December 15, 2016
How China is getting the gender balance right – up to a point
By: Jin Yu Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, Greater China

Jin Yu

Women in leadership, diversity and gender equality are all things I’m passionate about — especially from an Asian perspective. I’ve been involved in a lot of research initiatives on women in leadership and I’d say gender equality at entry level in China is very good, particularly in the professional services and strategy consulting space. You tend to see a 50-50 split at the lower level and, even at the mid-level, there are a lot of high-performing women. I’d like to build on this within Accenture Strategy.

There are three main reasons why there’s such good female representation at an entry level in China.

First of all, China is quite a gender-friendly environment in terms of allowing females to participate in the workforce. This stems back to the time when the Chinese communist party first came into power. China had experienced wars before that time — the Second World War, the domestic war — so there were clear productivity issues. It was a strategic move when Chairman Mao said, “Women hold up half the sky.” By saying that, he was encouraging women to participate in the workforce — to become 50 percent of it, in fact — in order to boost productivity. Since then, China has successfully established a culture for women to thrive in the workforce.

The second reason is that for a long period of time, the average household income in China wasn’t sufficient if you only had one earner. You actually needed both people to work in order to bring in enough money. That also encouraged women to enter the workforce.

Third, in terms of professional services and white-collar work, females tend to have the right skills. They often excel when it comes to learning and speaking foreign languages — skills that are very much in demand in this sector. In professional services specifically, there’s a good gender balance up to mid-level.

Where China is doing less well, and is lagging behind some of the Nordic countries, for example, is at the top executive level. The number of females in our nation’s boardrooms dramatically drops to below 10 percent. We definitely need to do more to raise that figure. Enabling high-potential women to become successful leaders is a pressing issue for Accenture Strategy, as well as for the clients we work with.

I’m absolutely committed to achieving a more desirable gender balance at leadership level at Accenture Strategy in China. It’s only a matter of time before this happens. If you look at Accenture overall in China, 40 percent of our Geographic Council members are women. This gives us a great platform to build from, and hopefully it will serve as an inspiration to all of the females here with the potential to reach the top.

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