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Thursday, January 29, 2015


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Kim Anubis

What percentage of women employees at Alibaba are programming or doing other completely technical tasks, as opposed to scripted support calls or washing the floor? Why, when half of the employees are women, are only a quarter of senior managers women? It's cute that Alibaba managed to get themselves some press at Google's expense, but this marcom posing as news just makes me think of the phrase "glass ceiling."

Totally agree with the NPR take on the PC/gaming revolution of the 80s and its effect, though. Certainly worth a listen.

Wagner James Au

25% women in management is roughly 2x better than it is at most US tech companies. Also, back in 2010, 40% of China's engineers were women:


That's an old stat, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's gotten even more equal. At the Beijing tech company I consult for, the *majority* of Android engineers are women.

Kim Anubis

Thanks for the interesting stats, Hamlet! Perhaps the "weird science" boy genius culture had an even greater effect than I thought. I imagine some of the ageism in tech came out of that, too.

I still find that twenty-five percent figure more than disappointing, though. I mean, I saw my odds decades ago and came to the conclusion that if I wanted to be in tech in a role that wasn't just supporting the men or doing the parts the men on the team didn't want to do, I should start my own company. While things in our culture have improved since then ... here's a company crowing that only seventy-five percent of their management is male, and that's praised. It's just ... I thought we would have come a lot farther by now. I used to hope to see equality in the workplace during my career, and decades later here's Alibaba bragging about their lousy twenty five percent. It makes me feel a little bitter.

Good info, though, Hamlet. Glad you are reporting on this, even if it usually harshes my mellow.

Amanda Dallin

They said 25% of management is female. Not senior management. I've seen companies expand the definition of manager in order to increase their percentage of female and other minority managers without actually changing how they do business.

In 1998 and 1999, my retired aunt was paid very well to come out of retirement to prepare computers at a large state agency for Y2K because the boy's they'd hired couldn't figure out the old systems. Her generation had a lot more women working in the field.

Wagner James Au

I can't speak to Alibaba management in general, but I know a woman who's COO in one of the company's mobile ventures, and previously a VP at Alibaba. She's head of 100s of employees, spearheads some major initiatives, and is a total badass.

Kim Anubis

One of the tweets Hamlet posted led to an article that said, "Ma then delved into some stats, saying that 47 percent of Alibaba’s employees are women; 33 percent of management are women; and 24 percent of senior management are women." It's at https://www.techinasia.com/best-jack-ma-quotes-davos-interview/ Doesn't entirely preclude the sort of trickery you mention, though, Amanda.

It is so tempting to share anecdotes to illustrate what I faced as a woman on a software development team in the mid-1980s. But to Millenials, it would probably seem about as quaint and distant as an episode of Mad Men. Hamlet's stats will do more to convince doubters.

Ciaran Laval

Alibaba are reportedly investing $10m in Ouya.

I see a lot of computing classes in my day job, there's a distinct lack of females participating, I have no idea why this is the case.

I know that countries such as India were seeing a much larger number of women engaging in computing related jobs some years ago, whether that's the case still I don't know but the Western world is not doing well in this area at all.

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