March 8th, the world celebrates its 101st International Women’s Day…

Martha Dale, Director, Yale GHLI China Programs

As we reflect on contributions of women around the world, we should recognize the great opportunity present in China for women to make an impact in their community. Three million female Chinese students graduate from college each year. Women, who make up 49% of China’s population, now represent 46% of its labor force, a higher proportion than in many Western countries. Seven of the 14 women on the 2010 Forbes worldwide list of self-made billionaires were from China, and 32% of Chinese businesses have women in senior leadership positions, compared with 23% of businesses in the U.S.


Driven by ambition, loyalty and hard work, Chinese women have been assessed as equally competitive with men in the workplace. Yet there exists cultural beliefs and traditions as well as universally-held beliefs about gender and leadership which may ultimately work to undermine their ability to succeed as leaders.

Across the globe, working women face some of the same powerful, invisible barriers to advancement. In fact, The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report states, “No country in the world has yet managed to eliminate the gender gap.”  In most cultures, leadership is equated with masculine traits (decisive and assertive behaviors), whereas female characteristics, (being friendly, caring) can be equated with diminished capability for leadership.  Women in positions of authority who exhibit decisive or assertive behaviors are often considered abrasive or confrontational. Pay and advancement disparities continue to plague working women. Both men and women in Chinese workplaces report that women are treated unfairly because of their gender despite having full equality under the law.  

The Yale Global Health Leadership Institute (GHLI) brings Chinese health care managers together in programs to learn business and problem solving skills and to inspire leadership. Our programs place special emphasis on women’s leadership development in health care organizations by building skill sets, instilling confidence, generating professional networks and fostering mentorship. GHLI works to promote health equity and quality of care, especially in emerging market countries such as China where challenges to deliver health care are countered by the presence of an aging population burdened by chronic diseases.

The GHLI celebrates women on International Women’s Day and every day through its efforts to reinforce the leadership skills and expertise among women in the health care world striving toward an equal and empowered presence of women in the work place.
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