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Championing a cause doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavour. The drive for more equality is one such instance.

“We’re not suggesting that having women-only events and communities is the only way to go,” Kate Sarginson, the lady behind female-founder group On The Rise stated. 

“However, conventional [mixed-gendered] conferences and business gatherings have historically leaned heavily towards male representation, resulting in a noticeable absence of women’s voices and if you can’t see and hear—you cannot learn.”

In her near-two decades of corporate experience in Malaysia, she found that women-only events provide a uniquely supportive environment. Senior leaders and founders of the fairer sex tend to feel more empowered, which allows them to share more vulnerably. 

You could argue that this takes us a step back from gender equality, but there are layers to her reasoning.

For example, an alcoholic would speak more freely of their struggles in an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. Since everyone’s going through similar struggles due to their predicament, there’s a lack of harsh judgement and stronger relatability.

That’s exactly why Kate started On The Rise in September 2022 with eight other women. 

A space for women, by women

Just like any other organisation, the premise is to create a sense of belonging for its members. In this case, it’s female founders and women in business within Malaysia. 

“Our aim is to catalyse positive transformations in how women nurture their businesses and personal development journeys. We’re dedicated to creating platforms where our members can forge valuable connections, access vital information, and seize opportunities that might otherwise elude them,” Kate shared.

The way On The Rise carries these out is by hosting monthly curated programmes sessions aimed towards growth and supporting the ascension to leadership positions. This includes business-related workshops and discussions, sometimes in collaboration with other groups. 

It’s similar to many other women-focused organisations in the country that have the same goals, like Female Founders in Malaysia and Southeast Asia on Facebook.

But Kate explained that their focus isn’t too much on networking opportunities. Though, those certainly play into the “why’s” of its existence.

Instead, On The Rise emphasises heavily on nurturing authentic relationships and providing grounds for impactful knowledge exchange. This is achieved through a structured onboarding process and active communication channels like WhatsApp and a weekly email.

There are currently over 300 members from over 10 industry sectors. Some of them are familiar faces in the entrepreneurial scene like Anabelle Mericent of La Juiceria and Deborah Henry of Fugeelah

Money makes the world go around

Another way the non-profit organisation embodies is through its recent inaugural business summit called Rise with a theme on money. The main agenda included:

  • educating attendees on various funding avenues beyond traditional venture capital,
  • tips on preparing a solid, and more importantly compelling, business plan for pitching,
  • the keys to building relationships with investors and mentors, and
  • how to remain resilient in the face of rejection.

This goes beyond the day itself. The aim of the summit is to provide participants with practical financial tips while connecting them with other players and stakeholders in the industry. Part of this includes a Funding Corner by pitchIN (an equity crowdfunding platform).

“Our relationship with money is complex and is often the stumbling block between where we are today and how we are going to reach our goals. [So] we wanted to create an event where women can take action and turn their insecurities and uncertainties about money (both in life and business), and turn it into a strength,” Kate said.

All that said, she explained that there isn’t a “no men allowed” rule. The topics for the Rise summit are simply geared more towards women and their relationship with money.

Speaking candidly, Kate shared, “The reality is juggling responsibilities such as childcare, professional careers, entrepreneurial pursuits, and caring for elderly relatives still often falls to the women, leaving little room to prioritise our financial well-being.” 

So there’s a disparity in the time and energy resources that women and men have. 

From here, On The Rise plans to host more annual summits with an even larger roster of international speakers. They’re particularly looking to create a series of more practical workshops on the topic of finances with its community partner, Wahine Capital, to further support members.

But when will we stop needing such gender-based organisations?

Looking at it realistically, there’s still a long way to go before we’d stop needing women-only organisations and events. Because we’re still far from having equal representation in the business world.

According to the Malaysia Venture Capital Roadmap (2024 to 2023), only 14% of decision-makers in Malaysian venture capital firms are women. Globally, there are only 4.9% of female VC partners, with only 2% of venture funding going to female-founded startups.

So it’s less of a “woe is me” stance, and more of acknowledging that societal differences exist. The goal posts for both genders are different and therefore need different initiatives to tackle those imbalances.

Perhaps if we had a specific timeline to meet these goals, it might accelerate the process. Kate believes that although Malaysia has been making steady strides to move forward in recent years, there’s still progress to be made, and On The Rise will be playing its part to help us achieve those goals.

  • Learn more about On The Rise here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: On The Rise

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)