What It’s Really Like To Be a Woman in Tech – 2 Part Series

What It’s Really Like To Be a Woman in Tech – 2 Part Series

29-Aug-2016 by Val Jihsuan Yap

To those who dreamed about building their own startup but feel like they don’t fit the archetype because you are female. Guess what? You do! This is my story.

No matter what gender you are, building a startup takes a  tremendous amount of time and energy. Due to stereotypical “household roles” women get portrayed as, especially in Asia, most cultures expect women to avoid these time consuming jobs. Being a startup founder in FinTech is one of those.

Let me strongly disagree to this myth! Women have the ability to do both through determination and perseverance – Women have succeeded in the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Arianna Huffington and even J.K Rowling. They have set forth the development for future generations of female entrepreneurs.

Female founders may be a rare breed in a male dominated tech industry. I always thought to myself that if The Muse founder (Kathryn Minshew) can do it, I can do it too.

In recent years, the development of female founder groups such as TechLadies has helped to foster an environment where women have direct connections to communities, mentors and exemplary women.

Big picture aside, I would like to share a snapshot of challenges I face as a Female Founder & CEO: 

  1. As a woman in charge in a FinTech startup, you do have to work a bit more to get credibility from investors, partners and engineers. Our gender sometimes places us under tougher scrutiny so female CEOs must lead with decisiveness and directness. If you are soft, you are too feminine. Whatever way someone finds you, they can always justify it is because you are female.
  2. Attending meetings where the other person is more interested in something else than in your product. As it’s difficult to distinguish it in the early stage, you may end up wasting some time. If you turn down their advances, it gets awkward, it becomes difficult to keep the working relationship. After a while, I learnt to do some research about the person before scheduling a face to face meeting to ensure that the meetings are fruitful and productive.
  3. People in business don’t take you seriously until you are successful. Building the network and team can get tricky. When you reach out to prospective developers/ partners, you may get messages asking you out or commenting on your looks rather than your ability to conduct business.

Advantages being a Female founder & CEO:

  1. The biggest advantage is that being female makes you memorable: it’s sometimes easier to get press coverage and meetings can happen faster. There’s also growing interest from the tech community in encouraging women entrepreneurs which led to opportunities to present at conferences or events.
  2. People will usually be keener on lending a hand because you are a female. Female will help you because you are a “fellow female entrepreneur.”
  3. As a female, you bring different skills to a technology business. You tend to have more empathy and people focused. Combining the strength of both intuitive vision and ingenious application of metrics that developers look for, help to build a good product that people will actually want.

It’s tough being a CEO. Male or female. You can choose your attitude toward how you manage it. Male or female, each get our own advantages and drawbacks, and I would suggest not overplaying the “female” card as it can backfire. Ultimately, you want people to picture you as the CEO, not as the “woman CEO”.

About PolicyPal

PolicyPal is a recent graduate of the Startupbootcamp FinTech Singapore accelerator. It creates a digital insurance folder for you to organise all your existing policies, giving you a peace of mind and makes recommendations about your insurance coverage. PolicyPal provides an independent review of your coverage and let you know the missing links to ease worries.

Founder of PolicyPal. An internet enthusiast with 10 years of experience, including finance, business development, product development, business operations, and strategy.