SHANGHAI/MUMBAI: Becoming a parent drives Indian and Chinese women to work harder and earn more, according to a study which says Asian women should not be seen as docile home makers but as "an economic powerhouse".

Research by global agency J. Walter Thompson into "female capital" investigated the role of women as consumers and wealth creators around the world. A survey of more than 4,300 women in nine countries, including China and India, identified several Female Tribes, including one it termed "Asian Alphas".

Globally, it said, women can no longer be defined through the narrow lens of parental responsibility, and this was especially true in Asia where Gen X women in China and India are more likely than those in other countries to be their household's biggest earner, Mumbrella reported.

If anything, becoming a parent inspired them to work harder and faster than before: 87% of Indian working women and 84% of Chinese working women felt this, compared to a global average of 77%.

And women in these two countries also regarded themselves as being more ambitious – 69% of Indian women and 57% of Chinese women – than their male partners.

The numbers are reflected in the trend in Asian advertising to promote themes of female empowerment – highlighted in Warc's Asia Strategy Report 2016 – as brands come to terms with female consumer spending power, particularly among millennials. The trend is explored in greater depth in a series on Marketing to Women in India.

A recent report from Dentsu Aegis – In Top Gear: Women and Automotive Purchasing in South East Asia – makes similar points, including the growing proportion of women in senior management roles across South East Asia and their influence and control over spending in traditionally male-oriented categories.

At the very top of the earnings scale, Asia already has the highest ratio of female to male CEOs in the world, and two-thirds of female self-made billionaires are Chinese.

But such success doesn't come easily: JWT's research showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of women in China and more than a half (53%) of women in India felt that their gender had held them back from professional opportunities.

Data sourced from J Walter Thompson, Mumbrella; additional content by Warc staff