Report finds only 19% executives in China are women

Ding Yining
Despite equal workforce involvement and mid-level promotion rates, Chinese women are less likely to take on leadership roles than their counterparts in other countries.
Ding Yining

A recent survey found that only 19 percent of executives in China are women, compared with almost 25 percent in other leading countries.

According to a new joint report by Bain & Company and executive search and leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart, despite having comparable workforce participation and mid-level promotion rates, Chinese women held fewer CEO positions and jobs that report directly to the CEO than women in other countries.

Consulting professionals and executives advocate for more top-down leadership involvement in order to foster an inclusive culture that benefits both the general public and business performance.

"Women's representation in executive teams is an important lever for value creation; when women do not reach their full potential, neither do their companies," said Shen Chen, a partner at Bain & Company in Shanghai.

Women's traits of being more compassionate, empathetic, and cautious gave them many potential advantages, but that could also hold them back.

Report finds only 19% executives in China are women

According to the survey, more than 80 percent of respondents said being risk-averse or waiting to be well prepared before speaking is a barrier to their advancement.

The survey looked at studies and publicly available data from 486 Chinese companies, as well as surveys and in-depth interviews with dozens of female executives in China.

Almost 60 percent are also hesitant to approach senior leaders for opportunities for fear of making a mistake.

The report calls for leadership commitment, the creation of an inclusive culture, the development of equitable support systems, and the establishment of female-focused networking platforms.

Access to higher education for Chinese female students has increased significantly over the last two decades, outpacing that of other countries.

From 2000 to 2020, the proportion of female students in China's higher education increased by 10.7 percent, compared to a global average of 2.8 percent.

Chinese women's participation in the labor force is also higher than that of women in other countries, with 62 percent female labor force participation, which is significantly higher than the global average of 46 percent.

On the other hand, the report found that there are four things that stop women from becoming executives: family responsibilities, hesitation, not having a sponsor, and unconscious biases.

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