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Chinese Women's Entrepreneurial Spirit Surveyed
What is known of the Chinese entrepreneurial businesswoman? How does she fair in a sector dominated by men? What are her strengths and weakness? What of her motivation? The survey published by Invest Scientifically recently attempts to answer these questions.

Facts: How, When and Why?

According to the survey, the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit has been found to have a dominant stake in the working lives of many Chinese women. This survey has shown that of the total number of entrepreneurs in China, women account for 20 percent of the total and, more significantly, that they represent 41 percent of the private sector in China.

The survey has shown that the majority of women entrepreneurs in China began their businesses in an age range between thirty and fifty with 28 percent of them in their thirties, 53 percent in their forties with 16 percent over the age of fifty. Only 3 percent of the total were under thirty years old.

These statistics show that after the reforms in business and public life of the 1980s, women entrepreneurs began to prepare themselves for a life in business through participation in work, study and social practice. The figures show that before 1980, roughly 10 percent of these women had registered a business enterprise. Thereafter, 17 percent registered in the 1980s with the remaining 73 percent after 1990. The majority of these entrepreneurs then went into business at the end of the 1980s and start of the 1990s with a marked acceleration in start-up business during the late 1990s.

Pattern of ownership in this sector is interestingly revealed with 28 percent of these businesses being state-owned enterprises or SOEs. The remainder is composed of collective ownership and joint stock enterprise at 28 percent, private and individual enterprise at 41 percent with foreign funded enterprise, making up the total, at 3 percent. The survey shows that the ratio of private sector ownership by women entrepreneurs in China’s overall ownership structure is comparatively high. In 2000, the private sector represented 25 percent of the total business equity in China. The current favorable environment for the development of private enterprise in China is attributed to the 15th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The motivational factor for entrepreneurial start-up is shown to favor self-realization at 80 percent, with nearly 10 percent of respondents attributing other factors such as preparation for the next generation, development of family wealth and desire for cooperation with family members. About 0.4 percent of women claimed that they wished simply to change the fortunes of themselves and their families through successful business activities.

The size of these enterprises varies considerably, where assets of 1 million yuan (US$120,957) or under represent 34 percent while 38 percent have assets worth between 1 and 10 million yuan. The upper level is represented with 19 percent having assets between 10 and 100 million yuan and just 10 percent with assets over 100 million yuan.

The total output of these businesses divides as follows: 33 percent have an output level of 1 million yuan or under, 33 percent between 1 and 10 million yuan, 21 percent between 10 and 100 million yuan while just 13 percent have an output worth over 100 million yuan.

In the sector, employment figures are also revealing with at least 63 percent of the businesses employing over 50 percent of women, with 25 percent employing 25 to 50 percent of women as staff for their companies. The enterprises that represent a lower percentage of women employees, that of under 25 percent, was just 12 percent.

According to the survey, although these highly successful businesswomen account for 41 percent of the sector, business ownership was not seen as their main activity. These women were senior executives, with chairwoman or general managerial status, in SOEs and had gained stake and share options. They were women who had built up their companies using their own skills and capital outlay and had successfully converted them into large successful companies. These were women who also had completed their studies abroad or had just graduated from domestic Chinese universities. A number were women who had started to develop their business without any great business intentions. Finally, there were women who had maneuvered themselves, as either technologists or executives in foreign funded or domestic enterprises, into the position of establishing a business. This they did using considerable expertise in management and other areas in order to go into business.


Taking the sector as a whole, the business that these women ran was comparatively successful. In terms of profit, loss-making business accounted for just 2 percent, that was down 1.6 percent from the time that they began. It is suggested that it is women’s unremitting effort in lowering costs that enhances their profit levels in business. Roughly 50 percent of these businesses are in the manufacturing sector while the remaining 45 percent work in the services sector.

The survey shows that reward does not come without considerable effort with at least 50 percent of the entrepreneurs working over 10 hours each day, none less than 8 hours. The average longest working day was over 17 hours with 80 percent sleeping for less than 7 hours. The survey showed that this high level of industry left little time for entertainment or exercise. However, over 70 percent of these women said they were satisfied with the running of their business.

In order to start up their business, over one third used private capital as collateral with a third raising funds through family contacts. More than 50 percent of these entrepreneurs attributed business difficulties to a lack of capital.

As might be expected, the subject of what their husbands thought of their business activities was revealed in the survey. Nearly all the husbands supported them with 27 percent of women running the companies jointly with their husbands. In the case of where the business is solely operated 66 percent of spouses stood behind them whereas just 6 percent gave limited support.

Attitudes to education became an important focus of the survey with 61 percent of the businesswomen