Recruiting and hiring talented women isn’t enough. Global organizations expanding in China should help China’s career women overcome biases and keep their goals on course.
It’s been little more than a generation since Chinese politician Deng Xiaoping famously stated in 1978 that “to get rich is glorious,” and the People’s Republic of China has transformed itself from an impoverished, isolated nation into a powerhouse in the global market. Yet its continued success — and that of the multinational corporations pinning their financial future on the world’s second-largest market, according to the United Nations Statistics Division — faces a serious obstacle: a cutthroat war for talent.
According to Manpower’s 2010 Talent Shortage Survey of 35,000 employers across 36 countries, 40 percent of employers in China had difficulty finding the right people to fill openings, a 25 percent increase since 2009. Similarly, 92 percent of companies surveyed by Kelly Services say their competitive power is “affected” by the shortage of key talent, and 23 percent are “greatly affected.”
Research conducted in 2010 by the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP) suggests a solution: leverage China’s ambitious, educated women. Few employers have maximized the potential — or realized the power — of China’s white-collar female professionals. Fewer still are aware of the complicated career dynamics of this talent pool.
Chinese women are graduating from universities at nearly the same rate as men. Close to 4 million pour into the Chinese workforce each year, according to the World Bank Education Statistics Database. They make up nearly 40 percent of MBA students at top-ranked programs at China Europe International Business School and Tsinghua University — nicknamed “the Chinese MIT” — comparable figures to the best schools in the U.S. But the similarities to the West end there.
Among more than 1,000 Chinese college graduates of both sexes surveyed by the CWLP, 65 percent of the women consider themselves “very ambitious,” compared to 36 percent of their U.S. counterparts (Figure 1); 76 percent aspire to a top job versus 52 percent of Americans (Figure 2).