What do Brazil, Russia, India, and China or the BRIC nations have in common? Aside from the fact that they are emerging markets, they are also home to the most impressive female talent pool in the world. This is what economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett and management consultant Ripa Rashid found in their research which they cited in their book Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution. The authors found that not only are BRIC women getting well-educated and graduating from university in droves—between 15 to 25 percent of young women in BRIC have a college education— they also have high ambitions for their careers.
In a Special to CNN, Hewlett concretizes just how ambitious BRIC women are: “[S]ome 76% of Chinese women, 80% of Brazilian women, and a whopping 86% of Indian women aspire to the top job, compared to only 52% of their U.S. counterparts. Over 80% in Brazil, Russia and India love their jobs, versus 70% in the U.S.” What’s more, this ambition has apparently translated to success for BRIC women. Hewlett writes in The World Financial Review: “Half of the 14 billionaires on Forbes magazine’s 2010 list of the world’s richest self-made women are from mainland China. In Brazil and India, 11 percent of the CEOs of large companies are female.” Contrast this with the less than 5 percent of women heading Fortune 500 corporations and FTSE 100 firms in the U.S. and U.K., respectively.
Their research then clears one common stereotype so prevalent in the West: That the women in these male-dominated cultures are oppressed. On the contrary, Hewlett argues, their findings show that this is the “best prepared segment of the talent pool.”
But while they may not be victims, BRIC still face what Hewlett terms as family-rooted “pulls” and workplace-centered “pushes” that prevent them from advancing further at work—and depriving companies of the best talents that can enable them to compete in the world’s markets. One of these potential career-killers is eldercare. The authors found that in countries like India and China where filial piety is held dear, daughters are responsible for taking care of their parents and even “find it more difficult to subcontract their mother-in-law than their children.”
Gender bias is another workplace “push” that threatens the ambition and career advancement of BRIC women. Their abilities and commitment to work are constantly questioned and the long-held cultural stereotype that a woman’s place is in the home usually gets them passed over in favor of a man, especially when it comes to getting international work assignments that are so critical for career advancement.
Yet BRIC women find being assertive in these situations challenging. Culturally, a high value is placed on the submissiveness of women which can be crippling if she wants to advance in her career. The lack of sponsors and role models also aggravates the situation.
If companies want to leverage on the talent, education, and ambition of BRIC women then, Hewlett says, they must create “policies and practices [that will allow them] to flourish” and “ensure that…. [these women] get the skills and support they need today.”