Dong Mingzhu, 61, is China’s most successful businesswoman as the leader of the $22 billion air-conditioning giant Gree.
She also allegedly has not taken a single day of paid holiday leave in a 27-year tenure at the company, according to Quartz.
Mingzhu hit the headlines this week after Forbes China released its annual list 100 Top Businesswomen.
At the top of the ranking is 61-year-old Dong, where her company Gree makes $12 billion a year in revenue.
In China, she is famously known as “Sister Dong” and her career path has certainly been an interesting one.
She arrived at Gree as a salesperson in 1990, when annual sales amounted to little over £10 million, and quickly rose up the ranks as she marked herself out as a fiercely hard worker.
Fast-forward 26 years, and Gree is the largest air-conditioning manufacturer in the world, its stock value having grown by 2,300 percent under her leadership. Sales of Gree units account for two in every five sold in the country, and it has a market capitalisation of over £17.8 billion.
Described by The New York Times as “one of the toughest businesswomen in China,” her formidable example has won her the loyal devotion of the firm’s 70,000-strong army of employees.
One employee told The Telegraph in 2009: “She’s been through everything herself. We never dare to say that something is impossible in front of her. We must all have her will to succeed.”
“Where Sister Dong walks, no grass grows” and “when she chews you up, she doesn’t even spit out the bones” are two judgments made by competitors reported by The New York Times.
She refuses to apologize for her focus — her 2006 autobiography was titled Regretless Pursuit — but it has come at a personal cost. She began work at the company as a widow after her husband died in 1984 and she left her infant son to be raised by his grandmother. One story goes that she once sent her 12-year-old son to the airport alone by bus because she was busy at work.