The Female Advantage is a phenomenon that explains the relative success of women in China
“The status which women reached during the present era was not achieved due to the kindness of men or due to natural progress. It was rather achieved through a long struggle and sacrifice on woman’s part and only when society needed her contribution and work, more especially during the two world wars, and due to the escalation of technological change.” – Dr. Jamal A. Badawin.
This saying might be accurate regarding western cultures, but it might not be relevant to China. In China, history was shaped quite differently for the female gender, and it created a phenomenon I would like to call “The Female Advantage”.
Traditionally, women in China were meant to serve men. According to Confucian tradition, the male gender is superior to the female gender, and in the Confucian structure of society, women at every level were to occupy a position lower than men. This traditional approach had occupied China ever since Confucian ideas were legally accepted by the ruler (the first dynasty to adopt Confucian ideas was the Han dynasty – 206 B.C.E. – 220 C.E.). These ideas, however, were pushed aside in 1949 – when the People’s Republic of China was established.
The change in 1949 was drastic. A federation known as “All China Women’s Federation” was created “to represent and to protect rights and interests of women and to promote equality between men and women.” From only 7% of women being employed in 1949, 38% of women have been employed in 1992. As early as in 1982, Chinese working women made up 43% of the total working population, higher than the percentages enjoyed by American women (35.3%) or Japanese women (36%). That was the beginning of “The Female Advantage” phenomenon.
The Female Advantage
There is more than meets the eye as to why the Chinese woman might have it easier than her western counterpart, as far as career and gender equality are concerned. Last October, it was published that 11 of the 20 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese, with their average fortune surpassing US talk show host Oprah Winfrey and author JK Rowling at $US2.6 billion – compared with ninth-placed Winfrey’s $US2.3 billion. These data are a consequence of certain advantages that Chinese women posses over their western counterparts:
In an article published this week in Harvard Business Review titled: “Gender, Brain Science, and Wrong-Headed Notions”, the author, Rebecca Jordan-Young, interviewed a woman in top management at a Fortune 75 company. The woman was quoted as saying that :”men and women will still have different experiences outside the workplace, and that affects the skills and knowledge they bring to business.” Nevertheless, in China, because men and women are treated relatively equally outside the workplace, their contribution to the work place does not vary as much as it may in the west.
Another Female Advantage is the one child policy. The one child policy created a situation that allowed women to work. When women need not to care for many children, they have more free time to further develop their careers. Furthermore, it is Chinese tradition that allows women to develop their careers even as their children are still young. In China, it is acceptable for the parents of both the father and the mother of the new born to take care of the grandchild as they are going to work to support the new family. Later, children reciprocate and bare the costs of treating their elderly parents.
As the distance from traditional confucian values increases and as parents are free from taking care of new born children, women are more liberate to work and to advance their careers and are not constrained to social norms that might interfere with their way to success.