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A Non-Linear Path: How changing functions helped one of China’s Most Influential Business Women reach the top

Updated: 24 May 2016


Women in China do not need to follow a linear career path in order to reach a senior role. That’s the advice of recruiting experts Hays, who says more women should follow the lead of Gina Qiao, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Chinese multinational technology firm Lenovo, to reach the top of their profession.  


Gina has embraced the concept of a non-linear path throughout her career. She joined Lenovo as a secretary in 1990, and progressed through roles in marketing, corporate strategy and planning, before moving into HR in 2002.


For each new role in her career, she made sure the move was seamless. She found the link between the roles she was moving between, and her love of change and her ability to adapt to different situations certainly helped her succeed in her non-linear career path. In fact, Fortune China listed Gina Qiao among China’s ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ in 2012, 2013 and 2014.


Of a non-linear career path Simon Lance, Managing Director of Hays in China says, “Setting career goals is important, as well as being prepared to step outside of your comfort zone. In an increasingly competitive market, it's crucial to understand that a single decision will not define your entire career. If you apply a non-restrictive view of your role in the workplace, it can open up many exciting pathways.


“All motivated professionals reach career intersections that require careful consideration. Relative strategies can be effective when you are focused on such career development," he said.


Gina spoke to Hays for a profile in the recruiter’s Hays Journal. Her comments provide a complementary backdrop to recent findings in Hays’ 2016 Gender Diversity Report, particularly in relation to the challenges faced by women in business in China. 


“76 per cent of the women we surveyed aspire to reach a top leadership position in their career, with 46 per cent wanting to reach Director, MD/CEO level,” says Simon. “Interestingly, the aspirations of women and men are very similar, with 51 per cent of male respondents aspiring to such roles too.”


Yet there are fewer females who get to the top. Of the heavily male-dominated technology sector, Gina says, “It is hard to compete in this industry, because the competition is very tough and there are fewer females who get to the top, but I still think female leaders have a lot of opportunity.


“We need a more collaborative, cross-boundary approach within the industry and different companies,” she says of how to help more women reach executive roles. She goes on to add, “I think this is an advantage for women. In risky or changing times in particular, women leaders can adapt to change much more easily than men.


The following tips from Hays will help keep your career options open:

  • Self-Investment: Utilise periods of time spent away from the workplace to invest in your self-development. Working with a business coach to strategically plan your next steps, marketing your online profile, or pursuing further education are all positive contributions. 
  • Networking: As you progress in your career, maintain your professional relationships. Consider everyone you meet a valuable asset to your career, irrespective of their superiority. Your job profile will stand you in good stead for any future opportunities you choose to pursue and you never know which individuals may cross your path as you progress up the career ladder. 
  • Be holistic: Take an active interest in the roles of your peers in other departments. Advancing into senior positions will require cross-functional skills and the ability to develop business partnerships with your counterparts. By developing a broad perspective of how the business operates, you will begin to visualise other roles where your expertise may become useful. 
  • Mentor: Lenovo launched a female leadership programme, supporting women with training and mentoring, which is starting to have positive results. The global technology company is now seen to be employing 10 per cent more women than the industry average since introducing this programme. Seek out a mentor with experience. Someone you respect and aspire to be. Your mentor should be able to offer you guidance and act as a sounding board to your professional deliberations. 

Read the full Hays Journal interview with Gina Qiao here.


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 31 December 2015 the Group employed 9,420 staff operating from 248 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2015:


– the Group reported net fees of £764.2 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £164.1 million;

– the Group placed around 63,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 200,000 people into temporary assignments;

– 23% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific, 41% in Continental Europe & RoW (CERoW) and 36% in the United Kingdom & Ireland;

– the temporary placement business represented 58% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 42% of net fees;

– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA


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