By Jonathan Davies

Alibaba's women executive are the "special sauce" behind its success, founder Jack Ma has said.

The Chinese ecommerce giant likes to shout about its achievements in gender equality. Ma made the comments came at Alibaba's first Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship.

Alibaba says around 40% of its entire workforce is female, 35% of high-level executives and a third of its founders. Although critics would call for 50% of high level executives to be female, Alibaba's proportion stands out from Silicon Valley.

A number of Alibaba's female executive spoke at the event, including Zhang Wei, Alibaba Group senior vice president, and Lucy Peng, Alibaba Group chief people officer and CEO of a financial services subsidiary.

“Men think about themselves more; women think about others more,” Ma said. “Women think about taking care of their parents, their children.” Although this comment did raise a few feminist eyebrows.

"I feel proud that more than 34 percent of senior management are women. They really make this company’s yin and yang balanced," Ma said. "Women balance the logic and the instinct. I would say this is the 'secret sauce' of the company."