Jane Sun may be the head of a Nasdaq-listed Chinese tech company valued at US$23 billion, but she still sometimes feels slighted in the company of other CEOs.
While attending a recent CEO conference in Silicon Valley, “people assumed I was there to accompany my husband”, said the 49-year-old head of Shanghai-based Ctrip, Asia’s biggest online travel platform. On a separate skiing trip to Canada, fellow skiers asked Sun’s husband what line of work he was in, but not her.
“It’s not discrimination, but subconsciously you are someone’s wife,” Sun said in a recent interview at Ctrip’s Zaha Hadid-designed headquarters, which have a sweeping view of the city’s Hongqiao airport.
Such experiences have only strengthened her resolve to introduce female-friendly policies to the Ctrip workplace. The company is only the third in the world behind Facebook and Apple, she says, to reimburse female executives for egg freezing procedures so they have the choice of delaying childbirth till their 30s or 40s. Despite criticism from some quarters that the practice promotes work over family, Sun said the policy has been well received at Ctrip.
Another company policy encourages working mothers who are breastfeeding to bring their babies on business trips.
The ability to attract top talent, whether male or female, is now mission critical for specialist companies like Ctrip, which are facing increasing competition from “do everything” platforms such as Meituan-Dianping, which is backed by internet giant Tencent Holdings. Meituan handled 22.7 million room bookings in March, surpassing for the first time Ctrip, which processed 11 million in the same month, according to statistics provider TrustData. Fliggy, the travel service arm of Alibaba Group, parent of South China Morning Post, saw bookings of 3 million room nights in the month.
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