[This is a paid article with Reapra.]
A HSBC study revealed that over a third of female entrepreneurs experience gender bias when raising capital. And globally, half of the investment pitches conducted by female entrepreneurs are denied funding.
And a Crunchbase research supports that claim. In 2019, male-only founders raised a whopping US$195 billion, while female-only founders raised a measly US$6 billion.
This is an issue worth exploring, and Reapra gave us the opportunity to speak to some entrepreneurs and to hear firsthand about their personal hurdles as female founders.
1. Struggled To Gain Respect From Other Business Peers
Rachel Lee, the co-founder of Uplevel (a Singaporean edtech company for coding), feels that her gender has sometimes put her at a disadvantage when pitching to other business owners.
“I have had some meetings with men where I was left feeling that they would’ve shown greater respect for me and my time if I had presented as male.”
She even encountered potential business partners who immediately showed little interest in collaborating once they found out that they were meeting a female founder.
There is hope yet though because according to Nga Levi, the co-founder of Spiderum (a Vietnamese publishing platform for writers), people in the startup ecosystem tend to be more open-minded. Fortunately, she has yet to face discrimination just because of her gender.
2. Advised Against Using Identity As A Wife Or Mother
Ginger Arboleda, the co-founder of Taxumo (a Philippines tech startup that helps SMEs and freelancers with tax and compliance), runs the business with her husband, EJ.
When they were just starting out, some female friends advised her to avoid using her married name and not reveal to investors that they have a daughter.
She didn’t realise the extent of the problem until she personally encountered people who discriminated against her just because she is a woman.
I think in their minds, EJ was the one who was more focused, logical and dedicated to the business. To elaborate, I was actually worried that they might question my ability of compartmentalising work versus personal life. Some investors perceived me as emotional and they feared that I might get overwhelmed and just give up.Ginger Arboleda, co-founder of Taxumo
3. Questioned About Their Commitment To The Business
As a female founder, Nga had to find the right balance between work and life. She said that it’s a hill to climb, especially as a mother. She had to juggle between her responsibilities as a first-time mum and her role as a founder as she goes through her 10 to 12-hour workday.
But Ginger, as a mother of a 7-year-old, said that motherhood has helped her to improve as a founder.
As a parent who utilises positive parenting, she realised that the values that she is fostering at home are reflected in the workplace as well. And this has created a workplace that values integrity, accountability and so on.
4. Severe Lack Of Female Role Models In The Industry
In 2018, 134 VC-backed US companies are valued at US$1 billion or more, but only 16 out of the 134 have a woman co-founder.
“There is a lack of women technopreneurs that we can look up to, and even if there are, we don’t hear much about them,” Ginger lamented.
Because of that lack, she had gnawing fears whether she could make it big in the industry and that built up a sense of self-doubt.
Thus she believes that having accessible support for the younger generation is important.
Having someone to encourage them to persevere and to help them overcome challenges is the first step in creating role models for the younger generation.
5. Pressured To Conform To Traditional Societal Standards
Nga’s parents weren’t enthusiastic about her pursuit of starting her own company. They even advised her to stick to tradition and work a stable job rather than taking a risk.
In Vietnam, women are often encouraged to follow a safe path in every single aspect of life: choosing a career, a lover, a lifestyle.Nga Levi, co-founder of Spiderum
In the early days of running Spiderum, the company was forced to close due to a lack of money and a proper monetisation model. She then took her parents’ advice to work for a big company with a stable income.
However, she struggled with the work environment despite the perks that came with the job. So, she left the company to restart Spiderum.
“I always knew Spiderum was where I could be me, where I could work tirelessly and would still be happy. Most of the team [who left Spiderum after it closed] was working on it without compensation and Spiderum somehow lived on. The platform kept growing despite our silence.”
Her parents finally understood her determination in running a serious business and have started to accept it.
But, not all businesses are capable of staying alive without someone steering the ship, and building a sustainable business is important.
What Is ‘Build To Last’?
‘Build To Last’ is a virtual (online only) hackathon that focuses on helping female founders realise their ideas of building a sustainable business.
Note: To Reapra, sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the business context, this mindset is critical in counter-balancing the pressure that CEOs and companies have to drive short-term results at the expense of long-term interests.
But, unlike typical hackathons where participants solve a particular and specific issue, the ‘Build To Last’ hackathon allows participants to pick any business or industry to work on, as long as it follows their theme of Sustainability.
Open to any teams within Southeast Asia, businesses must have:
- An existing business idea OR a business in its early stages.
- A team of maximum 2 founders. You can join as a solo female founder.
- A female founder. A mix of a female founder with a male co-founder can apply.
Priscilla Han, the Chief Investment Officer of Reapra told Vulcan Post that the organisers have the same goal—to inspire more female founders in their pursuit of entrepreneurship and to foster profit-driven businesses.
She also sees ‘Build To Last’ as a starting point for the participants in their entrepreneurial journey.
As opposed to traditional one-time cash prizes in hackathons, Reapra is providing winners with opportunities to pitch for funding of up to SGD100,000 to turn their ideas into reality.
Through ‘Build to Last’, we hope to provide a platform for female entrepreneurs to step up, explore and refine their business ideas, with the eventual goal of turning their ideas into reality. At the same time, we also aim to inspire and bring together like-minded communities and individuals in understanding the concept of business sustainability, to build a new generation of businesses to last.Priscilla Han, Chief Investment Officer of Reapra
- Register for the ‘Build To Last’ virtual hackathon here. Registration ends on the 31st of August.
- For more info on Reapra, click here.
- Read what we’ve written about Reapra in the past here.
Featured Image Credit: Rachel Lee, Ginger Arboleda, Nga Levi