A few good women: group targets female Hong Kong entrepreneurs as tech sector diversity suffers

A few good women: group targets female Hong Kong entrepreneurs as tech sector diversity suffers.

In a development expected to address the lack of female representation in the technology sector, among other concerns, Hong Kong-based social enterprise Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW) officially launched this month to help businesswomen in the city network globally and benefit from its mentorship programme. 

While women have risen to the top ranks of some of the world’s biggest internet companies, their presence in the upper echelons of power remains low, especially in greater China’s tech sector. 

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell may be role models for a generation, but the world has yet to embrace a ‘female Steve Jobs’, let alone one who looks Chinese.

Local academic statistics highlight the existence of a pattern in need of breaking: in Hong Kong last year, women made up just 33 per cent of the first-year undergraduate intake for science, technology, engineering and math degrees.

FEW aims to establish a mentorship programme this year to connect Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs with more experienced businesswomen so they can learn from past success stories, expand their professional networks, gain more confidence and break through the glass ceiling at work, it said.

“People really change everything in your journey, through inspiration or giving you that little help you need,” said marketing freelancer Ines Gafsi, a former social media manager who recently joined the team.

“I’ve always wanted to [become an entrepreneur] but I never knew how,” she said.

That all changed when she met Anna Wong, a local entrepreneur. The two soon decided to join forces and launch FEW.

“We both had the feeling that there is definitely some space [in the market] for an organisation for women entrepreneurs,” Gafsi added.

FEW, which had a soft launch in May, wants to help women empower themselves, it said.

This gives women in the tech industry another beacon of hope after the recent establishment of organisations like W Hub and Women Who Code, which both aim to promote diversity in the industry and encourage women to join.

“In my previous company, men made up 80 per cent of the management,” said Wong. “It is a common issue for women to be stuck at the middle or junior level, also because there is a lack of mentorship to guide them on moving forward.”

In the long run, Wong and Gafsi hope to set up a fund to invest in entrepreneurial projects started by women. They have also not ruled out the possibility of becoming an incubator geared towards start-ups led by female entrepreneurs.

“We used to be [networkers], but sometimes you have to change your path and become the community leaders to help others to grow,” says Wong, who runs an education start-up based in Shenzhen.

FEW said it hopes to organise a conference early next year with California-based female entrepreneurship community SoGal targeting prominent businesswomen speakers and ambitious university students.