Cablegate: Guangdong's Glass Ceiling -- Few Cracks Showing

Published: Fri 22 Aug 2008 06:13 AM
DE RUEHGZ #0513/01 2350613
R 220613Z AUG 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Guangdong's Glass Ceiling -- Few Cracks Showing
(U) This document is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
1. (U) Summary: Promoting women cadres may be a priority for
provincial officials, but Guangdong continues to fall short.
Despite an increase in the number of women officials here, some
academics believe that the environment is not favorable for their
promotion; few women are actually given the chance to play important
policymaking roles. Discrimination, traditional attitudes and
women's lack of enthusiasm about entering government and politics
continue to be obstacles to breaking Guangdong's glass ceiling. End
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Guangdong Makes an Effort, Achieves Some Results
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2. (SBU) The Guangdong Communist Party Committee has strengthened
training programs for women cadres, according to scholars at the
provincial party school. In 1991, the school launched a special
three-month training program for women cadres. So far, there have
been 32 training sessions with 1,600 participants. According to
Professor Song Anchun, the curriculum is similar to that for male
cadres, but includes special subjects such as gender equality,
leadership, and women's psychology. He noted that most of the
program participants are women cadres at the section-chief level
from throughout Guangdong province and indicated that they have few
candidates at the more senior division-chief level.
3. (U) In addition to the party school program, the Guangdong
People's Congress passed the "Method of Implementing the Law on
Protection of Women's Interest and Rights in Guangdong" in May 2007,
stipulating that the government at all levels embrace gender
equality and ensure that women enjoy the same rights as men. The
2006-2010 "Plan for Guangdong Cadre Education and Training" also
attaches importance to the training and nurturing of women cadres.
4. (U) Guangdong is making progress in this area. In 2005, women
made up 40.5 percent of the total cadre population -- a 4 percent
point increase from 2000. Nationally, only 38.9 percent of cadres
were women in 2005. In 2005 in neighboring Fujian, just 37.3
percent of cadres were women.
But Only for Show?
5. (SBU) While these developments look good on paper, the reality is
less rosy, according to some scholars. Lu Ying, a law professor and
Director of the Women and Gender Equality Research Center at Sun
Yat-sen University, told us that Guangdong fails to provide a
favorable environment for women to advance professionally. She has
noticed that most women officials here are deputies and that even
the most capable women officials do not play an active role in
public administration and policymaking. She cited Li Li, Vice
Director of the Standing Committee of the Guangzhou People's
Congress as a prime example. Lu commented that Li Li, who clearly
deserved a higher position, was a model woman official who possessed
strong legal knowledge and had contributed to promoting government
transparency in Guangzhou, but her work was often underappreciated.
Lu concluded that the promotion of women to the deputy level is
often just for show -- a superficial demonstration of China's
attentiveness to gender equality.
What's Wrong with Guangdong?
6. (SBU) Professor Qu Ning of the Women's Cadre Training School and
Women's Vocational School, pointed out that Guangdong's most recent
survey on women's social in 2000 (the survey is conducted every ten
years) concluded that overall attitudes about women's role in
society were actually growing more traditional. Qu dismissed
explanations that the booming economy had enabled more women to feel
like they could stay home if their husbands were rich enough, noting
that this had not been the case in Beijing or western countries,
where women still took policymaking positions. However, Qu
commented that many women in Guangdong were more interested in a
good husband than a good job because they believed a rich and
powerful husband could be a conduit to a good job. Qu contended
that a lack of transparency in China's political system fueled this
7. (SBU) Recently, Qu asked a class of 100 female students how many
of them wanted to become government officials. Only four raised
their hands. According to Qu, the reluctance of the other 96 was
largely due to the belief that politics is dirty and like a
battlefield not suitable for women. In her work, she emphasizes
GUANGZHOU 00000513 002 OF 002
that more women need to be involved n policymaking. She believes
she is making some progress, having trained a number of women who
never thought about participating in government but who had gone on
to become government officials. Qu said she tries to persuade her
students that taking a government job represents a civic
responsibility and can be very satisfying. Convincing her female
students this is the case, she told us, is not easy.
Problems Amplified in Rural Areas
8. (SBU) Pointing out that women officials in lower levels of
government in rural areas are especially rare, Qu offered two
explanations: more discrimination in rural areas and the tendency of
women to leave rural areas and seek work in coastal cities. To
address these challenges, the Guangdong Party School developed a
correspondence education program to reach women cadres at the county
level and provided them the opportunity to take part in distance
learning on the Internet. Still, Professor Song of the Guangdong
Party School admitted that women's education in rural areas is still
lagging due primarily to discrimination.
Promoting Women's Issues or Themselves?
9. (SBU) According to Professor Lu of Sun Yat-sen University, the
China Women's Federation has made efforts to promote gender equality
legislation, but women leaders in the organization are unwilling to
push for radical changes due to pressure from senior leaders and the
desire to advance their own careers. She cited her own personal
experience as evidence. In the 1970s, she worked for the Guangdong
Communist Party Committee and China Women's Federation and had the
chance to be promoted to Party Secretary of Huiying County.
However, she chose to leave politics because she felt that women
officials had to spend too much time pleasing senior leaders rather
than helping other women. Lu believes that working as a researcher
and lawyer is a more effective way to reach women.
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