Female in Tech Startup Business – Their Challenges and Hope in This Fast Pace Ecosystem

21 April 2019

Tech ecosystem worldwide has reputation of it being dominated by men, both from founders side and investors side. But in recent years, we started to see more female founders and VC Partners, especially in Southeast Asia. It’s surely a good thing for the ecosystem. Unfortunately, the growth of those female entrepreneurs and investors, are still not too significant.

In this article, we spoke to our female partner and startup founders to understand the challenges that they’ve faced, their hope for tech startup ecosystem, and their suggestions for other females who want to have a career in this fast pace ecosystem.

What are the challenges of working in tech-related business for women?

Grace Tahir, co-founder of Medico, said that less female tech entrepreneurs is actually a challenge for other women that want to enter the ecosystem. According to her, having a solid female circle can help women to share and discuss their common goals and challenge together.

“There is still a lot of presumptuousness out there that female-led companies don’t do as well as male-led, this is a stereotype that needs to be eliminated as it affects every aspect of the industry and the company itself, not to mention it is a bad precedent for upcoming female entrepreneurs,” Tahir said.

Melisa Irene, Partner of East Ventures, also talked about other stereotype that still exist in tech ecosystem. “There seems to be an underlying presumption in society that men are fast, intuitive, and aggressive, but not detailed. Women are the opposite: detailed and careful, but reluctant about high risk. By this nature, in a fast pace ecosystem, men are assumed to be more capable of making strategic decision and women able to execute with excellence,” Irene said.

That’s why, according to Irene, women have challenges to always keeping up. “Dynamics continually changing. The tough part is finding yourself the set of balance between speed and quality.”

Elisa Suteja, co-founder of Fore Coffee, said that some of the challenges actually come internally. “In the highly competitive industry, women tend to feel that they don’t deserve a seat in the table and lacking in confidence. The gender bias also causes some resistance in taking a higher role, just because women thinks that we are not qualified for it,” she said.

While Marianne Rumantir, founder of Member.id, pointed out the fact that there is still a large disproportionate of women graduating from a computer science or technology background. “It creates an automatic gender biased when it comes to the tech-industry. There is definitely a shortage of talent when it comes to women engineers, we never get any female talent applying to a tech position in our company where we actually would love to hire more women to be a part of our tech team.”

“Personally, as a working mother, I feel like we have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as men. I think many women in my position constantly have to find the right balance between building a successful business, raising a family, and looking after ourselves,” Rumantir added.

What’s your hope for the future of tech business in Southeast Asia?

Almost all of the female executives that we spoke to hope for more impact in society.

“(I hope for) growth. Not just in the sense of news coverage of a company getting x amount of investment dollars or becoming a unicorn, but where you can see many more tech companies making a real impact in people’s everyday lives,” Tahir said.

“I hope that there will be more tech businesses in Southeast Asia that makes it their central mission to help our planet as well as tackling the world’s health and social problem,” Rumantir said.

“To advance economy and elevate the quality of life for many people,” said Melisa Irene.

While Elisa Suteja has a dream about equal opportunities for female. “So we can see more women taking leadership role in the tech industry,” she said.

What’s your suggestion to all women that want to have a career in tech business?

Melisa Irene: “Just give a shot. I started out knowing nothing and still do not know many things today. The learning is endless, so let’s start today.”

Grace Tahir: “Go for it, as long as you believe in the business model, no one should stop you. Prepare yourself mentally what will happen, and arm yourself with a good mentor/partner.”

Marianne Rumantir: “Never get discouraged but get inspired. Even though I find having a tech background could help start a promising tech career, however you don’t need to be a tech geek to make a difference, you can always contribute using your own set of skills whether it’s in creative, science, finance, management or operations. If you have a killer business idea that you know will provide a solution and make a long-term impact in the market or your society, find a good support system and the right partners to turn the idea into realization.”

Elisa Suteja: “Fight these voices inside our head. We deserve same opportunities as our male colleagues, and our voices do add value in the conversation.”