Opinion: Women Pivotal to Technological Success
Women have been asking for equal labor rights and social status since the establishment of International Women's Day in 1910. For any responsible company, providing resources for career development, retention and remuneration for women is smart business. According to a report by The Economist, the rate at which Chinese women are participating in the workplace is almost 70%, higher than most developed economies like the US, EU and Japan.
We are now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era characterized by technological fusion and the integration of artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing. This has catalyzed our creativity, reaffirmed the critical need to sustain innovation and has helped to bridge the physical gap between individuals.
Technological advancement has provided women with more opportunities and a broader platform for career development. Regardless of whether it is in the corporate environment or in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, women play pivotal roles, but not enough, in the operation and execution of these companies. Bloomberg has reported that 17% of venture capital companies' partners are female in China. In the US, this number rests at 10%. While 80% of venture capital companies in China have at least one female partner, in the US, this is only 50%. We need to draw attention to the detriments of “tech bro” culture and the systematic continuation of gender bias. Forbes found that women tech leaders produce 20% higher revenues than their male counterparts. Clearly, women excel when given the chance to do so.
Based on my experience, women foster a culture of teamwork and drive positive corporate governance. Decisions made by female leaders are more meticulous and balance risk and reward better. Actions are executed collaboratively with more communication, consideration and organization. Fiscal policies are geared towards long-term sustainability and productivity. Such inputs are valuable for every industry.
Disconcertedly, figures show workplace gender equality still has a long way to go. Only 10% of Fortune Global 500 Companies have female directors on their boards. And only 3% of these companies have female CEOs. Internet companies' female representation is even lower and it is rare to see women in key management positions.
Technology companies represent innovation and revolution. It is only fitting that more take on leading roles in fostering equal rights for women to shatter this “glass ceiling” and allowing their careers to grow. This is more than just recruitment and organizational arrangements. It is about giving them equal opportunities to take on more leadership roles. There are more than 1,000 executives represented at the Top 100 US companies. The large majority of women are in supportive roles such as HR, PR and legal advisers. Seldom do we see women taking on key management roles.
If we are to boost female presence, innovation and leadership, STEM subjects and confidence needs to be encouraged vocationally and professionally from a young age. Whether it is scholarships, entrepreneur programs and training in schools or in the corporate world, talent development to help to define and clarify career paths as well as shattering the stereotypes of the “STEM boys” and “tech bros.” I was most fortunate to be a part of such support especially mentorship which allowed me to see the tremendous benefits that inclusiveness can have on one’s confidence, self-esteem and professional behavior. Such reciprocal mentorship exposed me to new sets of strategies, work approaches and leadership styles. Due to this importance, I have made it my priority to not only be a member of Women In Technology, Lean In and China Entrepreneur Mulan Club but also to provide mentoring to young female talents and the leaders of tomorrow. In my company, we have adopted United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles. We cannot tackle self-doubt and unconscious biases without any support network and direct dialogue. Today, we need to invest in tomorrow so that women’s contributions and leadership are respected, promoted and retained.
There have been some breakthroughs though. In recent years, a quarter of entrepreneurs in China have been women. I am most delighted to learn that 55% of new internet companies are started by women, according to the Chinese government. We are progressing as an industry and also as a nation. China can continue to proactively promote women power through existing government-sponsored initiatives such as the China Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Contest. Education programs and incentives in STEM subjects could further be maintained to ensure that female participation will give way to greater creativity and innovation. In terms of high tech arenas and entrepreneurship, the Chinese government could continue to offer female-oriented targets in terms of financial support and resources. China, home to the greatest number of self-made female billionaires in the world will only benefit from the “She Economy.”
As the women's rights movement continues, I hope more women can be liberated from traditional family roles and given the opportunities to work alongside their male counterparts in driving growth and innovation. Every company has the responsibility to instill a foundation of gender equality create a fair environment for future generations.
Jane Sun is the chief executive officer of Ctrip.com International, Ltd.
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