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A woman walks past the properties price listings on display outside a real estate office in Beijing, Sept. 10, 2007. (ANDY WONG)
A woman walks past the properties price listings on display outside a real estate office in Beijing, Sept. 10, 2007. (ANDY WONG)

Small Business Briefing

China dominates list of female billionaires Add to ...

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Real-estate boom drives profit

The September issue of the Hurun Report, a magazine and events business targeted at China’s high-net-worth individuals, discovered that seven of the world's top 10 wealthiest entrepreneurial female billionaires are Chinese.

In a post for The Guardian, writer Lijia Zhang attributes the findings to "Chinese women's strong work ethic, determination and aspirations to such success." Seventy per cent of the women in the country are working, one of the highest rates of female employment in the world. Working mothers, she adds, also have the support of grandparents or highly affordable childcare.

Topping the Hurun list was Wu Yajun, executive director of Longfor Properties Co, with a net worth of 42 billion yuan ($6.6 billion), who outranks Oprah Winfrey (No. 8). Of the five wealthiest women, four made their fortunes in China's booming real-estate market.

Chinese female entrepreneurs, however, continue to lag behind their male counterparts. Over all, only 11 per cent of the richest people in China are women, and they represent about 20 per cent of the country's entrepreneurs.

"Sadly," Ms. Zhang says, "there's still a long march before women can truly hold up half of the sky."

Influential women in marketing and PR

Susan Payton, president of Egg Marketing & Communications, drew up a list for Small Business Trends of women in her industry that are shaping the entrepreneurial landscape, in honour of International Women's Day. Lauren Fisher has, with her partner Niall Harbison, busted her Dublin-based PR firm Simply Zesty out of a house and into an office of 22, with major clients that include Vodafone and Sony. Canada's own Sarah Prevette is founder of Sprouter, a resource for startups, and she has been featured in a number of key media such as Inc. magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Wired magazine. Laura Fitton founded marketing company Oneforty, which last year was acquired by inbound marketing software company HubSpot. Rhea Drysdale and Lisa Barone co-founded Internet marketing company Outspoken Media. And Miranda Tan is CEO of MyPRGenie, named a 100 OnDemand Software Company in 2010.

Do we still need to ask these questions?

Two weeks ago Amy Schrier, founder and CEO of MISSION.tvI, wrote an opinion piece for Huffington Post, and asked: "Has a woman ever founded a billion-dollar (revenue) company?" It got a lot of attention, she says in a follow up, "both positive and critical." There's a "current in the women entrepreneur circle that feels we should not ask these kinds of questions. We should focus only on the positive progress of the many woman-founded companies out there that are indeed making great strides." In Ms. Schrier's opinion there's room for both, and failing to ask is no different than sweeping "why has a woman never been president?" under the rug. Aside from feedback that pointed Ms. Schrier toward some incredibly accomplished business owners, her column also led her to a report from The Wall Street Journal on "homophily:" a tendency for investors to associate with others similar to themselves. Angel investors, for example, are more likely to invest with founders of the same gender. "So part of the problem," she says, "lies not with the women or their companies but the demography of the investors themselves."

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

It's about to be someone's Big Year

Finalists have started arriving in London for the Your Big Year competition. Representing 14 different countries, they have been corresponding and collaborating with each other for months, and now they are meeting in person for the first time. Your Big Year, which attracted more than 60,000 applicants from 221 countries, gives young entrepreneurs from around the world the chance to win a year-long placement, meeting global leaders and captains of industry while working on a series of corporate social responsibility projects on six continents. Voting begins March 9. The winner will be unveiled at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Liverpool on March 15.

Pitch session for aboriginal entrepreneurs

Saskatchewan-born businessman W. Brett Wilson is teaming up with CBC to host the Boom Box — a program where young aboriginal entrepreneurs get to pitch their ideas. The top five will be pitched to Mr. Wilson in person in April. Three of the business owners will win money ($2,500, $1,500 and $1,000) to "take their ideas to the next level," and they will receive three months of mentoring from a local businessperson in Saskatchewan. Applicants are required to submit a two- to four-minute video by March 31.

EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

Tech culture fails to appeal to women

With almost half of all small and mid-sized businesses in Canada owned wholly or partly by women, the small number of women in technology start-ups can’t be attributed to a lack of entrepreneurial spirit or ability. So why aren’t more women in the tech start-up community? Barbara Orser, professor and Deloitte chair in the management of growth enterprises at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, says the image and culture of the technology enterprise have failed to appeal to women, who often view the prototypical tech business owner as masculine, aggressive and obsessive.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

The Rio connection

“When you cease to dream, you cease to live.” Gloria Rajkumar, president and CEO of SIMAC Canada Inc., had heard the famous Malcolm S. Forbes quote before, but it had never resonated more strongly than when she heard it spoken by his great-granddaughter, Moira Forbes, at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) in Rio de Janeiro in June, 2011. Here she relates more of her experiences.

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