SCMP | Younger, Better Educated and Not Afraid to Fail

By Edward Tse and Josie Tai

Original published by South China Morning Post on August 22, 2018. All rights reserved.

Female entrepreneurship is on the rise in China. In the 2017 Forbes list of the world’s 56 self-made women billionaires, there were 21 Chinese entrepreneurs, accounting for 37.5 per cent of the total.

In 2017, China’s female/male ratio of an index measuring entrepreneurial activity is 0.87, above the global average of 0.7. The Total Early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity index, published by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, reflects the percentage of the 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or an owner-manager of a new business.

In fact, female entrepreneurship is not new in China. Among the older generations, women who succeeded include Yang Mianmian, Haier’s co-founder and former president who helped turn the company into one of the leading white-goods makers in the world; Sun Yafang, who was chairwoman of Huawei, the world’s leading telecommunications equipment maker, from 1999 to 2018; and Dong Mingzhu, the former chairwoman of Gree Group, the world’s largest household air conditioner maker. Younger women have also made their mark, such as Lucy Peng Lei, a co-founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba (owner of the South China Morning Post).

Before 1950, women entrepreneurs were almost unheard of in China. The strict gender roles in Chinese culture mean aspiring businesswomen face many challenges.

Source: SCMP

Why, then, are more Chinese women becoming entrepreneurs, and succeeding? Of course, both the women’s liberation movement in the West and communist China’s promotion of gender equality, especially workplace equality, have had some influence.

A closer look reveals some interesting dynamics. First, China’s women entrepreneurs are young. According to a 2017 report by the Chinese online platform 36Kr and start-up incubator GirlUp, women entrepreneurs in China today tend to concentrate in the 21-30 age group. In the national female workforce, those in the 36-45 age group predominate.

Studies in the past found that successful businesswomen cut their teeth in state-owned enterprises, where they honed their business acumen, improved their managerial skills, and saved up the capital needed to start a business. Today, more are starting from scratch, and starting earlier in their lives.

Failure is no longer stigmatised; in 36Kr’s sample, many women were second- or even third-time entrepreneurs.

Source: SCMP

Second, technology has empowered Chinese women more than ever. Several years ago, traditional sectors such as real estate and logistics were the fastest path to wealth for women. Now, new technologies are helping to unleash the internet-based economy – ranging from e-commerce and ride-hailing services to AI and robotics – that is transforming businesses. The digital economy accounted for about 32 per cent of China’s total gross domestic product in 2017, according to the China Internet Plus Index Report released by Tencent earlier this year.

Women, in particular, perceive the non-traditional industries to have lower entry barriers and a more gender-neutral environment. 36Kr found that 36 per cent of Chinese women entrepreneurs surveyed worked in the digital economy, of which around 64 per cent were in the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) ecosystem.

Tech entrepreneur Gong Haiyan is one of them. She grew up in a poor farming family in Hunan province but made it to university. While in graduate school in Shanghai, Gong paid 500 yuan (US$73) to register with a dating site to find a lifetime partner. But she discovered that the company used stolen profiles. That motivated her to start her own dating service. Like Facebook, Gong’s website,, was set up from her college dorm. Today, 15 years later, the site has nearly 190 million registered users across China.

Source: SCMP

Another example is Diane Wang Shutong, who once held senior management positions at Microsoft and Cisco, founded and grew the company into a leading business-to-business cross-border e-commerce platform.

Third, improvements in education attainment have also encouraged more women to strike out on their own. More Chinese are attending university overseas, and many return home to start a business. About 60 per cent of China’s women entrepreneurs were educated abroad; among them, 51 per cent attended college in the US. Having been exposed to a relatively egalitarian culture, they are bolder in seizing opportunities.

While many women entrepreneurs in the past were driven by the “poverty push” to start a business, after being laid off in the restructuring of state-owned enterprises in the 1990s, today’s cohort seem to be more motivated by the “opportunity pull”. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has found that today’s women entrepreneurs were more opportunity-driven compared to their predecessors, even their male counterparts.

In other words, instead of seeing entrepreneurship as a last resort, these women chose to start a business because of the perceived opportunities, “pulled” by their personal ambitions and goals of success.

They face several obstacles unique to them, of course, not least gender discrimination. For example, women start-up founders are often underestimated and thus overlooked for financing opportunities, and women businesswomen, like women in other professions, are expected to commit to family and child-rearing responsibilities.

Helping and fostering the next generation of female entrepreneurs will need support from everyone – men and women, government and non-government – to create a level playing field, a safe, sustainable business environment, and a fundamental change in the traditional perception of gender roles.

Edward Tse is founder & CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Company, a global strategy and management consulting firm with roots in Greater China. Josie Tai is a research analyst at the firm.


新浪财经 | 企业的意志

文| 谢祖墀







企业的意志从何而来?企业或群体的意志一般由一些诱因引起。从正面来看,某些诱因可能是集体所共同追求的目标,也即“梦想”。据著名物理学家加来道雄(Michio Kaku)说,人类的“梦想”是现实的重构。在企业中亦是如此。当一企业集体希望达到某种不是唾手便可得的追求时,这往往成为企业意志的主要驱动力。从反面来看,当企业受到外界威胁,特别是竞争的冲击时,它需要奋起抵抗,这亦可是企业意志的诱因。







强大的企业意志取决于企业的领导力。我在博思艾伦咨询公司(Booz Allen Hamilton)时,我们在领导力方面做了不少研究。我们发现,成功的企业领导者都是“Zealot(狂热者)”。“狂热者”们通常是不脱离现实的愿景者,对今天取得的成果充满激情,为明天创造出色的业务,并会不断为员工开拓发展机会。

很多出色企业的领导人都具备这种“狂热者”的特质,例如史蒂夫•乔布斯(Steve Jobs),杰夫•贝佐斯(Jeff Bezos),安迪•格鲁夫(AndyGrove)等,他们领导着强大企业意志的建立。“狂热者”们通常都拥有跳跃性思维,他们拥有独立的动机,对组织的成功抱有极大的责任感。在面对新的机会时,他们不会固守边界,而是会积极地通过战略性的“跳跃”来扩大业务的边界。他们多是魅力型领袖,通常充满活力、魅力和创造力,拥有强大的执行力和领导力,能够带领团队保持强大的向上的冲劲,最终取得成功。此外,他们也深蕴公司文化,懂得自己的企业在每个阶段需要什么样的基因、文化和组织体系,并会通过强大的执行力去执行和改造。













谢祖墀博士(Dr. Edward Tse)是高风管理咨询公司(Gao Feng Advisory Company)的创始人兼首席执行官。中国管理咨询业的先行者。过去的20年里,他创立并领导了两大国际管理咨询公司在大中华区的业务。外界评价他为“中国的全球领先商业战略家”和 “谢博士之于中国企业界就如大前研一之于日本企业界”。他曾为数以百计的公司(总部设在中国及其它地区)咨询过所有关键战略和管理方面的业务,涉及中国的各个方面和中国在全球的地位。他还为中国政府在战略、国有企业改革和中国企业走出国门等方面做过咨询。他已发表200多篇文章并出版了4本书,其中包括于国际获奖的《中国战略》和《创业家精神》。谢博士获得了加州大学伯克利分校工程学博士、MBA以及麻省理工学院的工程学学士、硕士。