Women hold up half the corporate sky

While female participation and leadership in the Chinese workplace is comparatively higher than its Western counterparts, Ctrip's CEO Jane Sun thinks more could still be done for women to totally smash the 'glass ceiling'

Sun: growing outbound share

Women have been asking for equal labour right and social status since the establishment of International Women’s Day in 1910. It is common sense for a responsible company to provide equal career development and remuneration for women. According to an Economist report, the rate of Chinese women’s participation in the workplace is almost 70 per cent, higher than most of developed economies like the US, Europe and Japan.

We are now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era characterised by technological fusions and the integration of artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing. This has catalysed our creativity and bridged the physical gap between individuals. Men and women have equal rights in intelligence and competency.

Sun: growing outbound share

Technology advancement has provided women with more opportunities and broader platform for career development. We have discovered that women also play a crucial role in Internet companies. In Bloomberg’s report, 17 per cent of venture capital companies’ partners are female in China. In the US, this number rests at 10 per cent. While 80 per cent of venture capital companies in China have at least one female partner, in the US, this is only 50 per cent.

Ctrip is a leading Internet travel company in the world and China’s largest. Women represent over more than half of our 30,000 plus employee base. This rate far exceeds the average Internet companies in China and Silicon Valley. Ctrip from day one, 18 years ago, has promoted gender equality. We recruit based on each employee’s competency level and we have a series of policies to encourage workplace growth for women. We adhere firmly to United Nation Women’s Empowerment Principles.

From our experience, women play important roles driving good corporate governance and fostering a culture of teamwork. Decisions made by female leadership are more meticulous and balances risk and reward better. Actions are executed with more communication, consideration and organisation. Fiscal policies are geared towards long-term sustainability.

Our female employees have fostered teamwork and communication, and are more open to different perspectives. This has complemented well with our male employee base that are generally very good at fast execution. Our organisational diversity and the qualities that women bring to the table has helped Ctrip generate large and sustainable investment returns for our stakeholders through the years. I feel it is critically important to encourage and incorporate the female voice. It will also help greatly to have more women leadership devote more time to provide guidance and become role models for aspiring women.

Disconcertedly, figures show workplace gender equality still has a long way to go. Only 10 per cent of Fortune Global 500 Companies have female directors on their boards. And only three per cent of these companies have female CEOs. Internet companies’ female representation is even lower. In many of these companies, it is rare to see any female leadership in key management positions.

Technology companies represent innovation and revolution. I think it is only fitting that we see more and more technology companies take on leading roles in fostering equal rights for women, provide processes for women to grow their careers, and most importantly, shatter any sort of ‘glass ceiling’.

And to further reinforce the point, shattering the ‘glass ceiling’ is not just about recruiting more women. It is about giving women equal opportunities to take on more leadership roles. There are more than 1,000 executives represented in the Top 100 US companies. The large majority of women are in supportive roles such as human resources, public relations and legal advisors. Seldom do we see women taking on key management roles.

We are making some breakthroughs though. In recent years, a quarter of entrepreneurs in China are women. And I am most delighted to learn that 55 per cent of new Internet companies are started by women in China, according to the Chinese government. We are progressing as an industry.

For Ctrip, female leadership, is already well represented, with nine women leaders including myself, forming our key management team. Women also help lead many of the technological developments and innovations at Ctrip. Out of our 7,000 engineers, roughly 30 per cent are female. Ctrip has demonstrated that women can be as good as men in technology development too.

As the Women’s Rights Movement continues, and in light of International Women Day, I hope more and more women can be liberated from traditional family roles and given more opportunities to work alongside their male counterparts in driving growth and innovation. Every company has the responsibility to instil a gender equality foundation to create a fair environment for our future generations.

Ctrip will continue to lead the charge for equal rights for women and provide a broad platform for females to contribute and grow meaningfully in the workforce.

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