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Women: The new rise of wealth and spending in a global marketplace

Edit: This post was written before my other one where I asked if anyone felt guilty for their success.

Some great points & comments came up in the post, and I realized I wasn’t clear enough regarding my position (blame it on amateur writing!!).

Hopefully this post helps clarify a bit.


This BBC World News – Changing Fortunes (New Patterns of Wealth), had a great Episode #4 on Feminine Power.


You can see clips from the episode, but I wasn’t able to get the full episode, although I watched it on TV on February 23rd 2013.


  • The #1 vector for global growth for the past 10 years has been women
  • Globally, $20 trillion is now controlled by women, which will rise by 40% over the next 5 years to $28 trillion
  • The richest women in the world are by virtue rich from inheriting or marrying into it, but the number of self-made women, is on the rise


The video profiles 3 amazing women with their incredible rise from poverty:

  1. Zhang Lan – South Beauty Restaurant Chain Founder and Owner
  2. Natalia Vodianova – Top supermodel
  3. Kalpana Saroj – Real Estate magnate owner


She used to be part of the Imperial Family but during Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, her entire family (she was a baby), were banished to the mountains.

They had nothing to eat, no milk for her as a baby, and she got rickets at the age of 3 from malnutrition.

She ended up picking and eating mushrooms that grew on people’s graves after the rain.

The family was eventually allowed to return to Beijing, and in 1989 she moved to Canada to live with her uncle. She made in one hour, the equivalent of one month’s salary in China.

She saved $20,000 2 years later, and moved back home to Beijing to follow her dream.


She lived in an 18 square foot room with 4 others in her family in Russia and if they had something to eat the next day, living day to day, that would be great.

For instance, they 1 box of apples and 1 box of bananas to sell on the street – they had to manage the Russian mafia, police, and pay everyone off.

Then they got into debt, and faced eviction, and at 16, she got a lucky break from an international modeling scout and went to an audition, and 6 months later she was in Paris.

After landing a Calvin Klein contract, she knew she had made it.


She now owns about $270 million in real estate in India, but in the 1990s she grew up with nothing in the slums, and her daughter still remembers the days when they had nothing.

She had her parents, her 2 sisters, and her brother, for a total of 6 people living in an area of 400 square feet, which included a counter for the “kitchen” and a wall in the corner to indicate it was a bathroom.

She wanted to be educated but the society she was in, it wasn’t important to educate girls, especially in India.

In the 7th grade she got married at the age of 12; her in-laws swore and beat her. Her father took her back 6 months later, and she tried to commit suicide by taking poison. She was saved by a doctor, and decided to change her life by starting a small sewing business and saving enough money ($5000) for a downpayment on a building that was overrun with gangs in the area, which later grew to $100,000 in value.

In a meeting, 4-6 men wanted to assassinate her, but one well-wisher went to her home, and told her to get out before she got hurt. She refused and bought a revolver (gun), which is why people call her “The Iron Lady”.


I am very, VERY lucky to live in a country, and to have grown up in a society that allows women to work and climb the ranks if they choose to.

$0.78 to a $1.00 or not, I am happy that there is a chance to make anything, considering that many countries don’t even acknowledge women as citizens.

It was even in the most recent times that we were allowed to work, and I think sometimes we forget that.

They’re in the background, covered, and/or non-existent in terms of economic power.

From what I’ve observed in reading about them, and watching documentaries, women in Africa, tend to do 90% of the work. They cook, clean, raise the kids, grow food, harvest it, and try to make a living selling what they’ve grown.

The men? They seem to sit around doing jack squat under the trees most of the time, blabbing to each other about their situation while their wives work their butts off.

Of course, this differs from country to country in Africa, but the main message I get from African women is:

In Africa, it is better to have been born a boy than a girl.

That’s just heart-breaking that something like whether you have reproductive organs or not, and something so natural and not at all decided by anyone, determines and colours the rest of your life.

Then you look at the Middle East where young girls are being beaten, raped and harassed for wanting to go to school and get an education, being called ‘sluts’ for showing their ankles, and you are ever more grateful for what you have, no matter how little it may seem to you.

Finally, you look at India.

In the video above of Kalpana Saroj who rose from devastating poverty, even she admits that they’re misogynists as a culture there. Women aren’t allowed to rise above their station, so to speak.

It’s tough to be poor, it’s even tougher to be poor in a country like India.


She’s not a millionaire by any means, and doesn’t even think she’s that lucky, but she grew up very much like those women, living hand-to-mouth, in the same kind of country with that kind of mentality of women being subpar to men.

There were many hungry days, she said, and I think her rather matter-of-fact stories stuck with me when I was a kid, growing up, and listening to how she lived.

