In recent years, we have seen a clear rise in the power of women. In the United States, six out of eight Ivy League schools are led by women, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, Brown, and Cornell.
Women executives are also emerging. Recently, one successful Chinese American woman who has come into view is Susan Li, who was just appointed as the CFO of Meta (formerly Facebook). Li, who is only 36 years old, is also one of the youngest CFOs in a large and well-known company.
In China, women’s achievements are also impressive. About 6.4% of CEOs are women, and even in developed countries, this proportion is only 5.2%. In addition, over 26% of CFO positions in China are held by women (compared to a global average of only 15.8%).
On this special day, we want to talk about why Chinese women are so outstanding and what their secrets to success are.
Asian American Women Outearn White Men in the US
In the United States, white men have traditionally held the top position in the workplace hierarchy, enjoying all economic and political advantages. However, recent statistics released by the US Department of Labor over the past two years have shown that white men not only earn less than Asian men, but also less than Asian women since 2021.
In 2021, the median weekly earnings of Asian American women surpassed those of white men by nearly 10%. The highest-earning groups of Asian American women were Chinese and Indian.
It is worth noting that while Indian men earn the highest among all ethnic groups of men, Chinese women earn more than Indian women.
This year, there has been a slight shift in the situation as white men’s earnings have started to catch up with those of Asian women. However, the gap is not significant, and today, on average, white men earn only $10 more per week than Asian women. (But Chinese American women still earn the most.)
Experts believe that in the past two years, due to the impact of the pandemic, many women have had to take on more family responsibilities, resulting in a decrease in their energy and time spent in the workplace, which has led to such a disparity.
Looking forward, as long as the world returns to normal and women are not burdened by excessive family responsibilities, Asian American women’s earning power can continue to rise.
Why are Chinese American women so outstanding?
The success of Asian Americans has been a topic of discussion in American society for decades. Today, a new branch of this issue has emerged: Why are Asian American women so successful?
Numerous studies have been conducted on this issue, and several reasons have been identified:
Firstly, research has found that compared to other ethnic groups, the Asian community emphasizes “sense of responsibility” and “self-realization of success.”
For example, a survey by the Pew Research Center shows that Asian Americans are more likely to believe that if you work hard, most people who want to achieve something will succeed. This idea is in line with the theory in education that people with resilience and a growth mindset are more likely to succeed.
Secondly, Asian American women have fewer children and have them later in life than women of other ethnic groups.
A recent graph has revealed the birth rates of different ethnic groups in the United States. It shows that over the years, the birth rates of Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Korean Americans have been consistently low, ranking at the bottom of the list.
Even in a country where birth control is easily accessible, Chinese American families still have an average of only 1.5 children, which is far below the national average of two.
When comparing the age at which women give birth, it was found that the majority of African American women give birth in their early twenties, Hispanic women in their mid-twenties, and white women in their late twenties. However, Chinese American women tend to give birth in their thirties, which is considered late. As a result, the percentage of Chinese American women having children outside of marriage is the lowest in the United States, at only 11.7% in 2018.
In addition, Chinese Americans have a tradition of living together with multiple generations in one household. Most Chinese American families have both sets of grandparents rotating to help care for their grandchildren, which provides a lot of support for the family. Although this lifestyle may not offer as much assistance as the “siblings and parents living together” model common among Indian Americans, it still provides more support than the “nuclear family” model common among white Americans.
Many white families have to rely on a full-time mother to take care of the children, while most Chinese American families are able to have both parents work outside the home with the help of their elderly relatives.
Chinese-American Women’s Success Secrets: Values, Education, and Gender Equality
In addition to having fewer children and delaying childbirth, what other secrets do Chinese-American women have to their success?
Firstly, the Chinese-American community brings with them unique values from their homeland – the belief that hard work is a part of life and a profession to be respected.
