This year’s list of the World’s Richest Self-Made Women, compiled by the Shanghai-based Hurun Report and Forbes magazine sees a staggering six women from the Chinese mainland among the top 10, knocking out the likes of J.K. Rowling, worth $1billion, and pushing Oprah Winfrey, worth $2.4 billion, into ninth place. The world’s richest woman, ‘Paper Queen’ Zhang Yin, worth US$4.9 billion, hails from Guangdong.
“If this were a ping pong team, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that five out of 10 of them were from the Chinese mainland,” Rupert Hoogewerf, founder-editor of the Hurun Report, told us. “But, when you are talking about the top 10 self-made rich women in the world, this is really mind-blowing.”
Hoogewerf believes that when it comes to business, women on the Chinese mainland have many advantages over their Western counterparts. First, there is a level playing field between men and women – the financial slate was wiped clean for everyone during the first three decades following liberation in 1949, which means there is little to no inherited wealth here. Additionally, Chinese women have benefited from social emancipation and education which followed after liberation.
Equality between men and women in China, combined with the country’s one-child policy has given the women a historical advantage women in the West did no have, says Hoogewerf. The glass ceiling for women in the West for higher corporate functions does not exist in China.
In China however, the fast elevation of women to high corporate positions is turning heads. “People are surprised women in China have become such successful entrepreneurs,” says Hoogewerf. “The open door policy means women were able to go out and make money in the same way as men.”
China’s one child policy has also freed up women’s time. “The fact they only have one child, means a much shorter career break,” says Hoogewerf. “They may just have had 10 weeks out of their career, giving them time to build their business.”