Women account for almost half (47%) of the Alibaba Group’s 50,000-plus employees and one third of its management executives are women.
One of their recent recruits is Shanshan Tang who joined the Chinese e-commerce giant after completing a full-time MBA at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.
More than 3,000 candidates applied for the opportunity to join the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy (AGLA) when it launched in October 2016 but only 1% of applicants were selected for a place in the inaugural class. Shanshan was one of 32 young professionals from 14 countries chosen for the one-year programme at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Alibaba has started to hire more MBAs in recent years from the world’s best business schools. ‘Around half of my AGLA class was made up of international grads from top-tier MBA schools such as Harvard, Yale and Oxford,’ explained Shanshan. ‘The Oxford MBA experience really helped to shape my strategic thinking and due to 95% of the MBA class being international, I developed a global mindset and appreciation of different cultures. While I was born and raised in China, I moved to Vancouver in my teenage years, so this is my first time working in China.’
During her time in the AGLA, she helped to organise Alibaba’s Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship which focused on empowering women and gender equality. Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma told the audience: ‘Eighteen years since we founded Alibaba, it has consistently been female co-workers that pushed me forward.’
‘Jack Ma is an incredibly inspiring speaker and describes women as the “secret sauce” behind the rapid growth of Alibaba,’ said Shanshan. ‘In addition to working on the global conference, I was also responsible for managing a number of business development projects for Alipay International. I worked with e-payment platform Paytm, one of Alibaba’s biggest portfolio companies in India, to explore ways to expand the mobile wallet business internationally using Alibaba’s technology and market insights.’
Since graduating from the AGLA, Shanshan is continuing to drive Alibaba’s international growth and now works in the CEO office at Alibaba’s headquarters. ‘I’m responsible for supporting globalisation and assisting specific regions with business expansion by exploring global market opportunities,’ she said.
Shanshan says her abilities to multitask, prioritise and execute plans, learnt during her MBA, have proved valuable to her work at Alibaba. ‘It’s a fast-paced working environment, so the skills I developed during my MBA have helped me to embrace change, be flexible and respond quickly to new business opportunities,’ she said. ‘I’m proud to work for Alibaba which is making it easier for businesses, of all sizes, to do business anywhere in the world.’