What Are the Gender Roles for Women in China?

Women in China traditionally were subordinate to men, though they held some sway in their home. Rapid development in China in the late 19th century shifted issues that women faced, with many pursuing careers outside the home, but many modern Chinese still feel that women don't belong in the workplace.

Between the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the role of women shifted, but many remained dependent on their husbands or fathers. Some employers hired women for jobs traditionally held by men, but the late 1990s saw a resurgence in a "Women Return to the Home" movement. Women were encouraged to quit their jobs and resume more traditional gender roles. And between 1990 and 2010, Chinese attitudes toward women in the workforce shifted, with most believing that men belong in public and women belong at home, according to a 2010 All-China Women's Federation and National Bureau of Statistics study.

In 2008, China's Central Government has encouraged civil service organizations to hire more women. Despite a large gap between the number of women and men who hold leadership or government positions, the 2010 United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report ranked China just below the United States in terms of its "Gender Equality Ranking."

A 2010 Census found that 74 percent of women worked overall, but in more urban areas, only 60.8 percent of women work. Women work less than men because employers hire a disproportionate number of men, and when layoffs occur, women tend to get pink slips first, says Leta Hong Fincher, author of "Leftover Women," which tracks a resurgence in social and economic discrimination against women in China.