Families with sons and daughters would prioritize the education and future of the son, often leaving the daughter with fewer opportunities. The controversial one-child policy, implemented (with exceptions) some 40 years ago and relaxed in 2015, meant many families, particularly those with money, had no choice but to pour their resources into a daughter.
As an only child, a daughter then had a greater chance of a good education or to even be sent overseas for school. She would likely receive greater parental care and parental investment, and may be given family money to help set up a business, all of which leads to greater gender equality, says Chan.
But Chan also goes further back, noting the devastation wrought during World War II. “Many people were killed. And the economy at that moment was terrible. They needed to build up the country, and build the economy," she says.
With a new government in power in 1949, new laws were established, including equal rights for women. Campaigns to encourage women to join the workforce resulted in a dramatic influx of working women. According to one academic research paper on gender inequality in urban China, data from a large-scale population survey indicated that 71 percent of women married between 1950 and 1965 had jobs, and 92 percent of women married between 1966 and 1976 were employed.
While true gender equality has yet to be reached in China, the growing trend of women entrepreneurs will benefit the economic development of the country, says Chan, pointing to how it can help build the GDP, enlarge the workforce in Asia, and help create a better life for employees of these companies.
The 2017 global gender gap report by the World Economic Forum cites a McKinsey study that suggests economic gender parity could boost China's GDP by US$2.5 trillion.
“Gender parity is also fundamental to whether and how economies and societies thrive," the report says. “In such a highly-interconnected and rapidly changing world, diversity is critical to informed corporate decision-making and business innovation."
Greater government support could play an important role in helping women entrepreneurs, Chan says, adding that more funding opportunities, mentorship programs, and better maternity leave laws, are also factors that can help foster more female entrepreneurship.
China has a great deal of influence in Asia, says Chan, they do a lot business with the countries around them, and globalization, technology, even the realization that your business counterpart is a woman, will all help drive this trend beyond China.
“Eventually, people will learn the merit of being inclusive and diverse. It will drive innovation. It will help grow the country, make the company more competitive, more innovative," Chan says.
“A lot of countries spend a lot of money on education. Because of that, (they'll) find that talent literally has no gender, no age, race, nationality, or sexual orientation. It's not an issue at all. It's just a norm."
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