Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma said on Wednesday that distinctive characteristics are helping female entrepreneurs in the digital era. These traits include empathy, altruism, inclusion, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail.

Woman entrepreneurs are not only adapting to the quickly evolving global landscape but also becoming the drivers behind fundamental changes, Ma noted as he addressed a crowded room at the 2019 Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship in Hangzhou.

“The digital era is a challenge for everybody. While everybody is equally scared and worried, the right way for us is to embrace the era by changing ourselves,” Ma added.

Digital technologies are shaping the modern world, and female figures are becoming a major force in pushing through change. The state has held for years that woman makes up 55% of entrepreneurs in the vaguely defined field of “internet businesses.”

Using Alibaba as an example, Ma explained that women make up 50% of the company’s design and customer service teams.

More than one-third of Alibaba’s founders were women while a similar percentage hold senior management roles. Women are well-represented within Alibaba. Ma said women employees were a major force behind Alibaba’s high-speed growth rate in the beginning years.

Alibaba Jack Ma Female Conference
Image credit: Alibaba

With the goal of encouraging women to pursue their professional and personal ambitions, Ma was among a lineup of speakers that included prominent female figures including Melinda Gates, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations undersecretary and executive director of UN Women, Japanese Parliament member Tomomi Inada, Olympic diving champion Guo Jingjing, model, and fashion designer Lv Yan.

Speaking to participants via video message, Gates drove home the message that investing in women’s economic empowerment, including entrepreneurship, is “not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do.” She emphasized the global economy could add $28 trillion by 2025 if women participated in the labor force to the same degree as men.

“When we remove the barriers that prevent women from participating in the economy, the benefits don’t extend just to the women themselves. They extend to families, communities, even entire countries,” said Gates.

Tomomi Inada, a member of the Japanese Parliament, led a group of female politicians joining the Hangzhou event and offered insights on how to promote gender equality in her culture.

“In the political world, I have always believed that men and women should be promoted solely based on their ability,” she said. “That is true in a sense. However, this year marks my fifteenth year as a politician, and I have come to feel that ability alone is not enough to help women advance in the political field. That’s why I set up a parliamentary association with my friends here today [to promote this idea]”.

This year’s theme –“The World She Made”– highlighted the positive changes the world has seen and will experience, thanks to the female trailblazers who dared to break the glass ceiling they faced.

For the first time, the biannual conference was held simultaneously in four different cities around the world–Hangzhou, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Sydney–to allow participants to hold deep-dive discussions on issues and progress particular to their region and culture.

Editor’s note: This article was sponsored by Alibaba. We believe in transparency in our publishing and monetization model. Read more here.

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