With International Women’s Day recently passed, the topic of women in the workforce is once again a hot topic. Here at the Impact Hub, we turn our attention to our own female entrepreneurs. We often hear about the difficulties women face in the workplace – discrimination, gender inequality, and the tensions between family and work. We decided to find out more about the situation – how do our female entrepreneurs actually feel about the situation? We interviewed several women who are influential in the startup ecosystem in Singapore to find out their perspectives on the of being a female entrepreneur in Singapore.
When asked about the challenges they have seen and faced, I was surprised to discover that no one was all that keen to talk about challenges. Instead, they spoke about opportunities. Actually, maybe it’s not that surprising, given how much they’ve achieved. A positive mindset is a must-have, as they all shared when asked what advice they would pass on to future female entrepreneurs. However, there were a few universal issues that were raised.
So, what challenges do they see in the current environment?
Grace Clapham, co-founder of professional training and coaching company The Change School, was happy to share the challenges she had perceived in the ecosystem.
“The cost of living for entrepreneurs is high,” she explains. “And work passes are getting harder to get, as the Entrepass requires a very high upfront capital.” She also adds that the investment space could do with more women investors or angel investors, and that a larger pool of mentors is needed, coming from different backgrounds and experiences.” However, she concludes that “these are general challenges that impact men and women.”
None of the interviewees talk much about general or personal challenges. “When I think of challenges, I can only think of things that have happened to other people,” says Angela Ognev, of Redesign Happy. Despite that stance, many of them touch on Imposter Syndrome, the sense of not belonging, or not having earned your success.
Grace C. emphasised that sharing stories can be a valuable tool for entrepreneurs, both male and female. We turned to Angela, who runs a number of groups, including F*Up Nights, a group dedicated to sharing stories of failure, and Cut the Small Talk, which focuses on issues and taboos. She revealed a number of insights about how sharing stories is a valuable tool for entrepreneurs.
“The goal of these workshops is for people to see that they are not alone in their struggles, and to demonstrate that it’s okay to fail – you don’t have to be perfect all the time, and it’s not a weakness to share your worries, fears, and failures.
“The majority of the issues that come up are actually shared between women and men. However, one particular challenge that we’ve seen for women is the tension between work life and home life, between their passion for providing a valuable service to society, and their responsibilities as a mother. This can manifest as guilt, for example for not spending enough time with their children. Sometimes, it also comes from the expectations of their family, especially of their parents, that they should settle down and find a husband who can provide for them, rather than starting their own thing.”
This is supported by Mouna Langendorf, founder of Woomentum, a crowdfunded community designed to help female entrepreneurs access funding and mentoring. “My main personal challenge has been balancing a family and my ambition to achieve my dreams. Before I had a family, I never imagined that it would be an issue. Now, I’m challenged to balance my family life with growing my startup. My husband has been very supportive, though, and I feel lucky to have that support.”
Part 2 coming soon!