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November 21, 2009

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Enterprising women strike it rich

Female entrepreneurs find it easier to make money than their male counterparts in China, reveals a report conducted by Li Lan, secretary-general of China's Entrepreneurs Survey System.

Most of today's leading businesswomen are engaged in the catering industry, wholesaling and retailing. The average age of this group is 46.5 years old, mostly college graduates.

They are more confident and optimistic than self-employed men and they will reshuffle the structure of China's male-dominated business world in future, predicted Li.

There are more than 19.59 million registered corporate bodies led by women in China, and they are performing quite well. Only 1.5 percent show a deficit and the rest are running well and gaining profits.

A total of 89 percent are in the service industry. More women are engaged in the sectors of catering, social causes and real estate, while fewer are in the processing and manufacturing industries.

But the survey also reveals a trend of women entrepreneurs moving en masse into the knowledge-based economy. They are shifting into industries such as architecture, law, engineering, manufacturing, accounting and construction, where female participation is traditionally low and higher education is required.

Asset value

The report reveals that most of the women-led large-scale companies are state-owned, but in cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong Province (which were among the country's first to be opened to the world in the late 1970s), privately owned enterprises with a total asset value of more than 100 million yuan (US$14.64 million) are in the majority.

Interestingly, it also shows that there are more female employees in these companies, which means that women are more likely to recruit women to work for them.

As for initial funding, about 45 percent of female entrepreneurs started their business with financial support from their families and friends.

Among female leaders of shareholding enterprises and private companies, 65 percent set up their undertakings with their own savings. Only 30 percent of them obtained bank loans. Women business leaders tend to have a higher income than men. The survey divides the annual earnings into four groups -- 20,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan, 40,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan, 100,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan and over 500,000 yuan.

The women surveyed earn more by 1.5 percent and 5.2 percent respectively than males in the same position in the middle two groups, while for the groups at either end, it's almost the same.

Women have more proficiency in speaking foreign languages than men, but are poorer in operating computers and other electronic equipment.

As for self-evaluation, female entrepreneurs think they are more competent at their jobs and also feel more satisfied with their current social, economic and political status than males.

More than 88 percent of businesswomen polled said they could lead a bigger enterprise and accomplish larger tasks, 6 percent higher than the number of men surveyed.

At the same time, over 90 percent think "they run the company very well," 6.3 percentage points higher than men. When asked whether they would choose to start a business if given a second chance, about 22 percent of women said no, 3.4 percent fewer than men.

Like many foreign countries, China has many successful women in small and medium companies, but unlike other countries, China also boasts a number of elite businesswomen and female billionaires in large enterprises.

"This is because China is a developing country with a high speed of going forward, which gives a huge space for growing business. A large number of new economic growth points are being discovered," said Shi Qingqi, director of the Academy of China Industry and Economics of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Shi pointed out that the government's stellar support (such as granting small business loans and programs that are designed to help women meet the challenge of financing their businesses) to foster these enterprises as well as new opportunities with globalization were two important reasons for the rise of female entrepreneurs.

"Society should pay more attention to the group of elite businesswomen," said Shen Kaiyan, researcher of the Institute of Economics of Shanghai Academy of Social Science. "This survey not only marks equality between men and women but also gradually becomes an important index to reflect if the economy of a country or a region is developing healthily."

Shen called on more research and study into this group. "It's pretty hard to get statistics and data of female entrepreneurs," she said. "There is no systemic, gender-specific and long-term tracking database of female business leaders in China."

The report conducted by researcher Li is so far the most comprehensive survey on Chinese women entrepreneurs.

"In addition to the information such as the scale of their companies and their business performances, we should also pay attention to these female elites' contribution to society, their spiritual life, the obstacles they meet in the male-dominated business world and many other things," Shen said.


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