against in the workplace. There’s the usual discrimination based on appearance. Then there’s this: a lawyer quoted in the story says that many job adverts specify that women who are married and have children would be given priority, because companies want to avoid the costs of maternity leave.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out again that in politics, women are doing not too well either. Of the 2,387 delegates to the National People’s Congress, 23% were women. Only 10 out of 205 members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party are women. No women has ever been a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.
This is not even to mention other problems women in China face, such as the lack of adequate protection against domestic violence, and the general preference among parents for boys.