Missing Out on a Real Estate Boom

As China sent it’s first female astronaut into space, women were also faced with the issue of forced abortions, which brought the issue of gender equality to attention. There are now reports that the gender gap is further widening, especially in the real estate boom. From Leta Hong Fincher in the New York Times:

Wendy is a sales manager in Shanghai, and until last year, she was in control of her destiny. Wendy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, had saved tens of thousands of yuan after graduating from a university and was about to realize her dream of home ownership by making a down payment on an apartment in Shanghai. Then her parents persuaded her to help her male cousin buy a house instead.

Despite China’s market reforms over the past few decades, most women still have little economic clout. Gender discrimination has prevented the advancement of women to senior management positions, caused the income gap between men and women to increase sharply, and shut women out of housing wealth as the government now tries to deflate a real estate bubble. China’s gender wealth gap is more than an issue of fair treatment. If left unaddressed, it may drag down the already slowing economy.

If parents have both a son and daughter, they routinely buy a home only for the son. That pattern of favoritism is troubling enough, but what is even more stunning is that some parents have declined to help their only child make a down payment on a home specifically because she is female. Instead, the parents of these women will spend substantial sums — often more than 100,000 yuan or tens of thousands of dollars — to buy a home for another male relative.

These stories illustrate just one way in which women in China were shut out of what is arguably the biggest accumulation of real estate wealth in history, worth more than $17 trillion in 2010, according to the bank HSBC.

Aside from dealing with gender discrimination and competition from male relatives, women are claiming that they are continuing to face discrimination in the workplace, according to the Global Times:

Yang wasn't the only female student who experienced gender discrimination while looking for a job. A survey that polled 2,000 women by the Shenzhen Women's Federation (SZWF) in 2010 showed that over 40 percent of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at the hands of employers.

The first regional law promoting gender equality in China, drafted last year by the SZWF, was passed by the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Shenzhen on Friday.

To enforce the new law, an institution run by the SZWF will be set up by the end of this year to deal with complaints from citizens, industry supervision and assessing policies for discriminatory clauses. It will also discuss affirmative action with companies in regards to employment quotas in certain industries.

The new law stipulates that companies that refuse to correct discriminatory behavior will have their deeds publicized in the media and will lose any titles or honors issued by the government, such as “best employer.” This process would be handled by the Shenzhen Human Resources and Social Security Bureau. Companies could also be fined between 3,000 ($472)and 30,000 yuan.

While women are missing out on the real estate boom, gender discrimination has also made it harder for wealthy women to find potential husbands. The Telegraph reports:

Johnny Du, the CEO of online dating start-up 51Taonan.com (IWantAMan.com), kicked-off his quest last month and aims to find suitable husbands for some of the most eligible women in modern China.

“I believe this is the first time [there has been such a scheme] only tailored for wealthy women,” Mr Du told The Daily Telegraph this week during a visit to Shanghai, one of the cities he is tapping for potential husbands.

Wealthy women also faced prejudice from men of their own social class, he claimed.

“Wealthy men don’t necessarily want a wife as successful as them. They want a good wife and a good mother but they don’t necessarily want a successful women because [they think she] will spend lots of time on business [but] not on the family.

Read more on gender discrimination and women in China, via CDT.