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Dispelling gender discrimination myths in Asian business

Many hold the belief that China is still a male-only playing field in the business world, while in actuality, times have changed.

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“Heavy Man, Light Woman”

I remember when I first learned the concept of the “son-preference phenomenon.” My Chinese teacher was adamant about drilling into our Western minds the concept of gender discrimination and how it applies to all walks of life in China, including business. In her defense, she was trying to prepare us for a life overseas, albeit a life from the 80’s.

We understood these grand ideas of China being a patriarchal society and the impacts of the “Family Planning Policy,” but what we didn’t realize was just how much of the ancient ideologies were falling by the wayside as more and more Chinese were not only being educated overseas but were emulating the Western life.

How the Cultural Revolution Catapulted Chinese Feminism

What many foreigners don’t know is that prior to China’s “Open Door” policy of the 1980s, China has had a very strong feminist agenda since the “Great Leap Forward,” a precursor to the “Cultural Revolution” in the 1950s. Economic changes were just the tip of the iceberg. Many social changes were introduced that drastically changed China practically over night (or at least over the course of a decade).

The “Great Leap Forward” was just that, and it ushered in new concepts such as the importance of female education (even in rural countrysides), increased female voice and rights (freedom to divorce at will), refusal to practice foot-binding, and sexual freedoms that were previously frowned upon.

My favorite quotes from Mao’s “Little Red Book” can be found in chapter 31-the Chapter on women. Quotations such “Men and women are equal” and “Women hold up half the sky” found as early as 1949 show that the socialist and communist ideologies bolstered equality for women not only in society but also in the workplace.

Girls compete, too!

We all see how Chinese women dominate sports at the Olympics (gymnastics, swimming, badminton, etc.), but women are being elevated to equal standing as men in the workplace. Just last Friday, the first Chinese woman astronaut returned from space. Granted, China is still male-dominated in terms of executive level employees, like most countries are. But with the remaining feminism from the cultural revolution, it is common to see women in management positions abroad.

In my own personal experiences in working in China, I was able to see firsthand how my own antiquated ideas from high school Chinese class were hindering my success. While there is still much debate about foreign women having more freedoms than local women, the fact still remains that women can and do compete in the current Chinese business landscape.

On more than one occasion, I have been welcomed to business dinners by being offered the “seat of importance” or offered baijiu* and cigarettes (normally in social settings reserved for men). It’s important to keep in mind that just as you would see a female VP or bank executive in the states, chances are that you’ll run into more of them in China merely due to scale and population size. While gender roles are still present, women do in fact still hold up half the sky alongside men.

Key takeaways

Gender discrimination and gender roles should not be confused. Prominent gender roles still exist (nurturing mothers, working fathers, social responsibility, etc) but women and men have equality in the work space.

*baijiu – “white liquor” typically made from rice with a higher alcohol content than vodka

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

Business News

Walmart+ hopes to beat Amazon at their own game

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has long been trying to become a serious Amazon competitor. Is their new membership program the edge they need to make that happen?

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Walmart grocery

We at AG have been watching Walmart’s moves in the online grocery shopping market for a while now. Their latest attempt to usurp Amazon’s throne is called Walmart+, and it’s being billed as a competing service to Amazon Prime. For $98 per year, they’re offering perks like same-day home delivery from stores and discounts on fuel. Walmart+ is promising, but whether it will truly rival Prime remains to be seen. They’ve tried a few times now, but Walmart has yet to substantially threaten Amazon’s near-monopoly on internet retail.

In 2016, Walmart rolled out Jetblack, a startup from their Walmart Labs incubator, that offered a text message-based shopping experience. Jetblack charged an eye-popping $50 monthly membership fee and, perhaps because of this, it drew very few users. Jetblack was scrapped in May of this year, but not before hemorrhaging $2 billion. Reportedly, Walmart was losing nearly $15,000 yearly per member.

…Ouch.

Way before this, Walmart Labs also introduced a short lived food box subscription service – remember those? They called it Goodies Co., and it barely lasted a year before being killed in 2013.

Now flash forward to one year ago when Walmart submitted a patent for what they dubbed the “Fresh Online Experience”. This came after Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods brought the two retail behemoths into direct competition.

The FOE system would incorporate real images and 3D scans of store products. The patent goes on to propose that employees filling these online orders will photograph individual fresh items like produce or meat, presumably in order to build consumer confidence in their quality when buying online, rather than in person. However, this has the potential to be a labor-intensive and slow process for stores, and it remains to be seen if this will be worth it for Walmart.

It’s unclear exactly how much Walmart+ intends to take out of the Amazon Prime playbook. It hasn’t announced features like video and audio streaming, for instance. Certainly they’ll have big plans for incorporating the “Fresh Online Experience” in there somehow, and that could be a game changer for Walmart.

