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The challenges and advantages of being a woman entrepreneur in the startup arena

News Stories /26 January 2023

Women-led startups in the Philippines have become increasingly common in recent years, with an estimated 62% of new businesses registered in 2020 being women-owned, according to the Department of Trade and Industries. However, despite this growth in the number of women-led businesses, there is still much more that needs to be done for these companies to succeed. 

Women entrepreneurs and business leaders came together at the Philippine Startup Week to discuss how to balance career progression with life’s demands. 

The panel discussion, aptly named “She Can Have It All: An Intergenerational Discussion on Career Progression and Work-Life Balance”, looked to explore key obstacles female professionals face in their journey to success.

The event featured Gina Romero, Founder and Head of Special Projects at Connected Women, Jules Veloso, Founder and CEO at ITOOH, Katrina Luna-Abelarde, FVP and Head of Partnerships and Revenue Operations at PLDT & SMART, Dennis Velasco, Founder and CEO at Properna, Wirin Eiamphoklarp, Associate at Gentree Fund and Kass Monson, Co-Founder and CEO at Workbean.

In the early stages of building their own businesses, female entrepreneurs often struggle with dedicating enough time to the task and needing to hustle twice as hard as their male counterparts due to existing stereotypes. 

Surveys show that women dedicate an average of 24 hours per week to unpaid care work while men would only spend 8 hours. This is the key factor in limiting the amount of time women have available for business endeavours.

Discussing the shortage of women leaders in the workforce,  Ms Romero said that the traditional workplace isn’t set up to be supportive of women. This issue is compounded by traditional norms which dictate that men should be breadwinners and women should prioritise their families over their careers. 

“We need to make it easier for women to access the workforce and have to make it easier for women to get back into the workforce,” Ms Romero added.

Beyond these obstacles, there are still advantages of being a woman in the startup space as discussed by the panel. 

The panellists agreed that having women investors in the startup space is also an advantage, as it helps diversify conversations and understanding around various situations. Female investors bring different types of perspectives that can help better shape businesses by offering insights into areas that male leaders might miss.

Women in the startup space can also serve as role models for other female entrepreneurs, giving them examples of success stories from which they can draw inspiration. Seeing female entrepreneurs ahead of their game can encourage aspiring businesswomen to take risks, pursue their dreams and join the world of entrepreneurship. 

Mr Velasco said it’s also vital to have a culture of equality if businesses want to innovate. He added that the formula of equality helps businesses gain new ideas. 

This allows for more original and creative thinking, which is necessary for businesses to stay ahead of the competition. In addition, a culture of equality helps create a workplace where people feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks. 

To encourage more women to participate in the startup space, Miss Veloso said it is important for leaders to be intentional with hiring women and fostering an environment where women can succeed.

“We need to articulate that we want women for various roles and create a culture where we actually empower women to be leaders,” she added.

“She Can Have It All: An Intergenerational Discussion on Career Progression and Work-Life Balance” was part of the Startup Pinay Conference held last November 2022 at the Philippine Startup Week. The event featured female leaders and male allies pushing boundaries in the startup space.  The conference aimed to engage startup founders, investors, corporates, and government agencies, with the goal of strengthening the pipeline of female leaders and entrepreneurs in technology.

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