Ma hails women’s role in busi­ness, call­ing them ‘ back­bone of his em­pire’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By HE WEI in Hangzhou hewei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Women not only fuel the ex­po­nen­tial growth of Alibaba Group Hold­ing’s on­line em­po­rium, they also form the back­bone of the busi­ness em­pire that is eye­ing to serve 2 bil­lion cus­tomers and cre­ate 100 mil­lion job op­por­tu­ni­ties in two decades.

Ac­cord­ing to bil­lion­aire founder Jack Ma, around half of the sellers on its gi­gan­tic Tmall and Taobao mar­ket­places are women, and a greater pro­por­tion of store­fronts with higher pos­i­tive user rat­ings have fe­male own­ers.

These are clear man­i­fes­ta­tions that the in­ter­net has helped level the play­ing field and en­abled women to cre­ate and pur­sue op­por­tu­ni­ties to flour­ish in their own right, Ma told the 2017 Global Con­fer­ence on Women and En­trepreneur­ship in Hangzhou on Mon­day.

“Women are the se­cret of the com­pany’s suc­cess and make us dis­tinct. It is women who have en­cour­aged me to un­dergo the tough times in the past 18 years since the found­ing of Alibaba,” he said.

He said ra­tio­nal think­ing, a trait of­ten boasted by men, can be eas­ily chal­lenged and re­placed in the age of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, but women’s at­ten­tion to de­tail and ex­pe­ri­ence can out­per­form ro­bot­ics and ma­chine learn­ing.

The star-stud­ded meet­ing fea­tured talks by promi­nent fe­male fig­ures from bridal wear designer Vera Wang and Chi­nese film star Sun Li, and was aimed at bil­lion seek­ing ways to en­cour­age women to pur­sue their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal am­bi­tions.

Alibaba also used the event to pro­mote fe­male en­trepreneur­ship and show­case its own gen­der di­ver­sity. In par­tic­u­lar, more than one-third of its founders were women, with a sim­i­lar per­cent­age in se­nior man­age­ment roles.

Women are also well-rep­re­sented within Alibaba, with the ra­tio of fe­male em­ploy­ees once near­ing 50 per­cent.

“Women can drive eco­nomic growth if they are able to re­al­ize their rights … es­pe­cially in part­ner­ship with busi­ness, the gov­ern­ment and the civil so­ci­ety in the global value chain,” said Lak­shmi Puri, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the United Na­tions and deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of UN Women.

Women en­trepreneur­ship is crit­i­cal in end­ing poverty and pro­mot­ing shared pros­per­ity, said Jim Yong Kim, pres­i­dent of the World Bank.

“In China, 31 per­cent of com­pa­nies are owned by women en­trepreneurs, putting it on par with New Zealand, Sin­ga­pore and the United States,” said Kim, adding that much of the progress is only pos­si­ble thanks to the education, mo­ti­va­tion and the fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion fa­cil­i­tated by the likes of Alibaba.

Un­der an Alibaba-backed in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram, Huang Yin­hua, who has been dis­abled since she was a teenager, has helped 2,500 women in poor phys­i­cal or fi­nan­cial con­di­tions start their own busi­nesses, by pro­vid­ing mi­croloans or of­fer­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties across the e-com­merce chain, such as cus­tomer ser­vice, qual­ity in­spec­tion and lo­gis­tics.

num­ber of cus­tomers that Alibaba wants to serve

WANG SHU / CHINA NEWS SER­VICE

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