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The Modern Empowerment of Female Leaders


On April 29th, 2023, we delve into the story of Jane Sun, the CEO of Group, and a woman who has not only climbed the corporate ladder but has also paved the way for female empowerment in the workplace. As one of the most powerful women in business, Jane has been recognized for her contributions to the industry and her tireless efforts to make Group a great place to work for women.

In this editorial, we'll explore Jane's personal story, her journey to the top, and the initiatives she has implemented to empower women at all levels of the organization.



From Humble Beginnings: A Personal Story of Resilience and Perseverance


Born in Shanghai, Jane’s story is one of resilience and determination. In her sophomore year at Peking University, she was selected to study at the University of Florida in the USA, becoming part of the first batch of Chinese students to go abroad for higher education.

However, the path was not easy - Jane had to work two side jobs, including waitressing at a restaurant to support herself, making a minimum wage of 3 USD per hour. Fortunately, her professor’s family, Fletcher Baldwin and Nancy Baldwin, not only invited her to live with them but also became her mentors, providing invaluable guidance as she navigated life in the US. They encouraged her to help international students in the same way they had supported her. This inspired Jane to start a scholarship someday when she was able to do so. In 2016, she returned to her alma mater and established the scholarship, named after her professors, as a way of passing on the legacy of their kindness and mentorship. Jane's appreciation and willingness to give back to society demonstrate the kind of leadership that has earned her widespread respect and admiration.

Jane’s professional journey started in Silicon Valley, where she worked for KPMG. In 2005, Jane's appointment as the CFO of Group marked a significant turning point in her career. Her aim was to ensure that Group became the go-to choice for those seeking to invest in China's travel industry. To achieve this, she went above and beyond, traveled tirelessly over the world, and conducted global roadshows every quarter to showcase the value of Group. She also made a great effort to take care of even the smallest details to ensure the smooth running of the business. From securing payments to ensuring staff safety, she left no stone unturned. As China's economy continued to grow at an unprecedented pace, Jane continued to play an instrumental role in Group’s success. She not only negotiated global deals but also invested in leading travel agencies across China. Her unwavering commitment and dedication to the company led to her promotion from CFO to COO and eventually CEO. Since joining the company in 2005, the market capitalisation of Group has increased from 1 billion to over 20 billion USD. In 2019, she was named one of the world's most powerful women, and she was also voted as one of the Forbes top 50 most powerful women in business.

Jane's journey has taught her valuable lessons about stepping out of her comfort zone and taking on responsibilities well before receiving a title. Her willingness to do everything in the best interest of the company has been the cornerstone of her success. Today, Jane's journey serves as a source of inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders.



Making Group a Great Place to Work for Women


One of the most remarkable things about Jane's leadership at Group is her dedication to creating a family-friendly work environment. As Jane shared her experience with the audience, it was clear that creating a welcoming environment for women was something she was truly passionate about.

She talked about how the company had taken steps to support women, from offering flexible working hours, nursing rooms, and free taxi rides for pregnant employees, to providing financial support for education fees and cash gifts for employees who have just given birth.

What struck me most was the emphasis Jane placed on helping women navigate the difficult decision of when to have children while building a career. She recognized that the ideal age for pregnancy was before 35, which meant that female employees often had only 7-8 years to build their careers, start a family, and have children.

Reflecting on these policies, Jane emphasized that giving women more options was always better than no options. She recognized that women had unique needs and challenges in the workplace and that supporting them was not just a matter of fairness, but also made good business sense. By creating a family-friendly work environment, Jane was able to attract and retain top talent and build a company culture that valued and supported all of its employees, regardless of gender or family status.



Empowering Women at Different Levels


As Jane highlighted, empowering women is critical for creating a more equitable and prosperous world. Here, we expand on her ideas and explore how we can better support women's success at individual, executive, community, and global levels.

Starting with the individual level, Jane highlights the key qualities that are instrumental for women to develop a successful career, which includes integrity, diligence, optimism, and curiosity. As she notes, women can also benefit from pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and being more assertive when it comes to promotions and recognition. Additionally, working mothers need to be prepared to invest extra time and effort, but building a support system can help them balance the rewards of both career and family.

At the executive level, Jane stresses the importance of supporting individuals and building the infrastructure necessary to facilitate success. In particular, having working mothers in executive and C-suite roles can help ensure that their unique needs and struggles are represented and heard at management levels. Being a mother of 2 herself, Jane is a living testament to the philosophy she espouses. It's worth noting that Group has made great strides in this area, with more than 50% of employees, over 40% of mid-level managers, and more than one-third of executives being women.

On a community level, Jane suggests that those who have the means to do so, could consider establishing scholarships to empower women by providing them access to education and opportunities. She herself has taken this step and believes that it is an effective way to create positive change in the community. And on a global scale, she sees female empowerment as a multi-generational effort that can lead to greater peace and prosperity, and greater gender equality could help match the speed of economic progress.

Jane's points underscore the critical importance of empowering women at every level, from individual traits to executive leadership to community and global initiatives. Her emphasis on the need for support, infrastructure, and representation can help guide organizations like Group as they work to create a more equitable and empowering workplace for women.

Overall, Jane is a true inspiration for women and men alike. Her personal story and leadership style demonstrate the importance of hard work, resilience, and a commitment to supporting and empowering others. Through her initiatives at Group, she is helping to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture for women in China and beyond.

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