Seven of the 14 women identified on Forbes magazine’s list of self-made billionaires are Chinese. Many firms in emerging markets do a better job of promoting women than their Western rivals, some surveys suggest. In China, 32% of senior managers are female, compared with 23% in America and 19% in Britain. In India, 11% of chief executives of large companies are female, compared with 3% of Fortune 500 bosses in America and 3% of FTSE 100 bosses in Britain. Turkey and Brazil come third and joint fourth (behind Finland and Norway) in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of countries by the proportion of CEOs who are women. In Brazil, 11% of chief executives and 30% of senior executives are women.
Young, middle-class women are overtaking their male peers when it comes to education. In the United Arab Emirates 65% of university graduates are female. In Brazil and China the figures are 60% and 47% respectively. In Russia 57% of college-age women are enrolled in tertiary education; only 43% of men are. Business schools, those hothouses of capitalism, are feminizing fast. Some 33% of students at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai and 26% at the Indian School of Business are female, a figure comparable with those of Western schools such as the Harvard Business School and INSEAD.
In “Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution”, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid point out that businesswomen face steep obstacles in emerging markets. How can they stay on the fast track if, as in the UAE, they cannot travel without a male chaperone? And how can they be taken seriously if, as in Russia, the term “businesswoman” is synonymous with prostitute? In every emerging market women bear the lioness’s share of family responsibilities. In many places, deals are sealed with booze and male bonding.
The workload for tiger businesswomen can be crushing. Rapid growth means exhausting change. Having customers in different time zones, as global Asian firms often do, makes it worse. More than a quarter of the female high-fliers surveyed by Ms Hewlett and Ms Rashid report working between eight and 18 hours more each week than they did three years ago. And horrible commutes are common. In IBM’s ranking of the world’s worst commutes, Beijing and Mexico City each scored 99 out of a possible 100 pain points. New Delhi, Moscow and São Paulo also did appallingly. Female commuters often have to put up with leering, groping men, particularly if they work late: 62% of Brazilian women say that they feel unsafe travelling to work.
Youngsters in India and China grew up steeped in capitalism; their parents did not.