DIGITALISATION has changed the way almost everything is done. Therefore, both men and women have to dive into this ecosystem and grab the opportunities. Within the startup ecosystem, most founders are still male, but it is no longer so difficult to find women at the helm.
According to a World Economic Forum report, females hold a 24% stake in tech-related jobs and across all industries, women made up, on average, 33% of junior-level staff, 24% of mid-level staff, 15% of senior-level staff and 9% of CEOs in 2016.
Snapcart co-founder and chief data officer Teresa Condicion along with co-founder and chief financial officer Araya Hutasuwan share their experiences as female startup founders in an interview with DNA.
Teresa was formerly with Procter & Gamble Consumer Insights as director. She has 17 years of experience in Consumer Insights across Asia. With 10 years of advanced analytics experience, she created multiple innovations for P&G globally, from low-cost Marketing ROI analytics, to volume forecasting methods and Big Data analytics. She tells DNA that digitalisation creates an opportunity to make a big change in the industry. “I was in market research for 17 years and by including technology, market research and analytics were taken into the next level. That’s why I wanted to join the excitement,” she explains.
Prior to Snapcart, Araya was a vice president at Ardent Capital, a VC based in Bangkok with 16 portfolio companies across Southeast Asia (SEA) and Hong Kong where she focused on advising portfolio companies on their business strategies, helping drive subsequent funding rounds, sourcing potential deals, and making investment recommendations. She also performed entrepreneurial jobs while at the VC. She says that she knew she wanted to be in the tech ecosystem, and she agrees, that everything has been digitalised and the future is related to tech. “I think I made a right decision in joining this ecosystem. In VC, I met tons of people, interesting entrepreneurs but at the same time, when you talk to people who want to start something, they feel that they really want it. I was actually jealous of them and I told myself that I wanted to jump to the other side of the table,” she adds.
Support helps to overcome challenges
Both Teresa and Araya agree that they have very supportive male co-founders and families. “Personally, I grew up not knowing the difference between male and female. I learnt it only after I left the Philippines but I know that women can do what a man can do,” adds Teresa. For her, the challenges came when she went to events and met more males than females. She could feel that there was “alienation” sometimes, because to her, it’s easier to relate to people who are similar. But things are becoming much easier now. As a mother of two children, she also faces challenges as she has to travel all the time and feels guilty about leaving her family. “But, I have a very supportive partner and it’s equal for us in terms of managing the household. Although it comes with challenges, they were manageable for me. I have been very lucky that way.”
For Araya, her first job was in banking, and at that point of time, she was the only woman in the team. “I think the more you think about gender differences, the more you victimise yourself. We have to see it as an opportunity. Having said that, especially in tech, there is a little invisible barrier that women have to overcome such as adding credibility to yourself.” Teresa then says, “And to add credibility to yourself, you just perform, show your strength, do what you are really good at and I guess over time, it will show.”
Both feel that their current place in the tech ecosystem is the biggest achievement in their careers to date.
When asked about the progress of women in tech across the region, Teresa says that there is still a huge gap between women and men. Even in the tech education sector, the percentage of women participating is still low. “It is something that we need to change because women work in very different way. We help the businesses in a big way. I see that women bring in a whole new diversity of thinking, as they often have a much more holistic view on a project,” she elaborates.
Araya says that more role models, especially in this field, are necessary, and everything has to be equal now in terms of working and handling households. They also say that the things holding women back are people’s expectations and differences in the confidence level between men and women. “I have heard a lot of women say that they cannot be entrepreneurs because it will take a lot of time or they feel guilty about leaving a child behind, or cannot fulfil job requirements. “However, in tech, there is no capability barrier, but we have been raised in a culture where there seems to be one. So, I think, those are the two biggest concerns of mine,” says Teresa.
Araya explains, “For me, it is the difference in confidence level of women and men. Women tend to take no as a no, while men take no as the time to challenge. So, we have to set our mindset as women, that we can overcome the challenges.” She also feels that it is better to not think about the gender differences or gap when it comes to work. Teresa agrees that we should not label it as male or female, but, “We are just founders, engineers, we are just what we are. And the other one is not to overthink about the things that are holding you back because solutions will always be out there.”
Araya sees that in the future, more women will come out as role models and technology will help to drive this. “The entire world is moving towards this and gender equality especially in tech is the starting point. The fact that we love technology and it helps us, enables to do what we do,” she ends.