Working as a professional woman can be challenging. Worldwide, the ratio of women compared to men in corporations is relatively low, and women in leadership positions are heavily underrepresented. Professional women often face cultural challenges in balancing their family responsibilities and career development.
Traditionally, women are expected by their families to be the primary caregiver. Many professional women either opt to be the primary parent and take a lighter workload job or remain single to climb the corporate ladder in highly competitive sectors.
In a survey released by the China Youth Daily (2019), 85% of the people surveyed, in China, believed that having a family can affect the career development for women, and 37.8% assumed working mothers were overlooked for promotional opportunities. Working mothers often consider leaving the workforce to become full-time mothers.
A regulation reform in 2019 initiated measures to close gender gaps in employment. Namely, the Notice on Further Regulating Recruitment Practices to Promote Women’s Employment (‘Notice’) adopted on February 2, 2019, prohibits employers from the following:
- Prioritising hires or restricting access to jobs based on gender
- Refusing to hire female candidates or limiting employment opportunities for women
- Imposing higher labour standards for female employees
- Inquiring about the marital or family status of female candidates
- Requiring a pregnancy test as part of the employment medical check
- Requiring women to be childless as a condition of their employment.
Under the Notice, violators can face penalties including fines between 10,000 RMB to 50,000 RMB, criminal investigation, public exposure, and the revocation of their business license.
Furthermore, on September 27, 2021, the central government in China unveiled a 10-year plan on the development of women, which pledges to tackle workplace gender discrimination. The plan proposes 75 main goals and 93 supportive measures within eight areas including health, education, and employment. Overall, it sets forth the overarching blueprint for the government to implement gender equality into national and local policies. For workplace gender equality, the plan addresses the ratio of women to men in the workforce, flexible working hours, equal pay and dismissals related to pregnancy, as well as improving the work environment for working mothers – such as nursing rooms and child-care facilities. As a result, companies in China should anticipate the forthcoming policies by evaluating both company culture and policies to highlight areas of improvement.
At Horizons Corporate Advisory, we are committed to ‘walking the talk’ in gender equality and deviate from boilerplate marketing campaigns or ambiguous internal policies. Women in Horizons account for 70% of the personnel and 50% of women employees hold a leadership position. We identify the gender and racial issues faced by female accountants and lawyers in a predominately male profession.
Through equipping employees with the necessary training and mentorship, our employees can successfully navigate these challenges as professionals.
Dr. Lucia Myriam Netti, Horizons Regional Partner for EMEA, Russia, Belarus
“Whilst the number of women in the legal profession has increased considerably, female lawyers progressing to partnership remains substantially low. Very few corporate advisories address the lack of female representation in leadership, which often limits the number of mentors who understand the unique challenges for female lawyers. In Horizons, we ensure career opportunities and mentorships are formulated to match and develop each talent, without unconscious bias.”
Dr. Angela Su Qi, Horizons Partner, and IPRS Head
“Working in law can result in demanding long hours. At Horizons, we strive to reconcile work and non-work responsibilities, which can be exacerbated under long hours, by offering rest periods after tough projects and balancing out the workload through the team. Through this approach, we minimise work-related burnout, and employees, especially female lawyers, may recognise that we acknowledge their non-work obligations.”
Another example of Horizons’ dedication to equal opportunities is demonstrated in the recent election of Horizons’ Business Manager, Hua Jing Li, as Vice-Chair of the British Chamber’s Women in Business Committee. As a dual heritage British Chinese, Hua Jing Li assists the committee in formulating events that connect women within the business community and facilitating female leadership and career development.
The plan for the development of women establishes the objective to achieve gender equality by 2030 in China. Cultural norms and family structure could be major obstacles in accomplishing the goal and generating meaningful changes for females. Disbanding gender discrimination in the workplace calls for practical application throughout the workforce and not sweeping marketing messages under the guise of altruistic corporate behavior. At Horizons, we also have a lot to learn in advancing professional women. Therefore, the 10-year plan from the central government is a strong call for companies to act and create a difference.