SHE Power for China’s Brain Power in a New Era

“I believe that men could make the company bigger and bigger, but women could make the company better and better.”    Jack Ma, former Chairman of Alibaba Group ...

“I believe that men could make the company bigger and bigger, but women could make the company better and better.”  

 Jack Ma, former Chairman of Alibaba Group 

China’s SHE-power is becoming an increasingly powerful engine that drives the social and economic development towards enhanced diversity, better balance, and new energy. In the national white paper “Equality, Development and Sharing” by the State Council, we see both the foundation for and progress of the SHE-power development.[1]   

From a science and innovation perspective, we see that SHE-Power is a central element of China’s brain power! From the 4th National Survey of Science and Technology (S&T) Personnel in 2017, the outputs by female S&T personnel have increased.[2] Their achievements in forms of patents and commercialisation of S&T results are indeed impressive. However, two less encouraging signs: the gender-gaps in scientific outputs and achievements remain, and are growing when it comes to patents and commercialisation of S&T. 

Source: 4th National Survey of Science and Technology Workers in 2017

To speed up the progress of closing gender-gaps and make SHE-power bring even stronger brainpower, we need proactive and structural measures from both the public and the private sectors. And we need leading examples – with new perspectives, new inspirations and in new fields

Discovered by Her

“When it comes to interdisciplinary research and cooperation , expression, communication and teamwork are particularly important in the current scientific research environment. In these aspects, female researchers have natural advantages.” 

Dr. Ruixue Wan, Tsinghua University

After Dr. Youyou Tu was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, pharmacology development really won people’s attention , in China and globally. For promoting young scientists in early career, SciLifeLab, a national institution for advancement of molecular biosciences in Sweden set up a “Young PhD Nobel Prize”, together with American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Science magazine. In 2018, one of the prize winners was Dr.  Ruixue Wan, the first prize winner graduated from a Chinese university. Already during her PhD study, she published 6 papers in Science and 2 papers in Cell and was selected as one of the five “Future Female Scientists” of China. 

Science & SciLifeLab award ceremony in Stockholm, 2018

Manufactured and innovated by Her

“We should not be scared of a smarter era. We should be proud of it and step up efforts to nurture talent that can control machines.”

  Mingzhu Dong, Chairwoman &President, Gree Electric Appliances Inc.

Mingzhu Dong, Chairwoman and President, Gree Electric Appliances Inc.

When Mingzhu Dong took over as General Manager in 2001, Gree was a manufacturing company with an annual revenue of only 5.6 billion RMB relying on price-competitive advantage. In 2018, she led a “China’s smart manufacturing” company with an annual revenue of more than 200 billion RMB.  In 2019, Gree entered the Fortune 500 list for the first time and rank number 1 in Return on Common Stockholders’ Equity (ROE) among the 129 Chinese companies on the Fortune 500 list. Innovation is the key to this success, and she supports R&D investments in her company, following the principle of “investment on demand and no upper limit”. She set up a S&T progress award for all employees, awarding more than 100 innovation projects each year in her company. Recently, Gree set a new goal of a smart home with zero carbon emission, covering not only air conditioners, but also other major home appliances.[3]

Challenged and created by Her

“In the next 30 years, humans are not competing for muscles and strengths. We are competing for wisdom and experience. Women in the age of experience will become more and more powerful because women are inclusive and understand others better, if women can participate in future technology and product design, social progress will be even better.” 

Miffy Chen, Head of Alibaba A.I. Labs

Miffy Chen, the Head of Alibaba A.I. Lab, established the lab in 2016, and released the first consumer-facing AI product named Tmall Genie X1 in 2017. As of now, Tmall Genie X1 is the most sold Chinese smart speaker worldwide. As she put it “we didn’t feel that there was a special difference between male and female, because the atmosphere of internet-based companies is relatively open. Today, women can do many things both mentally and physically.” In the digital era, AI and other cutting-edge technologies indeed bring more development opportunities for women. Another power lady in Alibaba Group, CaiNiao Network CTO Xuemei Gu, agreed that digital technology now blurs gender gaps and nation borders. According to her, the percentage of female algorithm engineers is already higher than that of R&D engineers in some places. In the future, the proportion of women in the most core R&D positions could become higher and higher.

Miffy Chen, Head of Alibaba A.I. Labs
Xuemei Gu, Chief Technology Officer, Cainiao Network

In the run up to the International Day, the SwedCham China and Swedish Chamber Of Commerce in Hong Kong organised a Webinar on “She-conomy: Women Who Lead”. The SHE-power from both the Chinese and Swedish sides, together with the CSR-centre at our Embassy shared the insights on Women, Work and Happiness as well as how leading multinationals, particularly Swedish ones are making  progressive efforts to accelerate women’s career development.    

Having seen these inspiring SHE-power in China, we may better understand why Jack Ma’s words that “I believe that men could make the company bigger and bigger, but women could make the company better and better.”  The new knowledge landscape and the new digital era may give more opportunities than challenges for women – given that the social, institutional and economic framework conditions continue to improve and progress, to value and empower diversity and equality. With the brain power fuelled by SHE-power, we will see more better companies, better societies and a better world. 

Linnea Yang, Jessica Zhang and Nannan Lundin