Chinese women hit pay dirt as entrepreneurs

Two women business owners exchange contact details at a party for entrepreneurs to celebrate the International Women's Day on March 8, in Fuyang, Anhui province.
China Daily/ANN

Believe it or not, nearly 31 per cent of business owners in China are women, which gives the country eighth rank globally, according to the inaugural Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs.

China made it to the top 10 on the back of a highly energized and vibrant local entrepreneurship environment where it is easy to discern and pursue business opportunities, and receive recognition and respect as a successful entrepreneur, the survey findings indicated.

The overall index of women entrepreneurs, which takes into consideration the proportion of female business owners as a percentage of total business owners, gives China a score of 61.3 and a global ranking of 31.

The index aims to better understand and track women's progress and achievements in the business world. It uses 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 54 economies, representing 78.6 per cent of the world's female labour force, differ in terms of the level of women's advancement outcomes, knowledge assets and financial access, and supporting entrepreneurial factors.

In a report released on March 3, Mastercard Inc said women in China are making solid inroads into knowledge assets and financial assets. Not only are they as educated as their male counterparts in both secondary and tertiary education but just as inspired and motivated to pursue new business opportunities.

The index showed that 60.1 per cent of female business owners in China are pursuing opportunity-driven entrepreneurship, compared with 39.9 per cent for necessity-driven entrepreneurship due to the lack of employment opportunities.

Many of China's women entrepreneurs attribute their success to hard work and sheer drive. Specifically, their pursuit of success and independence, and their desire for recognition, are driven and supported by the strong cultural acceptance of women entrepreneurs in the country and a high level of financial inclusion, the report said.

However, it noted that China's support system for small and medium-sized enterprises is less established and advantageous for women entrepreneurs. Although both genders have equal access to financial services by law or custom, the availability of outreach financial programs for women, affordability of financial services, and access to business loans are poor.

A 2014 Goldman Sachs report also pointed to restricted access to business capital as one of the primary barriers for women entrepreneurs in China, which is intensified by the lack of business development opportunities including training and mentoring for women entrepreneurs.

Knowing that women are constrained by the lack of business mentoring opportunities, Mastercard announced a strategic partnership with the China Women's Development Foundation on Oct 20, 2016. They will collaborate on the development of various strategic opportunities for the benefit of members of the foundation, specifically in providing financial support for women-run startups, entrepreneurship training, and financial literacy programs.

As part of the partnership, the Mastercard Women's Entrepreneurship Fund will be established. It is an exclusive fund in China that seeks to advance financial inclusion and women's entrepreneurship.

Qin Guoying, vice-chairman and secretary-general of the CWDF, said: "We are thrilled to partner with Mastercard to help equip more women with key financial literacy and business skills, as well as support women-run startups. We believe that by empowering women with practical skills and knowledge, we can create sustainable change and, in turn, bring about profound societal change, whether by poverty alleviation or by helping build the next generation of women entrepreneurs."

Dennis Chang, division president of Mastercard China, said: "As China underpins its economic reforms on promoting sustainable development, it becomes critical for public-private sector to enable access to financial tools in order to foster entrepreneurship and innovation."