Alibaba Founder Says Female Execs Are Its Secret Sauce


Women make up about 34% of Alibaba’s top management, 40% of its total workforce, and a third of its founding partners. The Chinese e-commerce giant has a much better record in terms of gender diversity, compared to its Silicon Valley counterparts that are grappling with a huge gender gap in their workforce.

Alibaba promotes female entrepreneurship

So, it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Alibaba founder Jack Ma said that female executives were “secret sauce” of the company. He was speaking at the company’s first Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship in Hangzhou, China. The online retail giant had invited prominent female speakers such as the Queen of the Netherlands, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, and actress Jessica Alba to speak at the event.

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Alibaba used the event to showcase its gender diversity and promote female entrepreneurship. More than 800 women attended the two-day conference. Ma told the audience that women approach problem-solving and communication in a way that is important for a service company like Alibaba. “Men think about themselves more; women think about others more,” he said.

Women balance the company’s ‘yin and yang’

Women “balance the logic and the instinct.” This is the “secret sauce” the e-commerce behemoth, Ma said. When asked about the gender gap in Silicon Valley tech firms, Jack Ma said he believed gender parity was a priority for the most successful companies. Women account for 31% of Facebook’s total workforce, 30% of Google’s total employees and just 23% of Cisco’s workforce, according to reports released by these companies last year.

Last month, Alibaba drew intense criticism for posting a job ad seeking female candidates with pornstar qualities to keep its “code monkeys” motivated. The job posting mentioned that physical characteristics similar to a popular Japanese pornstar could help applicants get the job. The company had to withdraw the job ad later.

Alibaba shares jumped 2.68% to $93.14 at 11:05 AM EDT on Thursday.