Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency, will help its female executives with costs associated with pregnancies, including freezing of their eggs, the company said on Thursday. I think Ctrip’s move is a welcome first step for Chinese technology firms Grace Zhang, chapter director, Startup Grind Shenzhen The company will provide financial assistance ranging from 100,000 yuan (US$14,994) to 2 million yuan, along with seven days’ paid leave, to mid to senior level female executives, so that they can access “cutting-edge technologies associated with pregnancies, including egg freezing”, said a company spokesperson. The women will be able to pick and choose the service provider for their treatment. “We would like to help our female staff members, in terms of their worries about raising families and having babies, so they can better enjoy their career development,” said Liang Jianzhang, chairman and co-founder of Ctrip, which now boasts about US$28 billion in market capitalisation and is listed on the Nasdaq. “A shrinking population has already become a ticking time bomb for China,” said Liang, who is also an authority on China’s demography. “If we don’t encourage people to have more babies, the population problem will eventually threaten the development of the Chinese economy, and innovation in society,” he said. “There is so much more that needs to be done.” Ctrip-backed travel agent Tongcheng-eLong to raise up to US$1.5 b in Hong Kong stock sale Ctrip’s announcement runs counter to trends in the technology sector, where sexist attitudes towards women are rife. A report Human Rights Watch published in April, analysing 36,000 Chinese job advertisements, found that even Chinese giants such as Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post , and Tencent Holdings had published sexist ads. Alibaba has since said it would “conduct stricter reviews” and Tencent apologised for the postings. Online travel giant Ctrip bets China travellers are in a hurry with backing of US supersonic jet start-up Boom “I think Ctrip’s move is a welcome first step for Chinese technology firms,” said Grace Zhang, the chapter director of Startup Grind Shenzhen, a global community for entrepreneurs. She said despite some progress, she did not feel there was a substantial improvement in the status of women in technology companies. “There has not been any tangible breakthrough for women’s rights in this industry,” she said.