Clara Yan CEO of Benelli
Women in the Chinese motorcycle industry
The motorcycle industry, for the main part, has long been regarded a man’s world. Recently I was asked by FIM to write a report about women in the motorcycle industry in China and as I have recently written an article involving Ruby Zhang the owner of Fuego Power (Motorhead brand) I decided to have a further look in to the female influence on the industry. One of the biggest influences on any industry is the media that supports it and in China there is a huge female input in that region.
Lucy Cheng is the owner and editor of i-motor, the biggest Chinese language motorcycle media. In her opinion “There is no discernable sexism in the modern Chinese motorcycle industry. Females exist in every position from company owner down to production line worker and in every aspect of the industry including media (namely myself). If there is a lack of females in the industry at any time it is just a matter of their choice as opposed to discrimination. It is true that there are no Chinese ladies currently competing in moto-sports but then, there is not yet a big participation from men in moto-sports either in China. As moto-sport grows I guarantee you will see the emergence of capable Chinese women riders and technicians at race tracks.”
There are an estimated 200 thousand woman motorcycle riders in China, most riding scooters under 125cc. MaCong of the Chongqing custom bike society is an exception. MaCong relates “it’s quite rare for women in China to ride bigger bikes but I have been in love with Harley Davidson bikes for years. Finally last year I bought myself a soft tail which I had bored and stroked to 1600cc and the heads flowed. I love the sound and torque. I’m considering open pipes but I’m not sure because I attract a lot of attention already and I’ve had some traffic incidents with guys looking at me.” ZhongLi owns a small supermarket and regularly delivers groceries to her elder customers on her 50cc Lifan scooter. “For me the scooter is my main means of transport. I regularly change the oil and filters and tighten the drive chain because my husband doesn’t know how to do it! A lot of ladies around here get together to maintenance for the scooters and cubs that we ride, if we leave it to our husbands they would take the bikes to a mechanic, we prefer to maintain the bikes ourselves to save a bit of money!”
Zo Fu, Chief Editor of ChinaMotor Magazine reports. “More often than not, when I am reporting on a new motorcycle product the head of the publicity and advertising company for the motorcycle factory is a lady. Their knowledge of the new products is at least equal to the men that we deal with. It’s not just Chinese women employed either; I remember years ago Shineray employed a Swedish lady as the general manager. Recently a woman, Yan Haimei, was installed by Qianjiang as the CEO of Benelli”
Li Lian is an 18 year old assembly line worker at the Liyang motorcycle factory in Chongqing. She tells of her decision to work at a motorcycle factory. “I come from a poor village where the main employment if farming. Most young people these days have enough education to move to the cities and try to make our lives there. In Chongqing the main employer is the auto and moto industries (over half a million employed) so it was the natural choice. I was given full training and taught about the safety issues of the line. Like everyone starting out I have quite a mundane job, just connecting parts, but for the good and diligent workers there is the chance to learn and progress to the testing areas and the research and development department. Men and women have the same opportunities to progress and it seems that women are quicker on the production line!”
Zhang Lin is an export account manager for the Yingang motorcycle company. She explains the advantage of hiring females in the export department. “If you go to any language school university in China you will see that the classes consist of 90% females. I don’t know why but it’s invariably girls who prefer to study English and other languages which mean that there are many girls working in motorcycle export departments as they have the language requirements.”
Rio Wang CEO of Fuego Power agrees. “I wouldn’t think twice about hiring a female for any aspect of the operation. My general manager if female, and three quarters of the export staff are female. Their motorcycle knowledge is on a par with the guys even though they are a bit reluctant to get on and ride sometimes. I also find that they are generally more organised than the men and that many of our male customers prefer to do business with a lady!”
It’s not just Chinese owned motorcycle companies in China that hire females. High level female operatives are essential to the running of Harley-Davidson and Ducati China.
It’s not just the traditionally powered 2 wheeler industry that is graced by the fairer sex; the electric scooter industry also benefits. Yadea is the biggest EV export company in China and is captained by Nancy Zhou as GM. Nancy reports “as the EV industry is still relatively in its infancy there are huge opportunities for women as the industry has not taken a male-orientated culture in the same way as the standard motorcycle industry. It’s also the case that many women prefer to ride an electric scooter.”
To conclude it seems that there is no discrimination against women in the Chinese motorcycle industry, conversely, women hold some of the top positions and this trend is not likely to change.