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Chinese women thrive in the workplace, say a number of reports

Posted by: Laurence Simons 08/06/12

More likely to make partner, say studies.

As the UK government dithers on introducing boardroom quotas to see more female executives in significant roles, women in the Far East are defying the traditional boundaries and flourishing in the professional workplace, according to one leading legal journalist.

As the Careerist reports, Chinese women are flourishing when it comes to, well, careers. "Among the professional class in China, at least, women are enjoying extraordinary success and are often surpassing their Western sisters," says journalist and chief Careerist blogger, Vivia Chen. As a report published in The Asian Lawyer revealed, women make up 46 per cent of the 10,000 lawyers operating in Hong Kong, and almost a quarter (24 per cent) of the partners. Compare that to the UK, where just 16 per cent of the partners are women, or the US (19 per cent), and Hong Kong is leading the way when it comes to equality in the workplace. And they've got universal plug sockets. They really have got it all figured out.  

But while it's presumed Chinese women working for Western firms are afforded more opportunities to progress (critics argue Chinese lawyers are fast-tracked to partner in Asian branches of Western firms, a sort of 'make up the numbers' deal), a study on behalf of the International Women in Law Summit found that they were faring equally well in Chinese firms. And what's more, of the career women polled, few reported the traditional obstacles cited by Western women as holding them back in their quest for the top. "A striking point was the strength of the perception that gender does not impact issues that are frequently discussed as problematic in the US/UK profession," the study authors Beth Bunnell and Amy Sommers co-wrote, in eerie unison, "such as assignments, the way subjects conducted themselves, or compensation."

What can we learn from all these in-depth studies of the legal recruitment scene in China? Well one factor, as Bunnell and Sommers report, could be Chinese women's increased willingness to approach friends and family for business. "People in China are much more matter-of-fact about using their personal relationships to get clients," says Sommers. So whether looking for a new case or searching for legal jobs, it's a tactic many could afford to adopt.