SHANGHAI – Everyone’s eyes on are Asia’s rise. China, once dismissed as poor and backward, is now the world’s second-largest economy. India, with its huge population, scientific prowess, and entrepreneurial vitality, is another powerful engine of Asian growth. Add to this Japan and South Korea’s formidable economies, and Southeast Asia’s dynamism, and a picture emerges of rising wealth, confidence, and leadership.
Yet few women in Asia make it to the top. Social norms undervalue girls and women, with sex-selection abortions resulting in an estimated 1.3 million girls per year not being born in China and India alone.
Still, women have benefited from Asia’s economic development. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011, rising prosperity has narrowed gender inequality in many countries. Women are making progress in health, education, economic opportunity, and political empowerment, which they can leverage for future leadership.
Furthermore, family and dynastic factors have helped to catapult women to the highest political posts. Indeed, Asia has had more female heads of state than any other region in the world, which, together with economic success for some, creates an impetus for change in perceptions of women’s role, status, and capabilities.