An increasing number of women are breaking the glass ceiling in China, especially in the private sector
Ma Yingying says women are increasingly making their mark in Chinese business. The 33-year-old chief executive officer and founder of Lux Shine Media Company, which stages modernized performances of Peking Opera, says there is now a complete break from the male-dominated business environment of the past.
"There are many excellent female entrepreneurs around me. I also see that more women are starting their own business in today's China."
"I think women have many natural advantages. They are detail-driven, they have great judgment and they have an innate sense of how to negotiate. In ancient China, women were supposed to follow their parents, husbands and children around. Not anymore."
Twenty years after Hillary Clinton addressed the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing on women's rights when she was First Lady of the United States, there is now evidence of women advancing in business life.
According to the 2015 Women in Business Survey by business advisers Grant Thornton, there are now more women in business leadership roles in China than many countries in the West.
Nearly a third (32 percent) of business leadership positions in China are held by women, compared with 20 percent in the US.
China is, in fact, ahead of all major European economies, with Italy on 24 percent, France 23 percent, the United Kingdom 20 percent and Germany 16 percent.
African countries, although faring well by international standards, are also behind China, with Botswana on 30 percent, South Africa 28 percent and Nigeria 21 percent.
Latvia is the most female friendly, with 40 percent of its business leaders being women, closely followed by Russia on 39 percent in second place.
Former TV presenter Ma, who was speaking in her offices at the Kun Tai International Plaza in Beijing, says there has been a change in attitude in China as the economy has opened up.
"I do believe that marriage and family are not the only way women can show value now. The female of the 21st century is becoming more and more independent. They too can work independently and realize their potential, as men have done in the past."
Dominic King, global economics and research manager at Grant Thornton in London, who worked on the Women in Business research, says women have tended to perform better in countries where there has been a Communist legacy. Chairman Mao himself said: "Women hold up half the sky," in 1952, referring to their economic utility.
"I think that is the case with Russia and the eastern European countries and probably China as well. There was this Communist idea of getting women out working and making sure they were productive units of labor.
"Women from eastern Europe, in particular, are much more likely to study maths and engineering than their counterparts in the US, for example."
King believes that another factor in women playing a strong role in management in China is strong childcare infrastructure networks that are common in emerging market economies.
"People tend to stay near their families so their parents can look after the children, enabling women to go out to work. What we are seeing in China is these extended family units breaking down with people moving to the cities. This might make things more difficult for women in the future."
However, at the Media Creative Park, entrepreneur Scarlett Li says China is not necessarily such a benign environment for female entrepreneurs.
The 43-year-old founder and CEO of Zebra Media, which stages high-profile musical festivals, insists she has often faced open prejudice.
"I had dinner recently with a man from a very famous venture capital company in China and he told me straight to my face that he would not invest in any female-led business," she says.
"It is not the first time this has happened either. The first time was from a woman venture capitalist. At least they said it to my face. If I meet with another 20 VCs, they might not give me the real reason."
Li accepts such reactions are not necessarily discrimination but purely commercial.
Hillary Clinton made a landmark speech on women's rights in Beijing when she was First Lady in 1995. Provided to China Daily
Ma Yingying, chief executive officer and founder of Lux Shine Media Company. Wang Zhuangfei / China Daily
Scarlett Li, founder and CEO of Zebra Media. Feng Yongbin / China Daily
Yang Yaning, chairman of the Hong Kong Key Point Capital Group. Wang Zhuangfei / China Daily