Imagine being trapped inside a cage. You would likely feel panicked and scared. Now imagine being trapped inside an invisible cage. Gender stereotypes continue to trap women around the world, and we often can't even see them.
People's lack of consciousness regarding the restrictions women face because of their gender, means that the inequality they face is continually perpetuated. Typically expected to be more devoted to their families, women have less access to opportunities in the workplace and their choices are often limited by the "gender expectations" of society. We must take action in order to break down the invisible cage that traps women around the world.
Entrepreneurship can strengthen women's confidence and push forward the idea of female labor force participation.
According to Payscale's Gender Pay Gap report, "Behavior that contributes to gender pay inequity is often the result of beliefs we don't even know we hold. We must become aware of these beliefs in order to correct subtle, discriminatory behavior and policy." Women deserve the same opportunities to pursue a better path towards career development, and should not be subject to subordinate roles based solely on their gender. But how do we work to change these beliefs and reach equal pay?
I believe that the answer to this issue in my country, China, lies in entrepreneurship for women. When faced with the opportunity to take on leadership roles in the workplace, Chinese women have high expectations, but low confidence. Bain & Company's Advancing Gender Parity in China report shows that 72 per cent of women in China have high expectations for their career paths in becoming an executive or manager in their workplace. However, the survey also shows that men in China commonly believe that they possess better leadership qualities than women, and such discriminatory thinking has reduced women's confidence regarding their capability in leadership roles. Entrepreneurship can strengthen women's confidence and push forward the idea of female labor force participation.
Embracing entrepreneurship will enable women to break through the glass ceiling and learn not to accept unfair treatment in the workplace. Right now, there are limited resources for entrepreneurship training in China, and these resources are often only accessible for highly-educated individuals. To make progress toward gender parity in China, I strongly advocate for entrepreneurship courses and related educational resources to be made available and accessible to women of all backgrounds and living conditions in China.
I, together with my co-founder, pledge to start a program called "Young Female Entrepreneurship Program," offering entrepreneurship training and resources for young women who don't have access to higher education. We will work to offer ways for women to learn specific skill sets that will allow them to become more aware of their entrepreneurship potential and develop their own career path with those skills. Through the training and mentorship we'll offer, these young women will learn basic financing, human resources management, and negotiation tactics, amongst other skills.
The course will be simplified and practical, and will incorporate lots of practice and interactive sessions to ensure that these young women acquire the skills they need. This is a small and easy step for every participant, but once women in China start to realize they have more options to explore and bigger goals to achieve, we will have made a lot of progress on the road to gender equality.
We will never know what the future will be like, the future depends on our actions -- let's work together to create a better working environment for women.
By Xinyu Hong, delegate representing China at the 2016 G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China.
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