Helping women to start businesses to boost productivity

Updated: 2013-05-20 07:38

By Chen Jia (China Daily)

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Helping women to start businesses to boost productivity

Women working at an automobile component factory in Jiangxi province. According to data from the All-China Women's Federation, China now has more than 30 million female entrepreneurs. They make up 25 percent of all Chinese business leaders. [Photo/Provided to China Daily]

Zhou Xin, a 27-year-old woman, is expecting to double her company's annual revenue to 20 million yuan ($3.25 million) this year from 2012 after improving her marketing strategy learned from a business course.

Zhou is the founder and owner of Tianjin Xinkelv Food Co, which produces healthy green and organic foods and develops recipes.

She founded the company in 2009, when she graduated from university, without any business management experience or knowledge.

"All things are difficult before they are easy," Zhou said. "When I decided to realize the business idea that I formulated when attending the university, I couldn't find any startup capital."

After Zhou's loan application was rejected by banks, she asked for money from a relative.

"As a guarantee, I secretly took the house property ownership certificate from my parents and handed it to the relative. The first loan was 1 billion yuan," she said.

As a food company, the most difficult time Zhou's business suffered was in 2011, when many steamed bread producers were mired in a scandal concerning use of colorants.

"Very few customers came to my shop at that time, fearing our products might harm their health," she said.

Zhou hung a poster outside her shop that stated that if just one product was below the required standard, then refunds would be made on thousands of quality products.

She also invited a food quality inspector to conduct tests on the food she sold.

"The high quality of our food and our honesty has helped to win back the trust of customers. It made me realize the importance of marketing, which I learned from special business training courses," Zhou said.

The food company's annual revenue was 1.2 million yuan in 2010. It jumped to 6 million yuan in 2011 and 10 million yuan in 2012.

"Now I understand how important funding and specific training are for entrepreneurs, especially for businesswomen," Zhou said.

"I became more focused, ambitious and goal-oriented in making strategic decisions after receiving this education."

Since 2008, Goldman Sachs has invested $100 million to provide 10,000 underserved women around the world with business and management education.

Validated data indicates that, globally, within 30 months of graduation, 83 percent of surveyed graduates increased revenues, 77 percent hired additional employees and 90 percent mentor other women postgraduates.

More than 2,000 women in China have or will be trained through the Goldman Sachs' global program.

"Investing in women is one of the most effective ways to reduce inequality and facilitate inclusive economic growth," said Dina Habib Powell, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and global head of corporate engagement.

"Business education can lead to more productive workers, healthier and better educated families and ultimately to more prosperous communities," she said.

According to data from the All-China Women's Federation, China now has more than 30 million female entrepreneurs. They make up 25 percent of all Chinese business leaders.

Among the female entrepreneurs, 60 percent have successfully launched their own businesses in recent 10 years. About 6 million of them are self-employed, the federation said.

Song Xiuyan, vice-chairman of the federation, said more women are starting businesses and thereby improving the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and promoting Chinese economic growth.

"Female entrepreneurs are playing more important roles in eliminating social poverty and driving technology innovation," Song said.

"However, they usually lack information about good business opportunities and are short of funds, something society needs to pay close attention to," she added.

Data from the World Trade Organization showed that women face more difficulties and challenges when starting a business compared with men. In developing countries, the number of women workers is 40 percent of the total labor force but their income is 20 to 30 percent lower than male workers on average.

Stronger potential economic growth momentum can be realized if more women can get work opportunities, the report said.

In order to support the female entrepreneurs, the federation, the Ministry of Finance and the People's Bank of China jointly released policies on lending small sums to support companies run by women. Since 2009, a total of 129 billion yuan in loans were issued, helping 2.7 million women launch their own businesses.

"The Asia-Pacific region will remain the fastest growing area globally and an anchor of stability in the world economy," said Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations' under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

"Women in Asia-Pacific often bear the brunt of lingering poverty and yet possess largely untapped potential as drivers of equitable and sustainable growth," Heyzer added.

"Entrepreneurship provides a uniquely powerful means to harness that potential and advance gender equality through women's economic empowerment."

A report from the commission indicated that output per worker could be 7 to 18 percent higher across a range of countries if female entrepreneurs and workers were to work in the same sectors as men and have the same access to productive resources.

"Restricting job opportunities for women in Asia and Pacific countries is costing the region an estimated $89 billion every year," the report said.