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Pinay Tech Sheroes tackle challenges in tech industry

News Stories Videos /31 January 2021

QBO Innovation Hub (QBO) through its Startup Pinay program shone a spotlight on female tech startup founders and enablers through panel discussions during the last Philippine Startup Week, the country’s biggest startup conference. The Filipina tech champions discussed the state of the industry, bonded over their shared experiences, and proposed strategies to address commonly encountered challenges.

Startup Pinay’s first panel discussion featured Anna Melissa “Mel” Nava, Co-Founder and CEO of 1Export; Fatima “Timmy” dela Cruz, Chief Investment Officer of Qatalyst Ventures; Rhea See, Co-Founder of She Loves Tech; and Yen Do, Associate at Beacon Fund of Patamar Capital. James Lette, Executive Director of Manila Angel Investors Network (, moderated the session. is a partner of Investing in Women (IW), an initiative of the Australian Government.

The second panel discussion, meanwhile, featured Stephanie Sy, Founder and CEO of Thinking Machines Data Science, and Kat Mañalac, then Partner and currently Head of Outreach at Y Combinator. Victoria Herrera, Head of Marketing at Kumu and Co-Founder of She Talks Asia, moderated the session.

These virtual conversations are part of QBO’s Startup Pinay campaign to foster a community of women-led startups through mentorship and exposure, apart from funding and resource provision. Investing in Women supports the Startup Pinay campaign to encourage women to enter fields that are traditionally seen as “men’s work” or “unsuitable for women.”

Watch the complete Philippine Startup Week – Startup Pinay panel discussions below:

Among the actionable insights that surfaced during the discussions:

  • Gender-neutral STEM. Educators, parents and other influencers can be participants in correcting the social conditioning that reinforces gender stereotypes and discourages women from pursuing their initial interest and eventually a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Job segregation is partly influenced by gender norms introduced early—the perception that women are “better suited” for caregiving, for example, is established when girls are gifted with dolls and kitchen sets (rather than science kits or LEGOs). As it stands, STEM attainment in the country is lower for women (17.78%) compared to men (44.26%) based on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
  • Case studies. Despite the proven fact that female founders outperform their male counterparts and deliver more value on less capital, women-owned enterprises remain unserved or underserved by formal financial institutions. For more capital to flow to women-led startups, the perceived reluctance to invest in women needs to be addressed. Perhaps part of the solution would be increasing the visibility of women founders and successful women-owned startups. This could mean opening more networking opportunities for women, such as startup competitions like She Loves Tech. It also means amplifying their inspirational stories through forums such as QBO’s Startup Pinay and QLITAN, or impact reports detailing key learnings in gender finance as seen in the IW Knowledge Hub.
  • Restructured lending ecosystem. Lenders, fund managers, angel investors and venture capitalists may need to revisit their talent development, networking and pitching processes to better promote diversity and inclusion, and remove prevailing unconscious biases against women-led startups and the female founders themselves, including:
    • their selection criteria for the businesses considered for the investment portfolio and whether it filters out women’s interests and ideas, and
    • their due diligence questions to founders seeking funding—particularly as women, more often than men, are scrutinised in terms of track record, relationship or marital status and risk/downside scenarios.
  • Free mentorship. Successful female entrepreneurs and experienced startup founders continue to inspire their fellow practitioners, and have an active role in encouraging their networks and peer support groups to learn from each other’s experiences and to mentor new female entrants in the male-dominated tech industry.
  • Ally formation. Male advocates of women empowerment also have a role to play in removing “soft barriers” to women by making the tech space less male-centric, starting with their own organisations and in their everyday interactions with women.
  • Investing in oneself. Women, including trans women and non-binary individuals, can be intentional in how they develop their technical and interpersonal skills, as well as their mental and emotional well-being, thus building resilience while positioning themselves for the many emerging opportunities in the changing tech landscape.

By profiling strong female startup founders in the Philippines, highlighting their successes as well as the challenges they have either overcome or continue to battle, QBO demonstrates gender is irrelevant to be a successful startup founder. The Startup Pinay Tech Sheroes have redefined leadership and added their own brand of mentorship and peer support to the mix.

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