It is the world’s second-largest economy and the world’s largest labor force. It is China, and Intel is recruiting talented women who live there or want to return — women who are graduating from Chinese and American universities at nearly the same rate as men and who make up 40 percent of MBA students in top-ranked programs.
Even as Intel actively recruits technical and non-technical women in China, the company is realizing it has to focus on retaining them as well. While women’s opportunities in China are growing, they are dealing with cultural expectations that they are responsible for child and elder care according to Intel managers in China. Other issues include gender bias and travel time.
“It’s not easy for women to have a role in this [high-tech] industry,” said Helen Tian, operations manager of Intel Labs China and co-chairwoman of the Beijing chapter of Women at Intel Network, or WIN.
Still, women represent a rich talent pool that no company can afford to ignore.
Roz Hudnell, Intel’s diversity director, recently hosted a conference in Beijing and unveiled a report she co-authored titled, “The Battle for Female Talent in China.”
The report included data from 4,350 college-educated men and women in Brazil, Russia, India, China and the United Arab Emirates. Findings showed that women are flooding into universities and graduate schools, representing 65 percent of college graduates in the UAE, 60 percent in Brazil and 47 percent in China.
During her visit to China, Hudnell met with representatives from the United States embassy who are working with companies to develop a formal leadership exchange program to advance female leadership in China. The agreement between the United States and China is being led by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Liu Yandong, the highest ranking woman official in China.
“Businesses should be discussing diversity in the global context and working to hire and retain a workforce comprised of people with different perspectives, backgrounds and cultures,” said Hudnell. “It’s vitally important as we strive to get closer to end-users and capture new markets.”
Lara Tiam, Intel’s human resources manager in China, said that while there are millions of working women in China, a shortage of technical women exists. Despite that, Intel China managed to exceed its 2010 goals to hire more technical — and non-technical women — mostly for the assembly test facility in Chengdu and the new Fab 68 in Dalian.
“A big recruiting draw for women in China is work flexibility — the ability to work from home at least once a week, and the culture of flexibility that allows them to attend to family concerns as needed,” Tiam said.
Other incentives, she noted, are maternity laws that protect working women from the time they become pregnant until their child is 1 year old, and cultural norms in which grandparents often provide childcare for their working daughters and sons.
However, women who relocate from their hometown to go to Fab 68 in Dalian and Chengdu often lose that support system. In response, Fab 68 has set up childcare support for the working mothers. Both Chengdu and Dalian are currently exploring options to support children’s education as well.
“For our Technology Manufacturing Group sites,” Tiam explained, “60 to 70 percent of our recruiting is coming from recent college graduates, which the company affectionately refers to in its classic acronym language as “RCG’s”. We have an active internship program where employees spend from 3 months to a year with Intel before they graduate. We take them inside the factories and they learn the tools and the environment.”
“In China, a social stigma is attached to using professional help or placing parents in assisted-living facilities,” said Wang-Li Moser, general manager for corporate programs in Intel China. “That responsibility typically is taken care of by daughters, working or not.”
Tiam said that given the young workforce in China, Intel China is not currently concerned with a mass exodus of women (and men) leaving to take care of elderly parents. But the company is aware of this issue and working to address it.
Factors like the one-child policy in China — with many parents pushing their daughters to succeed “just like boys” — and dreams of a modern lifestyle with a spacious apartment and fancy car are boosting women’s enrollment at universities inside and outside China.
CiCi Li, a staffing manager for Intel’s China operations, visits a number of Chinese student associations at U.S. universities to persuade women studying abroad to return to China.
Li said most of these women would have preferred to stay in their native China, but there are limited top-rate university spots for the massive number of applicants. Plus, Li added, their parents are still back in China and many students want to be closer to home.
Li also meets with Chinese Intel employees working outside of the country who might want to return to their native land. Most of them left China to study, graduated, and then accepted job offers in other parts of Asia and the States.
Because Intel is hiring more women in China, participation in WIN is increasing, and there are now chapters located in every major China site.
Employee groups such as WIN help women in emerging markets build networks — one of the four pillars of success to attract and keep talented women, according to the report. The other three include finding talent early at universities; giving working women international exposure and providing plenty of support for families in the host countries; and building ties to clients, customers and communities.
“What I find interesting are the nuances and the cultural implications of what women are going through around the world,” Hudnell said. “In China, you now have women entering the workforce who are the products of the one-child policy, and the need for them to develop careers and take care of themselves and their own parents is imminent.”