Curbing the waste of female talent
The evolution of views on the role of women has pushed them closer to their aspiration for equality in many parts of the world. But long after Mao Zedong said women hold up half the sky, this is still not reflected globally in the workplace - whether in salaries or business leadership - or in politics.
China, about which Mao was talking, is no exception. Culture and tradition have combined to preserve sexual inequality, even as the country has changed beyond recognition under Mao's successors.
The State Council is therefore to be commended for issuing a blueprint for narrowing the gap in politics and government by 2020.
Officials have set goals for women's participation at the grass-roots level of government; they should make up 30 per cent of village-level committees, 10 per cent of village heads and 50 per cent of urban neighbourhood committees. Government departments are expected to run training programmes to ensure women account for 35 per cent of senior professional and technical staff within 10 years. These are all sensible steps to take.
The Outline for the Development of Chinese Women also vows to stamp out discrimination in the workplace, where it say s40 per cent of the employees should be women. None of this is to say women have made no progress in China. They are vice-governors of all but three of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities; in 2000, women held that rank in fewer than two thirds of them.
But the continuing waste of female professional and academic talent - in the mainland, Hong Kong and Asia as a whole - must be tackled. This is certainly necessary for China to reach its full potential.
The detailed blueprint is welcome because progress can be measured against targets. There is even a requirement that the ratio of female to male toilets be set at a 'proper level'. Now efforts must be made to ensure that targets are met and that the position of women improved.