16 October 2020 | News/Stories

IW and QBO partner to build communities for women in Philippine tech startups

Many Filipino women thrive in various fields but barriers to women’s economic participation and opportunity persist, particularly in industries and professions dominated by men. Case in point: tech.

To address gaps in the Philippines’ male-dominated tech industry, Investing in Women has partnered with QBO Innovation Hub, the Philippines’ first public-private partnership platform for startups.

The three-year partnership will build on QBO’s existing #StartupPinay campaign, which aims to foster a community of female-led tech startups through funding, mentorship and exposure. By doing so, QBO aims to demonstrate that gender is not relevant to whether someone can be a successful startup founder.

The partnership aligns with Investing in Women’s efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment in the Philippines, as pushes for workplace gender equality, encourages better access to capital for women-led and women-owned businesses and looks to positively shift gender norms relevant to women’s participation in the economy.

“IW is excited to be working in partnership QBO, as they work to shift gender norms to fully enable women’s meaningful participation in the tech startup space in the Philippines. Women are innovative, talented and ambitious to succeed as startup founders, but are often limited by traditional expectations of the roles they play at home, at work and in society,” said IW CEO Julia Newton-Howes.

“We are also encouraged to see men in the QBO community acting as allies of women in the tech startup space,” she added.

To celebrate the partnership, Startup Pinay Brunch: Women Taking the Lead was held virtually on 25 September.  Among the esteemed guests were Sheona McKenna, Counsellor (Economic) at the Australian Embassy in the Philippines and Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who both delivered a message through video.

Challenging gender stereotypes

The livestreamed event included a panel discussion among prominent women leaders in tech: Cathy Yap-Yang, Head of Corporate Communications of PLDT, a telecommunications service provider in the Philippines; and Minette Navarrete, Vice Chair and President, Kickstart Ventures Inc., a Corporate Venture Capital startup firm. Victoria Herrera, Head of Marketing at online community platform Kumu and Co-Founder of She Talks Asia—an all-female media and retail organisation—moderated the discussion.

The three women talked about their journeys and the pivotal choices that led to establishing lucrative careers in telcos and startups. Yap-Yang, for instance, was a multi-awarded business journalist before becoming the communications head of a leading telco firm. Navarrete, on the other hand, was part of a telco’s senior leadership team before making the decision to lead a startup.

Yap-Yang also shared her views on entrepreneurship, saying, “I feel strongly that startup businesses should be judged whether they survive or otherwise, and not because they’re run by a man or a woman.”

“It doesn’t help that certain attributes are presented as male only, such as traits associated with building a business—including self-esteem, risk taking overconfidence, the need for control, resilience and ego. [These create] that familiar archetype of a male leader,” she added.

Navarrete, speaking from her experiences of working with women both as colleagues and as partners said, “It’s important to have women in the team. It makes a difference. It makes a difference on how [the team] performs, how they think, how they decide. And when you’re thinking about things that must work and succeed over the long haul, it matters.”

Next-generation female leaders, beyond COVID-19

Yap-Yang acknowledged that women are most disadvantaged and continue to face challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. But she also sees the opportunity for women to rise to such challenges and belong to the next generation of female leaders—particularly in tech startups.

“This is a time of new beginnings. It’s also a time to reinvent ourselves and say, ‘I’m a woman, and I’m trying to think out of the box.’ It’s also trying to think, either with a gender lens or without. It’s a new, exciting space out there and it’s just a matter of being alive with communities that will help support that goal of wanting to move ahead and beyond what the new normal is going to be for them after the pandemic,” she said.

One such community is QBO, whose upcoming initiatives for StartupPinay include funding, mentorship and capacity building through sponsored participation in local and international conferences, the media and in community meetups.

“We at QBO are incredibly excited about the opportunity to build a platform that helps our Pinay-led businesses to scale up their businesses and expand to new markets both here and beyond local borders. Pinays have had an indelible impact on social and economic spheres, and through our campaigns, we hope to inspire and continue to support the next generation of female leaders, and turn this into a meaningful movement. Startup Pinay and the innovations our women founders are creating, will undoubtedly have a huge impact on our country, and our future,” said QBO Director Katrina Rausa Chan.

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