“If there’s any secret in the success of Alibaba, the foremost of these secrets is women,” said Yun Ma in his opening speech for the Global Conference on Female and Entrepreneurship held in Hangzhou, China, on Mat 20th, 2015 by Alibaba Group.

The other two secrets are the younger generation and Alibaba’s abundant attention on small businesses.

This second largest Internet-based company in the world, right after Google, has made several critical moves by holding conferences for different purposes on the way to the most successful e-commerce company in China.

  • 2000 China Internet Summit
  • 2004 National E-commerce Conference
  • 2015 Global Conferences on Women and Entrepreneurship

These conferences have helped Alibaba to both strengthen the tie with their companions in the industry and to blow the bugle for their following business strategies.

And this time, the conference focus is women.


Photo retrieved from Caijing

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and chief editor of The Huffington Post, Jessica Alba, co-founder of Honest Company, Qing Liu, president of Didi Kuaidi, Wei Zhao, one of the most famous actresses and female investors in China and hundreds of women in a wide rage of industries were invited to this conference, exchanging their opinions on entrepreneurship and share their work life balance tips.

alba jack


Screenshot retrieved from Jessica Alba and Arianna Huffington’s Instagram

A report released by Alibaba on May 21st also stresses the opportunities for women in the Internet Age by comparing the stats of the ratio of women startups in traditional industries around the world (3.6%) and the ratio of female store owners on the Taobao Marketplace (50.1%).

Although whether it is proper for Alibaba’s report to compare the stats of 67 economy entities and that of China alone is still under doubt,the comparatively balanced share of different gender on Taobao Marketplace does imply that the Internet has brought more opportunities to women who wants to step into the business world and a path to further success. For instance, Nan Liu’s online retail store that sells diapers eventually grow into an e-commerce website that has attracted over $100 million funding.

How is women doing in the world of business truly, then?

1. Gender and Business Sector

According to Dell’s Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index(GEDI), for 73% of their country sample (30 in total), female entrepreneurs “tend to be concentrated in the service sector and in businesses that conform to conventional female roles – such as beauty parlors, food vending and sewing”.

The stats in the Alibaba report also shows that five types of businesses have attracted most female entrepreneurs on Taobao Marketplace: Clothes, Bags, Baby products, Cosmetics and Food.

Interestingly, Alibaba reports that women are making more profits than their male counterparts in the industries that have less female shop owners and that the number of women shop owners is increasing in the male-dominated industries such as digital field.

2. Male Entrepreneurs vs. Female Entrepreneurs

According to Boston Consulting Group, the percentage of females who engage in start-up businesses for the United States (11%) is similar to that of Chinese female entrepreneurs (10%) in 2012.

In all the selected sample countries, Germany has the most large gap between the rate of female and male start-ups (3% and 7%).

3. Leadership

Women are still underrepresented in management positions. According to GEDI, “in 83% of the 30 sample countries, female managers make up less than 40% of total managers”, which means that women have comparatively less opportunity to have access to the “additional skills, experience and networks that facilitate female entrepreneurship success” provided in these management positions.

Nevertheless, the Alibaba report presents that the female entrepreneurs on Taobao Marketplace has the trait of comparatively young (average age 32.6, 15 years less than the average age of those in the traditional industries), requiring small amount of start-up capitol (50% of which under $8,500) and being more credible than their male counterparts (1/4 less default rate).

These undeniable changes and differences are what attract these women to the Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship and though the conference might be one of the Alibaba Group’s attempts to strengthen its role as the foundation of Chinese start-up culture, it does help to raise public attention on female start-ups and encourage more future female entrepreneurs to step up.

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