This year let's celebrate … China leading the world in wealthy self-made women | Lijia Zhang

International Women's Day: But Chinese women's participation in politics is seriously lagging behind other countries

Chairman Mao's famous statement that "Women can hold up half of the sky" remains as illusive as the sky itself. Yet one thing to celebrate is that China is emerging as the leader for women in business.

According to September's issue of the monthly magazine, the Hurun Report – which is best known for its rich list – seven out of the world's top 10 wealthiest self-made female billionaires are Chinese. The richest is Wu Yajun, executive director of Longfor Properties Co, south-west China, who has a net worth of 42 billion yuan (£4.2bn), and had overtaken talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey (the eighth richest). Of the five wealthiest women, four, Wu included, have made their fortune through China's booming real estate market.

In fact the country now boasts the most self-made female entrepreneurs in the world. I'd attribute this to Chinese women's strong work ethic, determination and aspirations to such success. In China, 70% of women work – which is among the highest female employment in the world. Moreover, working mothers have the support of grandparents or cheap childcare.

Yet despite the impressive achievements, Chinese female entrepreneurs lag behind their male counterparts. Only 11% of the richest people in China are women; with women representing only about 20% of all entrepreneurs.

It's true that in 1949, when Mao's Chinese Communists, took power, women were granted equal rights and opportunities. Yet some old habits die hard and the business world remains male-centred.

Yet for women, the most pressing problems include participation in politics, which seriously lags behind other countries. Only 21.4% of the representatives in our parliament, the National People's Congress, are women, which is short of the 30% of female political participation set in 1995 by the UN, and a woman's promotion in the government too often still depends on her male bosses – who tend to give women subservient roles.

So sadly, there's still a long march before women can truly hold up half of the sky.

• To comment on this article please visit our interactive map of what can be celebrated around the world this International Women's Day

Contributor

Lijia Zhang

The GuardianTramp

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