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Alibaba Women's Conference: The Buzz From Female Leaders

Published: 22 May 2015 00:06:47 PST

On May 20-21, Alibaba Group is sponsoring its first-ever Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship to jump-start a conversation among women in China on empowerment and personal fulfillment as entrepreneurs, as leaders, as policy-makers, and as role models for future generations. Here's some of the advice guest speakers had for young women on day one of the conference, as well as their observations on where women stand today:

Melanie Walker, senior adviser to the president, World Bank Group, on surviving in the male-dominated workplace: “You need to have skin like a rhinoceros, super-thick skin—but also porous, because sometimes there may be a little bit of truth in what is said about you.”

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post, on “leaning in” and work-life balance: “You are going to be much better at leaning in if you learn to lean back—and then lean in again.”

Jessica Alba, actress and founder of The Honest Company, on why she agreed to speak at the conference: “Frankly there just aren’t enough women in business … If I can inspire someone to have an idea, I would be very happy to do that.”

Barbara Woodward, British ambassador to China, on work-life balance: “It’s about deciding where your real priorities at work are, and where your real priorities at home are.”

Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, on women and technology: “If you want to start your own businesses, the Internet is your best friend. It can help you to reach a variety of customers at low cost.”

Alibaba Group Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu offering career advice to young women: “Be responsible and diligent. Own the thing."

Jacqueline "Jackie" Reses, Yahoo! chief development officer, on what it’s like to be a woman in the male-dominated tech industry: “Often I am the only woman in the room. I see this opportunity to be differentiated as a good thing.”

Woodward on the pressure felt by China’s “left-over women”—unmarried women in their late 20s and older—to find husbands: “I really don’t think that marriage should be the definition of success for women … We’ve broken through so many glass ceilings, I think we are working around the automaticity of marriage.”

Reses on marriage and the career woman: “Choose your spouse wisely … It will literally make or break your life.”

Wu on the most important thing she has learned at Alibaba: “Be persistent and know how to compromise. Sometimes to get things done, you have to compromise to make sure the bigger target is achieved.”

Alba on the Chinese market and the safe, sustainable children's products her company makes: "We are still learning about Chinese consumers, what they care about most."

Woodward on men and women in the workplace: “Women tend to do a little more listening than they do talking.”

Reses on quota systems to encourage the hiring of women and the pro-forma addition of women to corporate boards: "I wouldn’t want to be a token (woman) on any board. It undermines the ability to influence and add value.”

Huffington on today's workplace: "There is still a lot of institutional discrimination against women ... By helping each other we can overcome institutional barriers and the barriers inside our heads.”

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