There’s no posturing, there’s no whining, just .. matter-of-fact re-telling.

I couldn’t fathom not having anything to eat, and I would prod her and prod her to tell me what they REALLY ate, because having grown up with a full belly pretty much my entire life, it boggled my mind to think that someone could go hungry and not have the cash to even buy a banana to eat.

She could just look at me, shrug, laugh and say:

Whatever we could find, whatever we could steal from the neighbour’s trees, and what was given to us by the church and countries bringing food rations for the poor.

It only struck me just recently that I can’t even go 12-hours without eating to take a blood test, and she went days without food. I think I would have had to make do and accept the fate while trying as hard as possible, as most people in poverty end up doing, but just to imagine no food at all, is painful enough.

This is the reason why I am a bit soft-hearted to those who grow up in poverty (believe it or not).

They don’t have the same life opportunities to be with people who are all going to go to college too, and the groupthink is so different at that level. You aren’t thinking about going to college, you’re thinking about what you’re going to eat tomorrow, if your brother will be able to make some money, if you can sell those vegetables you grew for more money to be able to help feed your family.

When you take all of the above into account, it is a stellar accomplishment of my mother to have made it out of such dire, horrible poverty to a middle-class kind of life.

She made it, and I tell her how amazing that is each day that she did.

Her leap out of poverty is far greater than if I, a middle-class-reared kid, will reach the echelons of the upper-middle-class, even the 1% in Canada.

It is nothing for me to move from middle-class to upper-class, because the hard work has already been done by my mother moving from dead-end poverty to middle-class.

That is attainable, which is also why I am so hard on fellow middle-class folks who whine and bitch about their situation, and how they’ll NEVER become rich, without really knowing that it could be a lot worse (and it is, for a lot of women).

They don’t even need to think about where to even earn an income to buy food, and if they don’t want to sacrifice their little luxuries like driving a car instead of walking to the corner store, then they don’t get to bitch about it, if the solution has already presented itself.

All they have to do is save by sacrificing the unnecessary to reach their goals.

All of the above, makes me even more grateful for what I have.


  • Allison @InsomniacLabRat

    With all the talk about the difficulties women face in STEM fields these last few days, I do keep thinking “It could be so much worse. At least we don’t have our school water supply poisoned or have gunmen board our school transportation and shoot us”. Yes, there are biases, and I do think more could be done for women here in North America, but honestly… it’s not that bad. We’re (relatively) safe. We have opportunities. It might be harder, we might not be paid as much, but I can apply for, and potentially get any job in my field that I want. That’s just not so true in some places!

    (Not to ignore the poverty part, you make great points there, it’s just the woman part that really struck a chord with me with all this recent talk)

    • Mochi & Macarons

      YES! It really isn’t that bad. If you watched the video, you will hear that in India, they’re admittedly misogynist (I mean they’re rioting now for basic women’s rights, as in the right to not be raped and to be safe in Indian society), and here we can reach what we want with a little grit and determination.

      Not all fields will take us (some are really old boys clubs), but we’re slowly infiltrating.

  • Sarah Li Cain

    wow, I have a similar post to what you just wrote in my draft folder! And you are right, we should be grateful for the advantages we have. I am happy that my grandparents ran away to Hong Kong before China closed its borders during the civil war, or else I don’t think I would be where I am now.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I can’t wait to read it!!!

      When I was in Hong Kong, a lot of the newspaper articles were dealing with the issues of “mainland Chinese” vs. Hong Kong people.

      Found it interesting to read, mostly because it shows there’s a cultural divide.

      • Sarah Li Cain

        ohhh pressure! the pressure! lol! I’ll post the link once it’s done.

        I know all too well the divide between the mainland and HK. I have a bunch of friends from both sides and it’s really interesting how they view it. If you ever read about the divide between mainland peasants and people living in the cities, it’s eerily similar.

  • Nurhidayati Abd Aziz

    I love, love, love this post, saverspender!

    This reminds me a lot of my mother too, who told me when she was small that her family only had chicken as special meal once a year, and how she had to take a 1-hour bus trip to school every day and yet cook for the family when she comes home. She didn’t get to go to university, but managed to work and rise in positions as clerk at the Malaysian central bank, before she gave up her job for us at 35. Even then, she still managed to save for her retirement, get a degree after she was 50 and buy her own apartment in cash.

    If we as the new generation don’t consider ourselves lucky, I don’t know who else are.

    Here’s to you and all women! 🙂

    • Mochi & Macarons

      You’re welcome! I think a lot of us have the same stories (maybe not with our parents but with our grandparents), or at least, know of people who have had the same stories.

      This is also why it is equally important for us to fight to keep pushing forward, rather than resting on our laurels. The bulk of the work has been done, now it has to be finished.

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