Last week, Jack Ma popped up on a CCTV program filmed in England and said some very interesting things about how he views money and wealth. But on that same program, he also addressed other topics – in fact, he gave an entire keynote speech about women.
Not all of what Ma says would pass for politically correct, but as he points out in the speech, Alibaba is probably the best tech company in the world when it comes to hiring and promoting women. So what does Jack Ma think? Here’s our translation of his speech:
Why Alibaba has so many women
I’m here to talk about the issue of women. This issue, I think, is very interesting. Basically all men are willing to talk about it. But not every man who talks about it can actually handle it well.
England is a very great country. I was thinking about it on the way here; it’s very rare that a country has a Queen and a female prime minister at the same time. This country also has many amazing female scientists, thinkers, and authors. When I was studying English, there was a simple novel that was a must-read called Jane Eyre. From that to Harry Potter today, all women have made great contributions to England’s history. After the first industrial revolution, women in England went from wearing skirts to wearing pants, which was a big step forward.
So I think that ‘women’ is very interesting topic, and one we’re paying more and more attention to these days. I didn’t used to pay attention to what kind of work our company was doing [on this front] until last year, a month before our IPO an American reporter came to our office. While walking around, he asked, “How come there are so many women at your company?”
I said, “Anything wrong?” I hadn’t realized this was some kind of issue. He said “Out of all the world’s high-tech companies, I feel like there are a lot of women at Alibaba.” I realized this was a real thing, so I went back and asked my colleagues to investigate how many women our company had. At the time, the answer was 52 percent. Now it’s 49 percent, because we’ve bought a few companies that have more men than women.
52 percent of our company is women. 35 percent of our management staff is women. 23 percent of our senior management is women. We’ve had a female CEO, a female chairman, a female CPO, CFO, etc. Our company also has a lot of female engineers, and of course a lot of female PhDs.
So what’s the secret to Alibaba’s success? Actually I think one of our important secrets is that we have a lot of women. I’m not just saying that to please women, the facts bear out that we’ve got the highest percentage of women on staff at any major tech company. But as a CEO I didn’t think I needed to go promote the position of women, so when the reporter asked that question, I didn’t really get it. ‘What’s wrong with that?’
Of our 18 founders, more than one-third are women. I think it’s only right that the amount of men and women be roughly equal, only then will everyone feel comfortable and innovation happen.
As you know, of the three big technological revolutions humanity has had, the first started in England. It was embodied by muscles getting bigger and bigger, it released the physical strength of humans. What people were competing over back then was physical strength. The second tech revolution started in America, and it was about energy: making people longer-lasting and increasing endurance. These two tech revolutions were all about the power of males.
But this current technological revolution is an opening of humanity’s intellect, it’s about tech data and an opening of the brain. In terms of technology, intellect, and consciousness, men and women are equal.
As everyone has seen, in the past 30-50 years, because of technological advances and our great accumulation of knowledge, we’ve seen women go from being in the home to being in politics. You will find a lot of countries all over the world with female leaders.
And there are a lot of female entrepreneurs across the world. This is not an accident, because women actually do politics and entrepreneurship much better than men do. When out of 200 countries in the world, 80-100 have female leaders, and when the UN general secretary is a woman, things will be a lot better.
Somebody told me our company does service very well. Actually what customer service wants to create is not service, it’s to create an experience. Sometimes you can provide all kinds of services and it’s not as good as saying a single, small thing. And when you’re talking about experience, women do that much better than men. Women are more honest than men. For example, on our site we have microloans for small businesses, and we’ve found that women pay them off faster than men. Men are about four times more likely not to pay their loan back.
Women are much better at taking care of others than men; in addition to taking care of themselves, women take care of their husband, father, mother, children and work, etc. So women have greater patience than men. [Joking:] People say that in this era we should help women and give them more opportunities, but I think that women should be helping men! If the last age was about a change in women, I think now we are in the era of women. I truly believe that.
What do you think of Jack Ma’s take on women?
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