How Can Confucian Philosophies Contribute to Gender Equality in Chinese Organisations?

Gao, Xiaoyuan
Staniland, Nimbus
Thien, George
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

At present, gender inequality still exists in some Asian countries, especially China. Existing gender inequality and lack of solutions to gender inequality continue to exist in Chinese organisations, affecting the career development of women. One of the most recognised and controversial contemporary Eastern philosophies concerning gender equality is Confucianism. Previous research has accused Confucian philosophies of teaching women’s subordination to men (Li, 2000; Truong, 2013). However, the Confucian role has also been seen as a positive influence on the role of women through its reciprocal and respectful elements. In an organisational context, Confucian moral principles have been attributed with helping managers and employees regulate their own behaviours, such as self-regulation, justice and wisdom, in order to maintain management ethics. This study will attempt to identify how insights from Confucian philosophies can improve gender equality in Chinese organisations.

A qualitative, interpretive approach was applied for this research. Participants were selected based on their expert knowledge and experiences with Confucian philosophies. Through online semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis of transcripts, this study highlights the potential contributions of Confucian philosophy to improve gender equality in Chinese organisations.

The findings of this research highlight that Confucian experts believe the original intention of Confucianism was not to discriminate against women, and the participants had various thoughts on how Confucius principles could influence management practice and gender equality. Specifically, promoting benevolence and love, non-discrimination in education, and harmony, can have an impact on valuing women in Chinese organisations. Confucian principles advocate positive social norms for behaviour in wider society and the workplace specifically. This research suggests that combining applying Confucian principles to management practice can enable a principled approach to management and leadership that can support greater gender equality, improving pathways and experiences for women in Chinese organisations.

Confucian philosophies , gender equality , gender inequality , Confucian principles , Management , Chinese organisations
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