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Equal employment? Still challenges to overcome in China

China is not a place short of changes. This country is going through such tremendous transformation that almost everyday,everyone living in this nation is trying hard to cope with. However, making changes or progress individually for women still faces particular challenges and barriers.For example, for many young talented Chinese women, how to balance work and family could be a tough issue.

One of my friends is an accomplished career woman. She holds a key HR position in a European chemical company in Shanghai at the age of 36 and she is quite an important asset to the company in her superior's opinion. However, she is not happy. She considers herself unseccessful in life since she is currently single because of a ugly divorce two years ago. "My parents called me unfaithful daughter because I don't give them a perfect family." She once told me. Even her career is somehow influenced by the marriage problem. At her mid-30's, divorced with no children, she was just refused by a better-paid job at another company because the employer there thought her contribution to their organization might not be stable. "They are afraid that I might get into the company and then start looking for opportunities to get married and have children which will take a couple of years off work with their payment." My friend is quite clear of the reason behind the denial but she cannot do anything to change it. She is not the only one.

Similar stories happens all the time. Although equal working opportunities are no longer a problem for Chinese women generally speaking. There are, still, hidden agenda in the arena of employment that prevents women to pursuit their dreams without being treated differently from men. Individually, career women in China are trying to break this barrier by working harder and helping each other. As a group effort, we are now publishing such stories through various media channels, especially on the internet, using Web2.0 technology.Social media is now a often used method to share opinions about the issue. On Weibo, the Chinese version of twitter, we exchange individual problems to be solved and seek professional advice on how to balance work and personal life. On websites such as linkedin, we build connections with other professional women to share experiences and provide each other with more opportunities. I am hoping that, with the help of Pulsewire, career women in China could learn and understand how women in other countries are dealing with similar career/family problems.By letting individual stories known worldwide, better solutions might come to us very soon. And for those women who faces the same dilemma as my friend, it is hopeful that they will not be refused by a good working opportunity for their personal marriage status.


Phoenixdocu's picture

Liberated but not equal

Hello Laura,
I applaud what you're doing and resonate with all the issues that you've pointed out in all your posts regarding the conditions of women in China. As a matter of fact, I'm making a documentary about the exact issues you've mentioned about women in China --- my objective is to raise awareness of China's gender inequality to the western audience, maybe to the Chinese audience too if it can be shown there. Apparently I discovered that there is great disparity between educated urban women and the less fortunate rural women. Many rural women are still saddled by a gender culture that is overlooked. I'm very interested to hear what's your POV on that issue.

Too much is written about the seismic transformation of China's economic prowess and hardly about the women migrant workers who power it! If you're interested in my project please contact me directly to my email

Keep up the good work!

Laura Liu's picture

awareness should be raised

Thank you for the reply. I totally agree that equal opportunities are more of an issue for rural women in China. Many of them might even not realize it is a problem. The documentary idea sounds very interesting. I am working in television industry so maybe we can work out something together. My email is :

I am working on a story regarding China's charity industry recently, the credibility crisis and call for transparency.

MaDube's picture

Your article just made me

Your article just made me angry (not at you) but at the continued imbalances between men and women. I am angry that a company would refuse to give a woman a job because they are afraid that she is not reliable because she might look for marriage opportunities! Sometimes I think men bury their brains under their feet, so they trample on them so hard they stop functioning.That is such a gender stereotype, to think that women are always looking for marriage opportunities and that when they do they will quit their jobs or that the marriage will interfere with their performance. If men can marry and remain employed and even get promoted, why cant women do the same.

Thank you for the work you are doing and keep the fight going.

The issue is that even many women themselves hold the idea of gender stereotype. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

RosemaryC's picture

The power of sisterhood

Dear Laura:

Thank you for sharing this story, which is an important one. This discrimination against women is not just a problem in China, but in so many other places as well - and as happened to your friend, often the thinking behind this behaviour is not spelled out so that it can be addressed directly. What a loss for that company that they didn't hire your friend - it is, really, their loss. She could have made a wonderful contribution to their work. So sad they can't see that, and didn't have the courage to ask her about their own assumptions..

It sounds as if she is feeling very caught between expectations, and this can be so hard, can't it? Both the expectations of others and the expectations we have of ourselves. I know that many grandparents dream of having grandchildren and I imagine that the pressure of these expectations must be even stronger because of the earlier one chlid policy..

As I get older, and have grandchildren of my own, and see my daughter trying to juggle work and a family (she is a wonderful mother and enjoys her job as well, and her husband is equally involved in parenting - I admire them so much), I get increasingly frustrated with governmental and corporate policies that regard parenting primarily as a women's job and don't see much need to support parenting in practical ways. Unlike Sweden, for example, the Canadian government has very restrictive maternity/paternity leave provisions, and they are getting more restrictive all the time, it seems. Yet governments are willing to invest a lot of money to cope with the later consequences of parenting that isn't so effective. Why, oh why, can they not seem to connect up the dots?

It is wonderful to hear that women are able to connect and to share challenges and opportunities and solutions using social media - a great way to use the power of sisterhood to support each other.

Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Kind regards,

Emily Garcia's picture

Hi Laura! I thought this

Hi Laura!

I thought this story was great to share! You answered all aspects of the assignment with a clear and personal voice that shows at once your great writing skill and passion for positive change. I agree that social and new media forums can be great spaces for discussions about these very issues. Unequal employment opportunities are a symptom of patriarchy that still has a firm grasp in many places of the world, even those places where legally, or consitutionally, men and women are equal. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more from you!



Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

ck's picture

long road

Hi Laura,

I'm sorry for your friend - it's not fair that she should be discriminated against because she hasn't already gotten marriage and children "out of the way." I think this still happens to women in many countries, unfortunately, even when it is officially frowned upon.

It sounds great that women are joining together to share problems and solutions, and I can see how pulsewire would be a huge addition to this quest.

Good luck to you!



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