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The wealth of talent in women in business

28 January 2015

china population

The run-up to International Women’s Day will no doubt include all manner of pats on the back by the male-based establishment on their initiatives to celebrate how well women are doing.

For example in 2014, BRW celebrated the achievements of Australian women in business by publishing the BRW Rich Women list. Number one of the 30 women on the list is Vicky Teoh of TPG Telecom, who is worth an estimated $765 million. The “poorest” is Maxine Horne of Vita Group, who’s estimated to be worth $35 million. Most of the women on the 30-person list have created their wealth from founding their own businesses; three have made it through positions in the corporate world.

As a counterpoint to BRW’s Rich 200, its classic list, which is often described as being full of “old, white men”, the paucity of successful women – especially in a corporate context – really can’t go unnoticed. Can it?

If we look at the Fortune 500 companies, you’d have to think that on balance it must be another place “old, white men” congregate. There are 26 female CEOs.

In new economies such as China’s, are similar things taking place?

When considering China, it’s important to get the numbers in perspective. Take tennis sensation Maria Sharapova for example. Maria has 1.45 million fans following her on Twitter. In comparison, China’s number one female tennis player, Peng Shuai has more than 23 million fans following her on the Chinese social networking site Weibo.

It goes without saying then that a rich women’s list in China is going to have some significant numbers on it when it comes to both amount of women and size of fortune. In fact, according to research, some of the highest net-worth female individuals in the world are from China.

It’s interesting to ask why women are caning it in a country that favours boy babies from the womb, and where the reins of authority are firmly in the hands of men.

A recent Fortune article quoted these numbers:

  • 51 percent of senior management positions are held by females, making China a standout in Asia.
  • 550 publicly-traded companies, or about 21 percent, have women on their boards.
  • Half the world’s self-made female billionaires are Chinese.

The article goes on to sum up what business and social commentators think may be the reason why this proliferation of women in business has happened: Locked out of the political process, many women turned to business to express themselves.

Commentators then go on to say that this female ambition and success does not come without its detractors. For example, the predominantly male authorities have engineered the release of derisive statements referring to unmarried, urban women over 27 years of age as left-overs and yellow pearls, saying it’s their own fault they’re on the shelf because they put ambition before marriage and family.

What other coarse attempts to deter women from pursuing careers and opportunities have you sighted?