Chin, the President of the New York Chinese-American Association, stated in a media interview: “Most Asian Americans were not born in the United States, and they retain typical immigrant values – viewing hard work as part of life.” This has served as a great role model for Chinese immigrant children.
Susan Li, the newly appointed CFO of Meta, told Fortune Magazine: “My parents made huge sacrifices when they were young, moving to a new country with a different language and culture in their 20s… My father was pursuing his PhD while both of them worked in restaurants and cleaned houses to earn money…”
Secondly, Chinese-American women generally have access to better education.
Compared to other ethnic groups, Chinese-American families invest the highest percentage of their income into education.
A report by LendEDU in 2017 surveyed over 1,400 college graduates and found that even in the United States, 70% of Asian American parents provided financial assistance for their children’s higher education, with one quarter of parents paying half or all of their children’s tuition fees. In contrast, only 50% of parents from other ethnic groups helped their children pay for part of their college tuition.
Susan’s parents, like most Chinese-Americans, invested generously in their daughter’s education, even though they were not wealthy.
Susan said, “I know we didn’t live well back then. For a period of time, we had to share a three-bedroom apartment with two other families…but my parents always made me feel like I had everything I needed, especially in terms of education.”
Even when sharing an apartment, Susan’s parents scrimped and saved to send their daughter to the best public school district in the area. Susan said, “Looking back on everything my parents did, I feel like what they did was harder than anything I’ve ever done.”
New York Times Publishes Article Titled “How Much Asian-American Families Sacrifice for Education”
In the article, author Jingjing Xiao writes about her family’s sacrifices for her education. During the 2008 economic recession, Xiao’s parents bought a foreclosed farmhouse in Indiana, which they renovated over the next 10 years. Every week, they would make the hour-long drive from their home in Kentucky to work on the farmhouse. Xiao, who was in middle school at the time, didn’t understand why her parents were working so hard.
Last summer, as Xiao was applying to graduate school, she realized the true purpose of the farmhouse. Her parents had sold their own home and moved to the farmhouse in order to support her education. “Don’t worry about the money,” her father said. “We have a house for you.”
Xiao’s experience is not unique among Asian-American families. Despite traditional cultural expectations of investing more in boys’ education than girls’, Chinese culture has embraced the idea of gender equality. As a result, Asian-American families invest in their daughters’ education just as much as their sons’. In fact, according to researchers, Asian-American girls often receive even more emotional support and investment from their parents, particularly their fathers.
The Oscar-winning animated short film “Bao” drew inspiration from the warm and loving parenting styles of Chinese families.
According to the father of the director, Chinese-Canadian female director Shi Zhiyu, every scene in the short film is filled with heartwarming love between parents and children.
He recalls when she was in college, the school was far away from home. She would come home for the weekend in her freshman and sophomore years, but in her junior and senior years, she was too busy with coursework to come home. Every weekend, they would visit her and bring her food and daily necessities. She especially loved her mother’s scallion pancakes. To ensure that she could eat the hot pancakes, they timed the journey (a 45-minute highway drive), wrapped the pancakes in layers to keep them warm, and notified her of their arrival time before setting off. They never once delayed and always drove her back to her dorm.
There is also a girl from a prestigious university that I know. After graduation, she joined a famous technology company and received an offer of over 100,000 USD. The girl told me that there were two siblings in her family, and her father worked hard every day, while her mother also took two part-time jobs to enable both children to attend the most prestigious private schools (with an annual tuition fee of around 50,000 USD).
“My pocket money is more than my brother’s,” the girl said, “because my dad said it’s not a big deal if boys have poor food and clothing. Girls can’t be too disadvantaged.”
Not only do Chinese families not skimp on their daughters’ material needs, but they also have high expectations for them.
Susan Li recalled, “When I was in high school, Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State in the United States, which surprised me.”
“My father told me at the time: that person could also be you, and someday you can do it too.”
“Knowing that my father believed that I would be as important as Madeleine Albright one day made me feel very powerful and important. I am fortunate to have such parents.”