By Yang Yao China Daily, Beijing / Asia News Network.
China's female entrepreneurs need to create networks to discover new opportunities and markets, and improve their capabilities, an industry insider said.
"The current networks for women are still weak," said Liu Ting, president of the Chinese Women's Chamber of Commerce.
"Building networks, and enhancing women's influence and credibility through those networks will help them address the limitations that are often found among the burgeoning number of women entrepreneurs, including the lack of business contacts, skill imbalances and the general gender inequality that exists throughout business structures."
According to Liu, there are around 29 million female entrepreneurs in China, who account for less than 20 per cent of the total number of entrepreneurs nationwide, which is lower than in many other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies.
Around 16 million of them are entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized enterprises. That is 45 per cent of the total number of SME entrepreneurs.
The chamber, which unites female entrepreneurs and enlarges their business opportunities, has set up business cooperation opportunities in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Vietnam.
According to a report released by Fudan University in November last year, 18.4 per cent of service industry entrepreneurs are women, while 9.6 per cent of manufacturing entrepreneurs are women.
Manufacturing requires more skills and funding than the service sector, where startups can be on a smaller scale and enter at a lower level, said Sun Jinyun, a professor at Fudan University School of Management.
In order to help solve the funding shortages faced by women looking to start their own businesses, the Chinese government has issued small interest-free secured loans since 2009.
According to Song Xiuyan, vice-president of the Secretariat of the All-China Women's Federation, the government has provided 11.3 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion) in interest-free loans that have helped more than 900,000 women start their own businesses and created job opportunities for about 4 million women.
The government has also supported women's entrepreneurial efforts through legislation and policy support.
The government has strengthened training and guidance work on enhancing women's vocational skills, and promoted women's economic empowerment through developing professional organizations and the introduction of specialized projects.
"China has the largest population of women in the world," Song said. "After three decades of opening-up and reform, China has entered a new phase with the need to change its development mode. During this process, the role of women in the nation's economic development has become more and more important."