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CCG platforms gender equality in China's key Expo
"The real challenge in promoting equality for women is that the general expectation in society is that women have to take care of the family & men have to earn money, & that's the challenge we have."
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Last month, with the support of UN Women, CCG was proud to platform a panel on gender equality at the 5th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, one of China’s four key business expos, alongside the publication of Global Talent Flow: Trends and Prospects a bilingual CCG report (the English part starts at Page 75.)
As reported on CCTV-13, the dedicated news channel of China’s most influential China Central Television, as well as across the sites and apps of impactful Chinese media outlets such as China National Radio, CCTV-News, and the People’s Daily:
At the forum, heads of international organizations and famous multinational companies discussed the mobility and development of talents from multiple dimensions such as gender equality, globalization layout of enterprises, and urban talent environment.
The panel discussed gender equality in the workplace, policies supporting women’s advancement in the career ladder, and enabling women to lead in key positions.
Below are some of the remarks from the panel translated from Chinese - already published on CCG’s Chinese-language social media - and have been edited. They have not been reviewed by the panelists.
Katja Freiwald: gender perspective should be incorporated when measuring the talent environment
Katja Freiwald is the regional head for 'WeEmpowerAsia' - a program designed to increase women's economic participation and unleash the power of business and entrepreneurs for a more gender-inclusive world at UN Women.
Women account for half of the world's human resources and attracting female talent is essential to respond effectively to this demand. Worldwide, women generally outnumber men in higher education. This untapped talent pool will present a major opportunity to drive global growth.
To tap into the vast potential of the female workforce, we recommend that future reports in the series, including the Talent Competitiveness Assessment Index, introduce a gender perspective, leading to a more comprehensive measurement of talent competitiveness and the promotion of gender-sensitive talent acquisition and retention policies.
As many studies indicate, gender-diverse teams improve organizational performance. Diverse teams are more capable of solving problems and ultimately making better and more sustainable decisions about the organization. In addition, gender-diverse teams also have better access to a wide range of resources: a variety of credit sources, information sources, and broader industry knowledge. Bringing in female talent can also serve an increasingly diverse client base. Economic models suggest that women reaching their full potential in the labor market will significantly enrich the current talent pool and contribute to global growth, to which trillions of dollars were added.
Therefore, a gender perspective should be incorporated into the measurement of the talent environment. The experiences of women, and the challenges and concerns they face, need to be taken into account when a good living and working environment is being built. For example, studies have shown that gender equality in the workplace and less discriminatory gender norms are important determinants of female mobility at the international level. For women, a work environment free from harassment, discrimination, and all forms of gender-based violence is attractive. This is because women are more likely to be victims of exploitation, dangerous working conditions, physical and psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. These considerations are important.
Many countries around the world have taken action to create employment opportunities for female talent. We suggest that a future series of reports could also focus on the collection and analysis of gender-specific data, as well as trend analysis of female talent flows. This would help to make recommendations for gender-sensitive talent mobility policies, including taking the differences in the life course of men and women into account, and a more gender-sensitive definition of 'skills' in immigration policies.
Countries seeking to be internationally competitive increasingly need to maximize the potential of their workforce, half of which is made up of women. Future research, by incorporating a gender perspective, could provide some ideas on how to better consider the challenges faced by female technical staff during the talent mobility process and in the workplace, and to develop targeted recruitment and retention strategies.
As a UN agency dedicated to advancing gender equality and women's empowerment, women's economic empowerment and safe migration are two important areas of work for UN Women in China and across the Asia Pacific region. I hope we can have the opportunity to work with CCG to integrate gender perspectives into future work and reports to promote talent empowerment and safe mobility in which gender equality is realized.
Anri Nakahara: create a female-friendly working environment and increase women’s visibility in career ladders
I am Nakahara Anri, vice president of external affairs for Shiseido China, and I am honored to be here to share with you some of the initiatives and policies that Shiseido has taken to build a women-friendly work environment and help women advance in their career ladders at its headquarters in Japan and China.
I am responsible for part of Shiseido's business in China, so let's take the China region as an example. Of the nearly 10,000 employees, 89% are women, 72% of whom are junior and middle managers and 45% are senior managers. In Japan, Shiseido is the number one company for women's empowerment and a company that women particularly want to enter.
Next, I would like to use Shiseido as an example to share with you how workplaces can help women balance work and family. In Japan, Shiseido has set up a kindergarten for female employees who are raising children. This kindergarten has a particularly good system, with 12-13 hours during working hours to help employees with their children, making it people-oriented. There is also a two-month childcare leave, which is called maternity leave in China. After the birth of a child, there is a three-year leave of absence, which is called leave without pay in China. These conditions have created a very good working environment for female employees, resulting in a 100 percent return rate after childbirth. Shiseido has also set up a corporate social responsibility program for women researchers, called the Shiseido Research Fund for Women, to reward their achievements as women scientists and researchers in various fields.
