Are Women's Roles in Asia Changing? Seventeen women from Asiamade the top 100 female leaders in Forbes' "World's Most Powerful Women" up from eight in 2010. Of the seventeen named to the top 100, four were from India, three were from China, two from Australia and one each from Taiwan, Myanmar, South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
Indiatopping the list with four is not surprising, since they have had a woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, but China being second with three is.
When Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed, "Women hold up half the sky" in 1949, women in China were supposedly freed to become educated and participate in political meetings.
They were not, however, freed of the responsibilities of juggling childcare and housework with work and other duties.
Although young Chinese women agree they are much better off than their mothers who worked long hours in the fields, the despair of being in abusive marriages leads 1.5 million women to attempt to take their lives each year with 150,000 of them succeeding .
The more educated women now sign prenuptial agreements and by law may sue for divorce. However, getting a divorce is still difficult since the men judges usually side with the husband who by law keeps the marital home after a divorce.
Although improving, real political and economic power still lies in the hands of men inChinaas it does in most Asian countries, as it does, for that matter, all over the world.
However, the Asian tradition of women being subservient in all ways to men is still a very strong influence in Asian society. Even in more westernized countries likeJapan, women are not as eager to become business owners or political leaders.
With new freedoms like marrying, the person of their choice, being able to get an education and having high paying jobs, come new worries.
In the somewhat more modern countries likeSingaporeandHong Kong, many educated women stay single, or marry later and have fewer children resulting in a falling birthrate.
Even in these countries there are men do not want women who earn more, are better educated, talk back and not in as big of a hurry to enter motherhood.
The biggest improvement is seen inHong Kongwhere women are half the population, more than half of the university graduates and 43 percent of the labor force.
However, these women are still working long hours while still taking care of the children and households. Some, however, are able to employ full time live in house cleaners or have parents who take a role in looking after the children. Many successful women have said they are lucky to have supportive husbands who understand the pressures of working and competing outside the home.
Even so, a Word Bank Study on Gender issues concludes:
"In most countries, women have experienced improved access to services and credit markets. However, despite the recent economic growth and changing social norms, dramatic gender inequities persist in South Asia...the political role of women inSoutheast Asiais limited, not legally, but by other factors such as substantial domestic duties limiting the time available to participate actively in politics."
It is clear, that Women inAsiahave come a long way, but they still have much further to go.
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