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Indiana University

A Woman in Business

Yuanhua Hu, a managing director at Hengyi, accepts a gift from IU Professor Scott Kennedy

In the United States, the issue of upward mobility of women within corporate ranks continues to be a relevant issue, often called the “glass ceiling.”

In China, we met several women who either successfully ran their own companies or had responsible positions at firms.

According to research by the World Economic Forum, for the first time women and men are entering colleges at the same rate in China. While only 20 percent of leadership roles in China are held by women, this is a much higher rate than many of its Asian neighbors, including Japan.

Among the people we met was Yuanhua Hu, vice general manager and human resources chief inspector at Zhejiang Hengyi Group Co. Ltd., a leading chemical producer for the textiles industry.

Founded in 1994, the company is one of the top 500 businesses in China. It has strategic partnerships with recognized names such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Mitsui and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp.

“Taking advantage of the collective power makes one unmatched in the world. Taking advantage of the collective wisdom makes one fearless to the saints,” reads the mission statement in a company brochure.

This includes the collective wisdom and power of women.

After studying at universities in Shanghai and Zhejiang, she came to Hengyi in 2002 for a human resources research project. She hired by the company soon afterward. Today, she is one of the firm’s managing directors.

She’s not alone. Thirty percent of the company’s managers are women, including its chief financial officer.

After giving a detailed presentation about Hengyi and answering questions from our panel of business, supply chain and political science professors, I asked her about this issue.

After firmly making the point that Hengyi as a company did not discriminate against women, she added with a laugh, “It is always easier if a man works with me, the Chinese say.”

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