One thing is for sure, though: Walmart+ faces an uphill battle to climb out of Amazon Prime’s shadow. Honestly, it’s just hard to imagine Walmart really competing with an entity like Amazon. Roughly 40% of all online purchases in the U.S are made on Amazon, and it is almost synonymous with the concept of buying stuff on the internet in general.

Yet, it’s difficult to discuss Amazon’s success without also thinking about the enormous elephant in the warehouse that enables it; Amazon is becoming increasingly notorious for having inhumane working conditions. Their treatment of employees has incited boycotts and protests, most recently due to the company allegedly ignoring COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in their warehouse facilities. And spoiler alert, Walmart also exploits their workers. If there’s going to be a big, exciting disruption in online shopping any time soon, it’s hopefully going to be an ethical one.

Either way, it’s about time we stop thinking of Amazon as king of the jungle. Consumers and workers are begging for a change, and it’s only a matter of time until the right challenger steps forward. But let’s face it… that’s probably not going to be Walmart.

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Business News

Walmart teams up with ThredUp: The online market for second-hand fashion is heating up

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has teamed up with a new partner to sell second hand clothes online, hopefully this partnership works out better than the last.

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In the beginning of May, Walmart announced its collaboration with ThredUp, the online secondhand fashion giant. The deal now allows users who order off ThredUp, through Walmart, to take advantage of big-box perks, such as free shipping and convenient returns at local franchises.

The alliance of the two stores is a good business deal for Walmart, whose effort to enter the fashion market has failed despite numerous attempts to embrace millennials. Walmart recently had no choice but to cut its losses and cancel a deal they made in 2018 with Jetblack, a text-based, world-at-your-fingertips shopping experience. The dominant grocery supermarket has also teamed up with notable celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Kristen Bell, and Sofia Vergara to create fashion brands, but failed to create high traffic volume.

So, the attempt to pick up their clothing sales yet again may seem pointless. However, the difference with this deal is that, instead of investing (serving as a potential risk to lose capital), Walmart PARTNERED with ThredUp. Walmart is essentially opening up its fashion market, exchanging its notoriety for variety, while giving light to a smaller fish in the sea (ThredUp). It’s a win-win for both companies.

The collaboration does come with a price to smaller businesses whose doors have been forced shut due to the recent pandemic. The closures and restrictions have created a lack of game in the fashion market right now, and Walmart was quick to pick that up, expanding their clothing department and online services, at juuuuust the right time. For Walmart, a company that’s been looking to expand, this was the perfect opportunity.

Small thrift shops depend on in-person shopping, and many heartened thrifters believe the experience of secondhand buying can’t be replaced online. There’s something about walking into a hard to find, crowded thrift store, spending $9 and leaving with the two tops meant for you that you just can’t get online. The collaboration of Walmart and ThredUp do however, open up the door for secondhand fashion to many who would usually overlook the option. As so, as many other retailers watch what Walmart does, hopefully the partnership will also inspire a commercial way to expand into an eco-friendly, sustainable fashion market among other companies.

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Business News

Amazon sellers’ information will now be available to stop scams

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon cracks down on scammy sellers in the U.S by requiring sellers to list their real names and addresses on their accounts.

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Amazon scams

A Department of Homeland Security report to the President from January 2020 states, “Counterfeiting is no longer confined to street-corners and flea markets.” The report estimates that counterfeits made up over $500 billion in sales internationally in 2016. As one of the biggest third-party platforms, Amazon has one of the most “notorious” counterfeit problems, at least according to The Motley Fool. Even though they spent over $500 million in 2019 to combat fraud and abuse, the problem has not abated.

Seller information will be available to consumers.

Amazon recently announced to its sellers that effective September 1, a seller’s business name and address will be displayed on the Seller Profile page. This information is already made available to consumers in Europe, Japan, and Mexico. According to the announcement, Amazon is “making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.”

The United States makes up the biggest proportion of Amazon’s sellers. This move is to provide transparency, not only to consumers, but also to brands who are trying to go after counterfeits. The Washington Post reports, “”For Amazon to do this is a big deal,” said Rob Dunkel, CEO of the data analytics firm 3PM Solutions, which works with brands to spot counterfeits online.”

Consumers should still be on guard when shopping on Amazon.

This move by Amazon doesn’t mean that consumers can afford to let their guard down. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Before ordering from a third-party seller, check their reviews…not the product reviews, but the seller’s reviews.
  • As with any seller, if a price seems to be good to be true, it’s probably fake. Don’t buy from new accounts, especially those with thousands of items listed.
  • Look for “Fulfilled by Amazon” when using third-party sellers. Make sure the “A” is capitalized. Fulfilled by Amazon means that the item is shipped to one of their fulfillment centers. It’s a little safer when ordering from a third-party seller.
  • Always use Amazon for communications and transactions. This gives you some protection if you do get scammed.
  • Don’t give out your personal information to sellers as Amazon doesn’t require this.
  • Also, watch out for payment scams.

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