What This Means for Your Business

recent release from the GMAT people showed two interesting trends for Chinese women – first, they are going to grad schools at a far higher percentage than women in other countries and at a much younger age, 25; and second that most are heading to Western universities. For most of the women quoted, they see foreign universities offering better educational experiences, especially for those wanting to work in foreign countries. India, Canada, the UK and Singapore are the top b-school destinations, according to GMAC.

Why should you care? Especially for small businesses, the finance function is growing in importance, especially as companies look to grow and expand into overseas markets. Finding a finance chef or just a good accountant for your business is critical. These young Chinese women are a pool of talent that savvy organizations should take advantage of.

International Experience a Must-Have

The GMAT findings also highlighted the value that Chinese students, multinationals and Chinese SOEs put on international experience. Unlike their counterparts in the US, Chinese young professionals are looking outside their home for education, work and life experiences. One reason is personal growth and fulfillment. Chinese women are keen on building their careers first and they appreciate the value of living and working in another culture.

The other reason is that businesses in China will continue to need capable finance professionals with global business understanding and real world experience as the economy grows and shifts to be more services-oriented. Chinese State-Owned-Enterprises prefer middle and senior managers that have international experience, which they usually get from business school and/or working in multinationals.

Graduating from a B-School Near You 

In the aftermath of the global financial meltdown, we discovered that funds and investments managed by women lost less than those handled by men; reinforcing the home spun truism that women are better with money. The surge of young Chinese women entering foreign business schools, tripled each year over the last three years, many in specializing in finance is a further proof point and one that companies of all sizes can leverage by targeting these upcoming finance grads as new hires.

As a function, finance cuts across all industries and with the increasing globalization of finance markets and regulations, even SMBs need to be multi-nationally experienced and globally aware. To tap into the coming flow of internationally educated Chinese women finance professionals, companies need to actively speak to their career goals.   Here are a couple of easy ways to get their attention.
  • Since most of these women are in schools outside of China, think local when looking at recruiting efforts on campus. But throw in some Chinese characteristics – like a networking get-together done in Mandarin with Chinese executives from your company.
  • Speak to your CSR directors and internal comms people together about tackling the perception issue and other things that matter to women, using social media and other community-based tools. Get your current female employees talking about why it’s a great place to work on Chinese sites; if you don’t know what weibo is – Google it now and get started.
  • Leverage Linkedin and industry networks in China. Groups like Girls in Tech China, which brings together young female professionals working in technology- not just engineers.
  • With the emphasis that Chinese place on global know-how, sponsor events that focus on the international experience and travel that your company offers.

Plan Ahead for Retention

Like their older counterparts, the soon-to-be graduating Chinese b-school grads will crave international experience, but do not typically wish to live overseas forever. The trend has been that most foreign-educated Chinese work overseas for five to seven years and then return to China, sometimes with their current employer, but most often to a Chinese SOE. To keep that talent in your organization, think about where that person will want to be in six years, and give them an opportunity to head home working for you.

Another consideration when thinking about where an employee will be in their life stage six to eight years out is family. According to the GMAT findings, the decision to go to b-school and work overseas is driven by their desire to build a career before having a family. But they do intend to have families at some point, and most will go back to China to do so.

For business schools and companies, investing in recruiting Millennial Chinese women into their finance departments is a smart bet. Especially for women entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses, even if they eventually leave your company for China, the relationship and connection that your business will now have in the Middle Kingdom is invaluable – former employer guanxi is often the best of all.