Report shows China at the forefront of women's rights



Lean In China, a professional development organization for women, is releasing its annual white paper just in time for International Women’s Day.

CGTN Digital was given a copy of an executive summary of the report before its release on Wednesday, and it highlights the goals, needs, and challenges that Chinese women have in the workplace, life and society today.

According to the report, diversity and inclusiveness in organizations are no longer just an issue of compliance or ethics, but key to productivity growth in the digital age.

“The workforce of the future needs to be able to leverage (1) technological innovation and digital tools and (2) a new digital mindset in order to link and unlock the untapped potential not yet seen in this current industrial revolution,” Lean In China’s annual white paper report “Women, Work and Happiness: The Impact of Women in the Workplace in a Digital Age” states.

Lean In China hopes to use the data in the report to better assist women in achieving their goals and aspirations, and to enable organizations to further promote gender equality in the workplace. Understanding the motivations and challenges faced by the current workforce in both life and work are key to aligning people, processes, and technology across China, enabling organizations to raise productivity growth and enable them to stay competitive in the digital age.

The report showcases findings in several key areas including the importance of family, work-life balance, gender discrimination, leadership behaviors and the context of the work environment.

The importance of family

The report said that women and men both value family equally with a surprisingly larger percentage of men than women viewing family is more important than career. The report said this is magnified further after having children with men half as likely and women a third as likely to rate work as more important than family once they have children.

The challenge of work-life balance

The report found that maintaining a work-life balance is one of the men's top challenges, highlighting this is not only a priority for women. However, It said that as women become more senior, the challenge of balancing work and life becomes more prevalent with them more likely to cite this than men of the same seniority.

Based on these findings, the report reaffirmed the central role that family plays in life satisfaction, organizations may need to review remote and flexible working policies to support family life for both men and women.

Low prevalence of gender discrimination

The report found that discrimination based on gender in the workplace is not viewed as a major challenge by the large majority of both genders. However, women were half as likely as men to think that there were equal opportunities for both men and women in the workplace. The main reasons cited were differentials in compensation and career disruption due to maternity or paternity.

Virginia Tan, co-founder of Lean In China

“Some women have said there was a fear of being judged for being too successful,” co-founder of Lean In China, Virginia Tan told CGTN Digital.

But she said China is a paradox in many ways because there were many powerful women in China.

“Especially in terms of business leaders. The one thing which I found actually extremely interesting. Because before I came to China I spent 10 years in Europe and the Middle East, I rarely had female mentors,” Tan said. “In China, I actually found a lot of role models."

"Unlike what you would think given the prevailing prejudices against women in powerful or senior positions.

These women are not unhappily married. Neither are they divorced. Neither are they childless. The ones who’ve actually reached the top of the pinnacle of the corporate world actually usually have very successful husbands, too, have children, (and) actually are pretty nice.”

Leadership behaviors

Interestingly, going against traditional assumptions the report found that men and women ranked themselves as having the same top three capabilities: Collaboration, providing direction and execution, as well as the same lowest ranked capability: Building talent. However, men rated themselves higher than women in all leadership capabilities, showcasing the so-called “confidence gap” consistent with previous research, but which does not necessarily translate into actual differences in performance.

Lean In China is a professional development organization for women.

Work environment and impact in the workplace

When it comes to the context of the work environment, the report found that women are slightly more likely than men to have a greater financial impact when organizations have a culture of risk-taking and inclusion.

The report said having a defined leadership model, clearly defined expectations of leadership positions and openness with employees regarding their leadership potential will empower women to create greater financial impact in the workplace. Also the greater the digital maturity of an organization, the more likely that women will invest in their organization, creating greater non-financial impact in the workplace.

Tan came to China in 2013 to work on investments for the Belt and Road Initiative representing state-owned banks and companies investing in emerging markets.

That same year the former corporate lawyer co-founded Lean in China which has since grown to more than 120 chapters across the country serving as an advocate for women in cities as well as those at a university.

She said the most successful women in China are very visible.

“If you see that these women are not just great corporate leaders but they are also great human beings and they have families then you think hey I want that too. You can’t be what you can’t see,” Tan said.