China career woman 'on the shelf'

China flagCareer women in China risk being left on the shelf because men are uncomfortable with their achievements, a UK study has found.

In recent years China's government and media have expressed growing concern over the sheng nu - literally translated as "leftover women" - women who remain unmarried despite having a good education and high-flying jobs.

Although westerners sometimes portray them as symbols of a newly liberated generation of Chinese women, the truth appears to be that many are traditionalists who struggle to find a relationship that works, said the University of Cambridge.

According to the university the women, in their late 20s or early 30s, are typically scorned for having only themselves to blame. The common belief is that they have overly high expectations for potential suitors. But researchers have found that the women want to marry but find that men reject them due to the conservative, patriarchal society they live in.

The 50 women interviewed found that men either discriminated against them because of their achievements or expected them to spend more time doing housework.

Dr Sandy To, who led the study, said: "During China's early reform era, management-level women faced discriminatory treatment in the marriage market.

"Four decades later, my research found that highly educated women in today's post-reform era still suffer from the same discrimination, as they are passed over for less-educated, less career-orientated women instead.

"Many of them want to pursue the traditional path of marriage and even end up seeking higher-status husbands in an effort to do so. Ironically, most are shunned by men because of their own accomplishments. These women can hardly be blamed for their 'leftover' status because they are the ones who are being rejected."

One woman interviewed for the study, a 29-year-old fund accountant with a UK master's degree, described how a potential suitor, introduced to her by her parents, backed off because "he said he felt that he had to spend a lot of effort to control me, so he chose someone else who was easier to control".

Dr To, who is now based at the University of Hong Kong, carried out the research while a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Her study was conducted in Shanghai between 2008 and 2012 and involved Chinese women from 14 cities.
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