“I want to become a woman in my next life,” said Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma at the 2017 Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship, “to have two kids and nurture two startups instead of a big company.”
It was Ma’s second time speaking at the conference, in Hangzhou on July 10. The conference, now in its second iteration, was attended by women from around the world and from a variety of industries including the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Canada’s Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, who gave the keynote. Also in attendance were the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Lakshmi Puri, President of the World Bank Goup Jim Yong Kim and bridalwear designer Vera Wang. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan sent video messages.
Ma, for his part, was out in classic feminist style. At the first conference, in 2015, Ma called women the “secret sauce” of his e-commerce behemoth. He used the most recent event to endorse female entrepreneurship, discuss the role of women in the future of business, and showcase his company’s gender diversity as well as his own feminist leanings.
Here are five more choice quotes of Ma’s, about women, from the conference:
1. Alibaba is a she-culture
Quote: “Out of the 18 founders in Alibaba, 6 of them are women, accounting for one-third of the total number of founders in Alibaba.”
In context: Women account for 35 percent of managerial roles and 23 percent of executive roles within the company. Alibaba encourages female workers to have kids and in this effort has set up more than 100 nursing rooms for new mothers and resting rooms for pregnant women.
2. Women buy for friends and family and men buy for themselves
Quote: “At Taobao and Tmall, we notice female consumption is centered around family, from buying furniture to spending on vacation and childrenswear. But men like to buy cars, phones, laptops, video games, and take-out food. Women focus on others and family, whereas men’s shopping choices are more self-centered.”
In context: There are more than 50 percent of female store owners on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, and 46 percent of business transactions are from female vendors.
3. In the future, the world won’t ask how to grant women more opportunities
Quote: “After 30 to 50 years, the world won’t discuss how to grant more opportunities to women, but how to treat men fairly.”
In Context: Ma was saying that in the last century, we believed the bigger the company is, the better. But in this century, it is more important to excel in business. If an entrepreneur doesn’t learn these qualities, it’s hard to march forward into the future.
4. Women will outperform machine learning
Quote: “In the age of AI, women’s attention to experience and detail can outperform machine learning, whereas men’s traits of rational thinking will be challenged by machines.”
In context: In June, Aliresearch published a joint report in partnership with the Mulan Club, a womens’ club and innovation center based in Beijing that was founded by China Entrepreneur Magazine. The report surveyed people from more than 145 companies in China concluding that more than 60 percent of female entrepreneurs are applying high technology, such as VR, cloud computing and AI to their businesses. The report portrayed a new type of female entrepreneur called Lady Data.
5. On his personal success
Quote: “Even if it takes a while for women to make decisions, they will stick it through and persist until the end.”
In context: Jack Ma not only attributed his company’s success to the support it has from female buyers, sellers and colleagues. He also credited women for his personal success. At the low point of his entrepreneurship, he said it was the women around him who kept encouraging him and pushing him forward.