Leadership

What's it like being China’s top businesswoman? 'Lonely'

Photo courtesy VCG

In its annual ranking of the 100 top businesswomen in China, Forbes identifies "Iron Lady" Dong Mingzhu, Chairman and President of Gree Electric Appliances, as the most outstanding woman in business.

Mingzhu's husband died when their son was only two years old and she never remarried. Now 63, she makes no pretence at having any work-life balance. "Gree is my life," Mingzhu says.

In 1994, she joined Gree Electric as a salesperson and took her child with her on sales trips, she said at the China Manufacturing Summit in December, according to a transcript.

Her determination and fierce work ethic lead pushed her to break sales records. Mingzhu climbed the corporate ranks, taking the leading role at the company in May of 2012.

In her 26 years working at Gree Electric, she has never taken the company's "annual leave," she said in an interview with the China News Network last year.

"I paid all my personal pleasure. I have no friends because I cannot have friends." -Dong Mingzhu, Chairman and President of Gree Electric Appliances

Gree Electric is a household appliance company headquartered in Zhuhai, China, with 78,000 employees.

In the time Mingzhu has been in charge of Gree Electric, the price of the company's stock has more than doubled. When she took the top spot in May 2012, Gree Electric was trading at 11.4 Chinese yuan ($1.66). Currently, Gree Electric is trading at 25.13 Chinese yuan ($3.65).

The market cap of Gree Electric, which is publicly listed in Shenzhen, is 151 billion Chinese yuan ($22 billion).

But success has come at a price. She hasn't spent much time with her family. She never attended any of her son's graduations.

"My son graduated from kindergarten to university, to graduate school, I have not been to his school once," Mingzhu said at the China Manufacturing Summit in December, according to a transcript of her talk.

With power comes responsibility and sacrifice, she says. In her case, the sacrifice was her relationships.

"I paid all my personal pleasure. I have no friends because I cannot have friends," says Mingzhu, acknowledging, "This is lonely."