I think being a woman is actually quite difficult. I come from a math background and math has given me a really nice process in my work and kept me from babbling in very small ways. We women in the workplace should be like men. We are emotional and delicate, but we also have to be as broad-minded and wide-eyed as men. I feel that if we become female leaders in a company, we should have the charisma of a female leader, with a deep mind, a sparkling brand, and a charismatic personality. We should be logical in what we do. I think being concise is also an essential ability for leaders and I am constantly learning this. Also, even if you reach a certain level, you must not stop learning, you must not be detached from this society, but you must constantly enrich and update and improve your knowledge structure to make yourself a good leader. A leader influences the behavior, thinking, and psychology of others. If you are a good leader, you will make others follow you, appreciate you, and inspire others to join you in making your company better. I wish Shiseido more success in the future, thank you all.
Bentham Liu: women hold up more than half the sky in the fashion industry
Bentham Liu is the founder and president of Chinamind NEXT (WWD China).
I represent WWD, a fashion company with 113 years of experience reporting world fashion scoops. Our company became synonymous with the word fashion as we know it today as we document and set trends in the fashion industry.
I clearly understand the concerns raised in UN Women’s questions and we all agree that women have been dominating the consumer market of fashion. Granted, the data mentioned earlier reminds us that women are far from being the dominating force in the industry. I am fully aware of this conundrum and would like to address why this is the case and how we can increase women’s invisibility in the industry. I also wanted to highlight a different situation for women in fashion in China, mainly for two reasons.
Firstly, China started its fashion industry relatively late compared to other countries. The concept of the fashion industry was only initiated in China in the late ’70s and early ’80s with the country’s Reform and Opening-up. Fashion was a vague idea in China back then and was managed by the state. It seems that China’s fashion industry was behind its global counterparts, yet this delay was actually a fortune to China as the country was able to sidestep many problems which are the legacy of an old merchant history in the western fashion industry. The most significant of these is a lack of participation of women in guilds. As Europe’s industrialization and commercialization crystallized during the 16th and 17th centuries, guilds flourished as a major channel for merchants and craftsmen to negotiate trade and make themselves heard in the industry. In other words, if you were not in guilds, your power in the industry significantly weakened. On the other hand, women were not allowed to join guilds, which muted their voices in the fashion industry. While things have certainly changed, the legacy of guilds haunts the modern fashion industry, which hinders and limits women’s participation in fashion to a certain degree. In this light, UN Women’s data that reflect the disparity of women in the industry makes total sense.
That said, I was surprised by how things are different in China’s fashion industry. As other guests have mentioned, women are “holding up half the sky” of the fashion industry in China. The most obvious example is the data suggesting that seven out of ten of the most popular Chinese designers in the world are women. We also observed a surge in designers that are either Chinese nationals or integrating Chinese culture into their designs in the world’s four major fashion weeks, and all of them are women.
Women are also a strong force in the c-levels of multinational corporations in China. Ms. Lan Zhenzhen here is a perfect example of this. Ms. Lan is the Chief Corporate Affairs and Engagement Officer of L’Oreal North Asia. L’Oreal is the world’s largest cosmetics company today and the fact that a Chinese woman runs its North Asia business is more than exciting, and I deeply admire the contributions Ms. Lan made in increasing women’s visibility in the company. And Ms. Lan isn’t the only Chinese woman making a wave today. Diane Von Furstenberg, the American luxury brand, appointed a young Japanese woman under 40 to be its president overseeing its global business, and this is happening more and more these days in the fashion industry. In the past thirty years, WWD hosted 80 forums, and women in senior positions in the fashion industry accounted for over 60% of those attending and speaking at these forums.
Chinese women are also active in emerging brand collaborations and cross-overs that are essential to any brand’s business model today. They are both connecting Chinese brands and designers to collaborate with prestigious fashion houses in the west as executives, and challenging beauty standards on the runway as models. Moving forward, Chinese women’s influence in these areas will only increase, and this is what I mean by saying Chinese women can “hold up half the sky” of the fashion industry. My company also lives up to this quote with our employee data: in today’s WWD China, the ratio of male employees to female employees is 2:8.
Promoting women’s career development is a complicated issue and I’m afraid I alone cannot provide a universal solution to the whole industry. I can only speak of China’s fashion industry. The country is one of the earliest countries that have built its economy with the textile industry and remains the largest producer of textiles in the world today. China is also the second largest market for fashion products and its consumption of luxury fashion takes up 47% of the world’s total. These data all point to a positive career prospect for women in the fashion industry in the country which I am very proud of and hope the world can learn from China regardless of the industry they’re in. I think Chinese women are particularly hard-working and diligent and these might contribute to their success in any industry. But if society keeps its labor divisions based on gender, Chinese women alone cannot change the situation, and the prospect of women working in fashion will not improve.
Simon Lichtenberg: corporates should see gender equality policy as an opportunity, not an investment
Simon Lichtenberg is the Founder and CEO of Trayton Group, a Dannis furniture manufacturing company. He has been living in Shanghai for the past 35 years.
