More than half the world’s richest self-made women are Chinese, thanks in large part to Mao and cheap childcare, according to the Hurun Report, which compiles information on the wealthiest Chinese.
The world’s three richest women are Chinese – as are 11 of the top 20 – according to the Hurun List of Self-Made Women Billionaires, published on Tuesday.
Zhang Yin, 53, the Chinese head of a recycled paper company, Nine Dragons Paper, ranks as the wealthiest self-made woman on earth with an estimated personal fortune of $5.6 billion. Wu Yajun, 46, of Longfor Property, comes in second with $4.1 billion and Chen Lihua, 69, of Fuhua International, a Hong Kong conglomerate, ranks third with $4 billion.
The richest non-Chinese is Spaniard Rosalia Mera of Zara, the fashion house, with $3.5 billion, and two others who made their fortunes in fashion: Doris Fisher for Gap is eighth and Giuliana Benetton of Benetton is 11th.
Oprah Winfrey, the US television show host, ranks ninth with $2.3 billion.
Nandani Lynton, of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, identified political and social factors for making a scrap paper lady from China richer than the doyennes of Zara, Gap, Benetton andEbay.
“Mao made an incredible difference when he said women hold up half the sky, since then it has been assumed that all women in China will work,” Ms Lynton said.
Chinese women are also among the most ambitious on earth, according to a study from the Centre for Work-Life Policy in New York, which found 76 per cent of women in China aspired to top jobs, compared with 52 per cent in the US.
Working mothers in China and other Bric countries “are able to aim high, in part because they have more shoulders to lean on than their American and European peers when it comes to childcare”, the centre noted. With an average work week of 71 hours for Chinese women, cheap childcare is essential, and in China is often provided by grandparents – four for every only child.
Nandani Lynton noted that it was not just the availability of cheap or free childcare but also the absence of any stigma attached to using it that helped Chinese women dominate the global rich lists.
Still, compared to Chinese men, women still lag behind. According to Hurun, only 11 per cent of the richest people in China are women and the average wealth of China’s top 50 richest women is only a third that of the top 50 richest men.