Women Buying Into Online Economy In China

China Daily, Beijing / Asia News Network.

BEIJING.

Women are playing a part as important as their male peers in driving the growth of e-commerce in China, a report said on Thursday.

As of last year, women were running more than half of the shops on Taobao and Tmall, the two largest online platforms in China, and women-owned shops accounted for more than 46 percent of online transactions in 2014, according to a report by AliResearch, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Taobao and Tmall are both run by Alibaba.

"As China shifts from manufacturing to services, women who are blessed with strong acumen in dealing with the outside world will become increasingly important participants in China's economy," said Alibaba Vice-President Shi Dongwei.

The report -- "Women in the Era of Internet Plus" -- was released during Alibaba's first global conference on women and entrepreneurship, which was held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. The Internet Plus plan was unveiled by Premier Li Keqiang in March in his Government Work Report.

Through analysis of data, the report found that women are entering sectors of the economy previously dominated by men, thanks to their service orientation.

For example, in 2005, less than 25 percent of the stores dealing in digital products were run by women, but the figure exceeded 35 percent in 2014.

The report also found that clothing, shoes and bags are the most popular sectors for Chinese women who rely on the Internet to start a business.

According to a multi-market survey released by PayPal Inc late last year, startups founded by women in the United States focus on consulting, while French female entrepreneurs favor the health and beauty sectors.

Within China, the report said, the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning have very high percentages of female entrepreneurs.

"As cross-border e-commerce continues to gain traction, many women in Hong Kong and Taiwan are also opening online stores to sell to consumers in the mainland," Shi said.

But along with the opportunities come challenges in the fast-changing e-commerce sector.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for women to run technology startups because the products have to be updated so often," said Liu Qing, president of the taxi-hailing company Didi Kuaidi Dache.

"What complicates the problem is that women have to balance their work and personal lives. In a nutshell, women are always worn out when they start an e-commerce business," Liu said.

Alibaba Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu agreed. She recounted being pregnant and asking her doctor to speed up her delivery because her baby's due date fell at the same time as an important earnings announcement and conference call with analysts.

Ruta Aidis, a senior fellow at the US-based George Mason University who studies female entrepreneurship, said female entrepreneurs in China face some universal problems such as gender discrimination.

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