I am a so-called foreign private entrepreneur. The company I founded has been operating in Shanghai for 25 years. I think our company is a "Danish company with Chinese characteristics." I live in China, and I am also a son-in-law in Shanghai, so I have some knowledge about women in Shanghai. We have done a lot of work with women.
Chinese women are meticulous, responsible, and, more importantly, generally more modest than men, which is a good fit for our company's culture. One Scandinavian multinational company has an internal policy that states that only women can be used as executives in their China division. We are in a world of gender inequality, where women have to give birth to children and do a lot of housework under social norms. Now that we are promoting two and three children again, the heavy housework will affect their careers and development.
What can we do about the problem of women's work? We have a lot of women's associations, training, especially vocational training for women, and subsidies and so on, and I think that's just the minimum. The real challenge in promoting equality for women is that the general expectation in society is that women have to take care of the family and men have to earn money, and that's the challenge we have to deal with. I'm Danish, and I understand that the Nordics have taken some practical approaches to this, and are a little bit more forward-looking in this regard. For example, half of the members of the Danish Doctors' Association are women, and the prime ministers of four of the five Nordic countries are women; in China, maternity leave is only 128 days, while in Denmark it is 12 months, and the 12 months can be divided between the father and the mother, for example, 11 months for the father and 1 month for the mother, or 6 months for the father and 6 months for the mother. I think this policy is very helpful to reduce the impact of childbirth on women's careers.
I am not sure if this can be implemented in China, but it would be great if it could. China's policy towards women is quite avant-garde compared to other Asian countries. Chairman Mao said, "women can hold up half the sky," and that idea has helped a lot of women, and that's why we're using more women in senior management.
I think adjusting policies for women is not a (mo return) investment, but an opportunity, and I hope that both central state-owned enterprises and private companies can use this approach to work on it, and hopefully, China's policies will do a better job. Thank you all.
Roberta Lipson: corporates should help women advance in leadership positions and pay more attention to female employees’ reproductive health
Roberta Lipson is the CEO and founder of United Family Healthcare (UFH) and the CEO of New Frontier Health. She has over 40 years of experience as a pioneer in the healthcare industry in China.
Thank you so much for having us here. Indeed, when I was about to come to China in the 1970s, I learned about gender equality in China through that famous quote of Mao Zedong: “Women Hold Up Half The Sky.” At that time, I also saw some beautiful posters with some brave women climbing poles, which made me realize that China was a paradise.
When I first arrived in China in 1979, many Americans asked me what it was like to be a woman entrepreneur in China. My answer was that since there were very few foreigners in China at that time, what impressed me most was that people seemed to treat me as if I was from an alien planet or Mars and thus I didn't encounter challenges and discrimination caused by my gender. But I also found that my Chinese friends have faced many challenges. Many of the policies at that time seemed to be very women-friendly, such as allowing women to take longer maternity leave and time off during the period, etc., but in fact, these sound policies could also hinder some women's abilities and prevent them from reaching potential for career development. In addition, at that time, a girl needed higher scores than her male counterparts to enter a good university. Besides, many pubs at that time would clearly specify in their job advertisements that only men were wanted. Even if women were wanted, they had to be good-looking or strictly measured by the height and weight standards stipulated by the pubs, etc.
But now, I'm happy to say that things are different. The situation has been greatly improved and more comprehensive policies have been issued. For example, women could take longer maternity leave. And I strongly agree with the suggestion made by the previous guest that both men and women should have the right to take time off during pregnancy and childbirth. At the same time, I think it's not enough to just allow them to take maternity leave, because most men don't, so I think it should be made mandatory for fathers to take time off as well.
In China's medical industry, 40% of doctors are women, while at United Family Healthcare, the number is 60%, with more than 50% of our directors and 40% of our senior executives being women. I think diversity not only refers to gender diversity but also cultural diversity and educational diversity, which is a secret to our success.
Therefore, I think all companies should value women's leadership. The McKinsey report 2020 found that if there is a high percentage of female senior executives in one company, then its success rate and profit margin would be much higher than some of its peers. But the question is how can a company come to support such leadership. It's true that companies can emphasize gender equality in the hiring process, and then cultivate women and conduct some training and education programs, which would be impossible to carry out without the support of government policy. So for issues like maternity leave, I have some suggestions. I think it's very important to force men to take maternity leave as women do because many companies will feel that if they hire a woman, they will definitely lose six to eight months of her productivity.
Second, I suggest that policies for assisted reproduction could be optimized, which would boost the confidence of young women to better develop their careers, and would guarantee their chances of having a family in the future, and also promote more institutions to emerge that practice IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Third, it is recommended that the country and companies recognize some of the challenges to women's physical health, such as cervical cancer and breast cancer. Tens of thousands of Chinese women die each year from these diseases, so it is equally important to help more women get screened and treated. Thank you.
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