Four Lessons From One Of China’s Most Successful Businesswomen, Diane Wang Of DHgate.com
Diane Wang empowers ladies to realise their entrepreneurial dreams.
As one of China’s most prominent business leaders, it is perhaps surprising to learn that Diane Wang was repeatedly passed over for promotions while working in the newfound tech industry in the 1990s.
This is the same woman who after earning her stripes at Microsoft and Cisco when they first came to China, co-founded Joyo.com in 2000, which was eventually acquired by Amazon. Today she is the founder and CEO of leading digital trade platform DHgate.com, and an inspiring role model and advocate for female business owners.
Her encounters with inequality and bias throughout her career have motivated her commitment to empowering women. “I had to work twice as hard as my male co-workers to get the positions and projects that I wanted,” she says.
“Because the path I walked to reach where I am today was filled with so much adversity, I have a very good understanding of the hardships females face trying to make a difference in a male-dominated world.”
This is why Wang is constantly their champion, thinking up initiatives and projects to inspire and motivate them. Her latest passion project is ABAC Women Connect, a women’s leadership program launched in 2016.
Through this new platform and digital community, she hopes to inspire young female entrepreneurs to “surpass limitations, break rules, learn skills [and] connect with the world.”
Here, Wang shares four key lessons about how female entrepreneurs can achieve success.
1. Go digital
Wang believes the answer to empowering women to lead successful professional careers is through encouraging them to adopt digital technology. Digital trade can create more opportunities in e-commerce and freelance marketplaces for women – from young mothers who work from home while taking care of their children, to women in remote areas that sell handmade baskets to consumers worldwide.
“Through our DHgate platform, females can easily join and reach global markets. Entrepreneurs who operate exporting businesses on our platform enjoy flexibility regarding the hours they work and are able to take care of their families while running their businesses.”
2. Empower each other
Fully committed to advocating for women’s entrepreneurship, Wang is chair of the APEC Women’s Forum. She also launched ABAC Women Connect in November 2016, a digital community that aims to nurture women to embrace entrepreneurship and inspire each other to break through the glass ceiling. Visit it and read inspiring case studies of successful female role models, get access to educational training resources and offer awards and incentives to motivate women to realise their entrepreneurial dreams.
3. Think equality
Wang’s position as a female CEO in China is still the exception. Among all the enterprises in China, less than 25 per cent of CEOs are female. However, in the Internet world, over 50 per cent of founders and CEOs are female.
“In the digital world, people are almost always treated equally,” Wang says. “The success of business owners depends on reviews from past users, and gender is irrelevant. Whether or not you have an advantage and what your advantage is depends on how you see things. Only perspective matters. The positive attracts the positive and the negative attracts the negative.”
She also believes that it is essential for women to have the understanding, cooperation and support of male business leaders, “Do not underestimate women. Absolutely do not hold them in lower esteem than their male counterparts.”
4. Follow your passion
When she first came up with the idea for DHgate as a means for businesspeople around the world to trade online, her idea was rejected by over 40 investors. “Every traditional foreign trader, internet user and investor thought my idea was crazy. Sometimes I was turned down specifically because I was a woman.”
Fast forward 12 years and Wang has realised her dream of making DHgate the biggest B2B focused cross-border e-commerce trading platform in China. Her simple, sage advice to women starting out?
“First, I had a dream, and stuck to it. Second, I accepted that entrepreneurship was a long and tough way to success. Third, I didn’t fancy overnight success. Last but not least, I kept myself out of my comfort zone and tested my limits.”
For more inspiring stories of technology entrepreneurs, pick up the next print edition of BLLNR Singapore, entitled "The Future Issue", on newsstands next week.