Govt fosters female power

BEIJING – The number of women in authority will be boosted over the next five years as part of package of measures to improve gender equality in the capital.

According to a new plan, female candidates will hold at least one leadership role in each government department and account for at least 30 percent of the city’s representatives in the Communist Party of China, Municipal People’s Congress and the Beijing municipal committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Official figures show women already make up roughly 20 percent of all officials at city-level bureaus. However, gender inequality still remains a major hurdle for those wanting to rise the ranks.

“The higher the rank, the fewer female leaders there are,” concluded a recent report by the Beijing Women’s Federation.

The 12th Five-Year Plan on Women’s Issues (2011-15), which was unveiled at a news conference on Friday, also sets a quota for lower levels of government, requiring women make up at least 10 percent of village heads and more than 40 percent of community workers.

Authorities are also considering raising the mandatory retirement age for professional women, such as doctors and lawyers, said Zhou Jing, an official at Beijing’s committee on children and women.

At present, women must retire at 55 years old, “but in the future they may be able to talk to their employers about delaying the date”, she said.

The plan pledges to continue the support being given to female entrepreneurs through the government’s 928 help centers and a special fund offering small startup loans.

Zhou also added that work to eliminate discrimination in the job market and to ensure employment opportunities for disabled women will be stepped up.

Discrimination remains a major issue for female college students, with studies showing that a large proportion have experienced difficulties.

Cao, a 25-year-old Renmin University of China graduate who did not want to be identified for fear of upsetting potential employers, said she had to leave the gender box blank on her application and “forgot to send a photo” in order to get an interview for a human resources position at a bank open only to men.

Although she eventually got an offer, she felt the opportunity could easily have vanished because of her gender.

“I wasn’t expecting to hear anything back, but I knew I wouldn’t ever get it if I didn’t try,” she said.

In a graduate job market where many posts are open only to men, Cao’s case is far from unique.

A survey of more than 2,000 female college graduates by the Beijing Women’s Federation found more than 60 percent complained of discrimination.

Many of those polled said they had heard potential employers say during interviews: “If only you were a man.”

Jiang Tuo contributed to this story.

China Daily

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