The 3 Kinds of People in the World: Women, Men & Women with a PhD

Qian Liu seemed to always have a clear picture of what she wanted – a career with the UN, participating in an exchange program, and going abroad to get a PhD.

Born in Qingdao, China, Qian moved to Beijing for her college years. After a semester in Sweden with an exchange program (there were very few similar programs available in China at the time) she applied and was accepted into a Ph.D. program in Sweden. In 2009, Qian received a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Uppsala. She also spent a year as a visiting student researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

During the five years Qian was away, China experienced 12-14% growth. In 2008, China hosted the Olympics. The growing opportunities at home were enticing to her and she decided to go back. She saw a job ad in The Economist Magazine – the highly regarded group was setting up a new China service, and it struck her as something she would really like to do. She decided to apply and got the job.

Qian has now been with the Economist Group for six years as Deputy Director for Access China, Economist Intelligence Unit. “As more and more attention has been going to China, it’s been very exciting.” Qian said, I work with amazing people, analyze what is happening, and get my views out. I am very proud of the work we do.”

Qian was born in 1981 after China’s one-child family policy, and is a part of what has been called “the spoiled generation.” Growing up in an age when China was booming, Qian describes her “natural instinct of always wanting to learn more.”

“The key for me was education,” Qian said. “Both my parents work in the medical field. My mom is a university professor, my dad is a doctor, and they are very open-minded. When I was little, they taught me English. That helped me to open doors to the rest of the world. My parents believe that being well-educated is very important, and they have invested a great deal in my learning. They were very supportive of me going to university, my post-graduate degree, and my economic and social independence as a woman.”

Qian attributes her professional success to working hard. She also feels that she came back to China at an important stage of the country’s development and became part of it. She relayed that when she started up the China service from scratch for The Economist Group, she gave it 200%, devoting herself to build up the service and make valuable suggestions to headquarters. “Contribute more than what you are expected! You make the job what it is-That’s what’s important if you want to lead and succeed.” But, she also feels strongly that women should remember, “You are more than your job profile.”


Qian shared her perspective about working women in China. “Overall, the women’s labor force participation in China is quite high compared to many other countries. Part of this is because when the new China was established in 1949, women held ‘half of the sky,’ actively participating in schools and education. My mother was of that generation participating in the workforce. But, now people say there are three kinds of people in the world – women, men, and women who have a PhD. It’s discriminative towards highly educated women. There are many women who want to be a stay-at-home mom, marry someone wealthy and think they will be happier that way. Economists believe it’s impossible to compare utilities/happiness among different people. I strongly believe education is of critical importance for women. A better education gives women power, choice and opportunity.”


When comparing women in the U.S., China and Scandinavian countries, Qian had this to say: “Finding balance between family and work is very difficult everywhere. It’s easier for professional women in China, as women have their families to support in childcare. One can turn to parents or grandparents, bring up the kids and share part of the house work which make working women’s work-life balance a lot easier. Hiring a nanny in Asia is also much cheaper than in the US or Europe. Nordic countries support families with a lot of subsidies. In Sweden for instance, parents have 18 months of parental leave, and government’s child care program is of great quality, too. If you look at the statistics, its not about whether women can or cannot have it all. It is more about women and men allocating their resources more efficiently; investing their time, efforts and resources in their work, family and children.”

Qian continues to develop herself professionally, participating in groups such as Ellevate (previously 85 Broads), European and American chambers of commerce, and other local groups.

Erin Risner

Director of Community Engagement

Writer. Creative. Brand Strategist. Content Curator. Social Media and Marketing Maven. Passionate about connecting with women around the world and telling their success stories.