Businesswomen show mettle in man's world

08:19, May 24, 2010      

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The financial crisis has created more opportunities for Chinese female entrepreneurs in the traditionally male-dominated world of business.

Some financial commentators have described the credit crunch as a "man-made" disaster. Liu Donghua, director of China Entrepreneur magazine, put the blame on a lack of female bosses.

"Male entrepreneurs are always keen on risk-taking. They often break through the bottom line when they are doing business," he said in a recent speech. "Women seem to be more risk-averse. Besides, women entrepreneurs care more about nature and the value of life, rather than recklessly pursuing success."

Liu gave the speech at the 2010 Business Mulan Annual Conference held by China Entrepreneur magazine in late April. The event was designed to share management concepts and practical experiences of tens of outstanding Chinese female entrepreneurs.

Often-cited in China is one of Mao Zedong's famous proverbs: "Women hold up half the sky." Some say they did more than that during the global financial crisis.

A survey by the All-China Women's Federation showed that more than 70 percent of women entrepreneurs in China were satisfied or very satisfied with their business performance last year.

Zhen Yan, vice-president of the Federation, previously said that since the global financial crisis, many Chinese female entrepreneurs were responding very quickly in adjusting their business strategies.

"They turned to focus on the domestic market, making good use of the government's supportive policies and implementing flexible and diversified forms of operation," she said. "Most of their businesses have survived and remain robust."

Nadereh Chamlou, a senior adviser to the World Bank, told the UK-based Daily Mail newspaper that the current economic and financial crisis provides an opportunity to insert gender into the re-writing of the rules.

Dong Mingzhu, president of Gree Electric Appliances, China's top air conditioner maker, said: "Women are always looking at the positive aspects of issues, which makes them more stress-resistant than men. That's very crucial during periods of economic uncertainty."

Under her leadership, Gree has adopted flexible sales strategies while greatly investing in research and development. As a result, average annual growth has topped 30 percent since 2005.

What's more, Gree's active participation in the government's policy of boosting domestic consumption, known as the "home appliances going to the countryside" project, contributed enormously to its bright performance in 2009.

According to official statistics, Gree sold about 1.3 million air conditioning units under the government's policy in 2009, generating 3.6 billion yuan in sales.

Despite the economic turndown, Li Guilian, chairwoman of Dayang Trands, the Dalian-based menswear manufacturer, will open outlets in New York this year. The move came after US billionaire Warren Buffett announced at his annual conference that he only wears suits made by Li's company.

The company currently produces around 5 million superior suits a year. Li said suits priced more than 20,000 yuan were their bestsellers.

A growing number of Chinese women are climbing the corporate ladder. According to recent report by China Entrepreneur magazine, women account for 45.4 percent of China's total employees and an increasing number are involved in IT, telecommunications, finance, insurance and other high-end industries, becoming a significant force in these industries.

The report showed that currently there are more than 29 million female entrepreneurs in China, accounting for more than 20 percent of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country.

It also said that 1,107 A-share listed companies - about 67 percent of the total number of such companies - employ 1,980 female board members or senior executives.

In the real estate sector, around 83 percent of listed enterprises have female senior executives. An increasing number of high-level female managers are working in machinery, chemical engineering and other sectors.

Li Yifei, chairwoman of Vivaki, part of the Publicis Groupe Greater China, suggested that women entrepreneurs would be better choosing sectors in which they have a natural advantage, such as media, advertising and fashion.

Xia Hua, chairman of Eve Enterprise Group, a Beijing-based haute couture company for men, said: "Women bosses listen and observe more. That is crucial to a business's success because it means more understanding of the needs of staff and customers."

Li Jing, managing director of JP Morgan Chase, said: "Female entrepreneurs have no weaknesses in their judgments of macroeconomics and sometimes they have more comprehensive views than men.

"However, they might lack a bit of courage when making decisions." He added that courage was not innate but grew out of the accumulation of personal experience.

Han Han, one of the most popular Chinese writers and born in the 1980s, and US billionaire Warren Buffett are reported to be icons of many Chinese women entrepreneurs, demonstrating that they closely follow trends and changes in international society.

Source: China Daily


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