Start With the Top
A law major from one of the country’s top universities, Sun was among the first students to be given passports and sent abroad to study in the late 1980s amid paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s opening of China.
“My father’s generation didn’t even know what passports were — we were very lucky,” she said.
After graduating, she headed to an emerging Silicon Valley where she worked for two decades, along with her husband, John Wu, one of the architects of Yahoo’s search engine.
They decided to return to China in 2000 after Wu was offered a role as chief technology officer at “a very small company called Alibaba” — the tech giant that just listed in Hong Kong for at least $11 billion.
Accustomed to battling for senior positions herself, she has turned her attention to encouraging female staff at Trip.com to “be more confident”.
“At the year end (the staff) who come into my office asking for a raise and a promotion are always male,” she said.
“But (for women) I have to go out to them and say, you did a wonderful job, I think you should go through this process.”
Despite early commitments to gender equality, women’s role in the labour force has been declining in Communist China since the 1990s.
Equality organisation Catalyst says China’s economic reforms led to a variety of setbacks for women — including diminished employment opportunities, a widened gender wage gap and a resurgence of traditional stereotypes.
Human Rights Watch says both civil and private sector jobs often specify a requirement for men.
Just over nine percent of directors in listed companies in mainland China are women, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Women in the Boardroom report, while only 10 women are part of the 204-strong Communist Party central committee.
Sun said part of the challenge is getting more women in decision-making roles.
“I think you always start with the top,” she said.
“If in the management team or on your board there is no female representative, it’s very hard for male leaders to be aware of lots of challenges females are facing.”