Like the rest of Asia, the women in Singapore face a social stigma that doesn’t seem to go away. They are expected to stay indoors and nurture families. However, the expectation goes against the scenarios when a family faces a vulnerable and unpredictable world.
Thankfully, the social stigma doesn’t stop the women from working and contributing to the financial well-being of their families. As per the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), 44% of the workforce of Singapore comprises of women. While, it is joyous to see women contributing to the economy almost as much as the men do, but the number of women who are ‘business owners’ is quite low. As per MIWE, there were approximately 26% of women who recognized themselves as business owners, rather than employees. It raises questions about whether the country is going wrong somewhere! Or is it merely because of the social structure and the traditional values of the country? How can a country that is known for making quick decisions, adapting to changing scenarios almost instantly, and thinking about future developments such a drastic gender gap in entrepreneurship? Let’s find out!
Problems faced by Female Entrepreneurs:
1. Women have to be excellent at time management to be a successful entrepreneur
Women who workwear many hats – they take care of the kids and family, cook meals for everyone, do the home chores, and all of this while they take care of their businesses. Some women hire external help to wear a few of these hats, but the family still plays an important role in the life of every female entrepreneur in Singapore.
The key challenge here is to find the balance between work and home. Mothers who are too focused on the business will eventually start feeling anxious over the child’s welfare. And if the same mothers do not give enough time to their professional work, the plans might irreversibly fall apart. As per Entrepreneur Magazine, they are starting a part-time business is a good idea for anyone willing to pursue entrepreneurship with minimum risk. Women can benefit from this strategy since starting part-time will help in easy time management. And when the lessons are learned, the business can be pursued full-time.
2. Entrepreneurship Gender Gap
In the Male dominating society, we find more men entrepreneurs than women. Among the top 25 entrepreneurs in Singapore, only 2-3 females entrepreneurs are part of that list. As the study done by Wharton Professor, Mr. Ethan Mollick, men are more likely to be overconfident than women. Accordingly to Mr. Ethan Mollick,
Overconfidence is the biggest psychological predictor of whether or not you’re going to become an entrepreneur.
As per the study, it also says that women are less likely to try again in case they fail in their first attempt at entrepreneurship compared to men. This situation can be intimidating! However, if a woman has the ideas and confidence, the very daunting job can be turned into a favorable one. Women should use their feminine presence and deliver the presentation with full conviction, and play their role most memorably. It will set the situation highly positive and favorable for her business.
3. Finding Investors, Funds, and Mentors
While banks do not get biased based on gender, investors do. There are next to zero female investors in Singapore, which makes it difficult for the women entrepreneurs to find funds and mentors for their businesses. A few would argue that it doesn’t matter. Still, the truth is that the whole investment scene is insensitive to women-centric issues such as family responsibility, social stigma, and the particular needs of a woman. One of the primary reason why successful small business run by women are never able to grow big.
The problem is more prominent for female business owners who are providing women-centric services that the male-dominated scene has never heard or seen. Finding funds and mentors for such a project or a business is impossible, and women have to rely on their resources to go big.
The problem does not end here. Many women fall victim of unsolicited, sexist, and demeaning remarks. For instance, many women are asked if they have a male co-founder on the team, their child-bearing plans, and how she plans to overcome the urge to enter motherhood if required by the business.
Thankfully, some VC firms in Singapore have invested in female-led start-ups in the past. And they are doing it till date. A few of them include:
- 500 Start-upsSogal Ventures
- Lionrock Capital
4. That feeling of not being Prepared or Qualified
According to a leading female angel investor, women entrepreneurs weight down themselves under the burden of being perfect. There is continuous effort to aim for perfection, but the women need to realize that perfection is just a journey, not the ultimate destination. Many women are afraid to fail. This stops them from executing several plans, and when that happens, they end up creating nothing at all. As per a study conducted by Hewlett Packard, men will apply for a job even if they are 60% eligible for it. However, a woman will only pursue an opportunity when she is 100% sure about her qualification.
How is Government Helping?
Singapore secured the third position in Asia-Pacific and 21st overall in Dell’s ranking of cities with the best fostering opportunities for women in business. Technology and talent were the two enablers that helped Singapore secure the spots. However, even in the 21st position, there is room for much improvement at making the life of female entrepreneurs easier.
The country is trying to minimize the gender pay gap, to begin with. The difference between the salaries of men and women at the same job level, and doing the same amount of work stands at 6% (after adjustment). It is lower than the most powerful nations in the world, like the USA (at 8%), which instills the confidence that Singapore is on a better path. However, a study by McKinsey Global Institute shows that if Singapore can bring down the gap to a negligible difference, the country’s GDP will boost by another S$26 billion by 2025.
Unlike investing firms that are dominated by men, government agencies do not discriminate based on gender. The government schemes and funds are accessible to women as much as they are available to men. Thus, it is fair to say that, when it comes to growth and funding from the government, it boils down to the entrepreneur’s skills and ideas.
However, that being said, the country still lacks a robust framework for helping women with work-life balance. The absence of such a policy forces the women to take a hit on their salary. Interestingly, the scenario is one reason that the country uses to explain the gender pay gap and the absence of women in the top executive list.
The government has started moving towards forming policies that can help women, especially mothers who want to return to work after having the baby. As per a study by the government, women with children less than 6 years of age prefer for a full-time role with flexible work arrangements. As a result, the government has started upgrading and forming policies, funds, and grants to help the companies promote flexible work arrangements and providing affordable and practical child and mother care support. The Ministry of Manpower increased the Work-Life Grant budget from S$30 million to S$100 million. The authority is also promoting Tripartite Standard on flexible work arrangements.
The government has also increased the capacity of the pre-schools in the country. There are around 180,000 places as of today as compared to 90,000 in 2012. The authorities are tirelessly working on a plan to subsidize the pre-school significantly for workers who spend at least 56 hours a month at work.
The decreasing gender pay gap is a good sign for women entrepreneurs. Improving access to wellness and education for children and mothers is another step towards building a future filled with women in entrepreneurship. However, societal pressure also needs to go. Even today, women are expected to stay at home and look after the little ones. On the one hand, where the country aims to become the very first smart nation and compete with progressive countries like China and the USA, such a mindset can be a blockade in the long run. Singapore doesn’t merely need the up-gradation in the work ethics and access to capital for women, and it also needs to fight the traditions that prove to be a hindrance.
The Way Forward According to findings from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), reducing gender inequality in Singapore by uping the number of hours put in by women workforce and their participation in higher‐productivity sectors can contribute an astronomical S$26 billion to the market’s GDP by 2025. The results revealed that women are marginalized or under‐represented when it comes to full‐time work and working in sectors where they can command higher pay and improve their economic prospects. Women tend to be more inclined to work part‐time and are less likely to work when they are married due to restrictions associated with child‐rearing responsibilities and the lack of flexible workforce policies. There is high probability of women working in lower‐paying and lower‐ productivity roles that are most prone to being displaced by automation, and least in high‐growth sectors such as Information and Technology sector where the female‐to‐male ratio is 0.63. McKinsey’s study called for investments to be made to help shift current attitudes towards the role of women in the workplace and in society as a whole using platforms such as public awareness campaigns to foster more profound recognition and forums for corporate leaders to share best practices on gender equality