Chinese Investor Says Female CEOs Are Only Good At Giving Birth

“It's not because of any kind of prejudice. But just think about it carefully. What else do women do better than men except giving birth?”

“Rule number 10: we usually don’t invest in female CEOs.”

These words by Luo Mingxiong, founder of venture capital firm Jingbei Investment, stirred controversy in China earlier this month, yet days later, the investor is still unapologetic.

“If I could have had a chance to say it again, I would still list this as my investment principle,” Luo told South China Morning Post. 

He also added that women in the corporate world were as “negative an attribute as dishonesty or an inability to learn," but asserts he is not “prejudiced.”

“It's not because of any kind of prejudice. But just think about it carefully. What else do women do better than men except giving birth?” he asked his audience at a presentation in Beijing.

In fact, it’s not just female CEOs that he can’t stand. Luo said companies with male CEOs but female board members are just as undesirable.

His rationale for this rhetoric is this:

“Being an entrepreneur isn’t fair for women,” Luo said. “We, as male entrepreneurs, basically don’t have to spend time taking care of family and children, but which female entrepreneurs could do that?

“Meanwhile, women are different from men in terms of their strategy, vision and mentality ... Relatively speaking, it’s not easy to be a female CEO and that’s why we usually don’t invest in them.”

He added: “As far as I know, most investment firms in China hold a similar view.”

Chinese netizens predictably went nuts on Weibo, the Twitter-like social media platform in China. Some pointed at Jingbei’s wanting portfolio while others said Lou had “straight man’s cancer” — a phrase for sexism.

However, others actually agreed with the investor.

“I don’t think what he said is a problem,” wrote someone with the username “Xingqingfu Hualaishi” on Weibo. “As an investor, he has his vision and preference. He is free to do business with anyone he wants.”

Only 2.5 percent of Chinese women are CEOs as strong prejudices remain entrenched in China, including men defining what tasks women are good at.

Yet despite the discrimination, some female CEOs have high achievement rates. Liu Nan established an online baby store that attracted $230 million from investors like Chinese search engine Baidu. Zhou Qunfei, “the touchscreen queen,” has a glass company that employs more than 60,000 people, and her net worth is almost $6 billion.

Yet societal values still make it hard for Chinese women to rise to the top. Many women face pressure to marry early, preferably before they reach 30. Others believe young women are unable to focus and are not 100 percent dedicated to their jobs.

Brock Silvers, managing director at Kaiyuan Capital, a private equity investment firm in Shanghai, said “guanxi” (meaning connections) “is absolutely more crucial to present-day business culture in China than it is in the West,” and “women may be seen as potentially less effective at networking.”

“It’s just hard to socialize with bureaucrats if you are a woman, and the local guys will be automatically aware of this difficulty,” added Silvers.

Yet there are some women who believe Luo is missing out by not working with female executives.

“When I heard of Luo’s comment, I actually laughed,” said Pocket Sun, the founder of SoGal Ventures. “I was thinking to myself, ‘He’s missing out. We will invest in female CEOs and make returns from them. He clearly doesn’t see where the future of economy is going.’”

Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, Serene Wang

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