by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 14 October 2007)
Humans always seem enamoured when they encounter people with money, power or fame. It usually takes a lot to impress me, but when I am impressed by someone it is not normally because that person has money, power or fame. A sharp mind and a good heart are what usually impress me instead.
However, I have to admit that I was impressed by money this week when I read that the richest person in China is a woman. Yang Huiyan, the 26-year-old daughter of a self-made real estate tycoon, is worth a US$16 billion fortune.
In a nation where it is still desirable to have a boy instead of a girl so the family can depend on the male to care for the parents later in life (China has a one child policy for population control), this is a remarkable accomplishment for a woman to achieve the position of a billion dollar heiress.
Perhaps I am so impressed because we just do not read much about rich Asian women and I suppose my ignorant assumption has always been that we do not hear about them because there are none. Then bam, the richest person in China is a woman. Way to go, girl!
The British author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, is another woman who has recently made her mark on the world as one of the richest people in England. Rowling was a poor single mother who used her fantastically creative mind make her filthy rich.
Oprah Winfrey has been on the rich list for a few years now. Winfrey made her money on television and although she is not overly aesthetically pleasing, she used her “womanly” attributes to express a caring and nurturing persona that won over millions of women around the world.
Women are the ones who made Oprah rich. A majority of those who watch her show and buy her magazines are female. Women trust her to be open and honest about her struggles in life – as well as her triumphs. Women can identify with her. Oprah has now moved into a philanthropic phase with her money.
I remember when I first heard about Oprah’s wealth. I was surprised because women just did not make that kind of money. However, things have changed and when I heard about Rowling’s wealth I was not the least bit surprised, just highly pleased. There are rich women galore nowadays.
So why should I care about a rich heiress in China? Because this is history in the making. It was not too long ago when women did not get inheritances. The sons got the family money. Even if a woman received an inheritance from her father, she was not allowed to oversee the money. Her husband was the one to make all the legal decisions about the woman’s inheritance.
In fact, this demeaning custom is still practiced in far too many cultures today. However, I have hope that if China, a nation where female foetuses are killed every day simply for not being male, has the capacity to allow the richest person in that nation to be a woman, there is certainly hope for the rest of the world as well.
It is only a matter of time now before women begin to top the list of the world’s richest people. This year, Forbes Magazine named the richest person in the world to be a man from Mexico who made his money in the telecom business. He is worth US$59 billion.
I was mildly impressed with this man’s story simply because he is from Mexico and because someone had finally taken Bill Gates spot at the top of the list. However, I was far more impressed with China’s richest person.
I have no desire to make tons of money. If I did, I certainly would not be a columnist. No one ever goes into journalism to be rich because this career does not pay the big bucks it takes to become a tycoon. However, I do have one great desire that never seems to fade – to one day see gender equality as a norm worldwide.
When a Chinese woman becomes the richest person in her nation, I know my dream of gender equality is getting closer to coming true.
Still, I do wonder where the richest woman in Guyana would fall on a list of the nation’s wealthiest people. Would she be five on the list? Would she be 50 on the list? Or would she be 500 on the list?