Renee Tan, Founder of H.E.R Entrepreneur, was invited to be interviewed on938NOW’s Thinking Out Loud segment. Hosted by Daniel Martin, she shared her thoughts on the female entrepreneurship scene in Singapore and what additional support is needed to push more women to consider becoming an entrepreneur here.
1) What is the general sensing among women with regards to entrepreneurship?
It depends on the generation of women. For the younger generation, they are more open to the idea of entrepreneurship now given that the tertiary institutions do provide support for start-ups and because schools are introducing this concept earlier.
The Gen X and older generation women are less exposed to entrepreneurship as compared to the younger generation and therefore there’s still some inertia for some of them to embark on this entrepreneurial journey or to even consider this path. Generally speaking, it’s also less common for their community, their circle of friends or family members to be entrepreneurs as well, and that makes them even less likely to consider starting a business as its only natural for them to conform to working for someone or to take care of their children full-time.
2) What are the attitudes they have? Are they anxious and hesitant to start a business?
Most of the attendees who came for my entrepreneurship course on Steps to Starting a New Business were women and after the course, many were still hesitant to start a business, citing that they have family commitments at home and that it is unlikely they would succeed. Some even mentioned they would pass the notes to their husbands or sons to take the lead. Because of their self-limiting beliefs, procrastination and hesitation, these psychological barriers make it more difficult for them to start a business and thus there’s no continuation in the learning process.
3) Is this specific to women? Are men’s attitudes different?
Research has shown that when people are under stress, men are more eager to take risks. They have discovered that that men become laser-focused on rewards when their heart rates and cortisol levels run high, even if that reward has only a tiny chance of materializing. When the pressure is on men take gambles, more and bigger gambles than they would ordinarily choose.
On the other hand, when you put most women in the same stressful situation, bump up their cortisol levels and ask them to make the same decision, they take more time to weigh the contingencies and are more interested in smaller rewards they can count on. Rather than falling apart, women bring unique strengths to decision-making. Women tend to become risk-alert under stress and go for the smaller wins that are more guaranteed. Thus, if they see entrepreneurship as a risk, they would rather consider other options or take a longer time to plan for their business.
4) Conversely, are there innate qualities that make women suitable for being entrepreneurs?
Being able to wear multiple hats: Being versatile and able to switch among multiple roles is a positive trait of an entrepreneur. The woman of today is a manager of her house, guide to her children, and a support to her spouse. And she still finds time to pursue her interests.
Planner: Women are wired in a way that they like to prepare and visualize well before making decisions and are usually seen planning prior to taking their next steps. They are less prone to overconfidence and most of the time they tend to take calculated risks.
Resource Utilization: Managing well within constraints comes natural to women. They are able to consider alternatives to achieve the desired result. Being able to optimize the available resources to the fullest is among one of the things that helps a venture survive during tough times.
Prioritizing: Women are experts in prioritizing. Many may opt to raise a family for the first few years than to pursue their career, but when they set their priority they give their best to it. You need to set your priorities to scale your business to heights.
These are the innate qualities that make them suitable for entrepreneurship.
5) What are the main challenges that women face?
These are some of the possible deterrents to advancement in entrepreneurship in Asia:
1. Lack of social capital & support (experience, expertise, clientele base, business networking opportunities, info)
2. Internal barriers: Lack of self-confidence as business owners/leaders, reluctance to seek advice from expert
3. Persistent cultural and traditional bias against women assuming leadership or entrepreneurship roles
4. Women are less responsive to government support
6) How do you think they can address these challenges?
It is really important to join communities of like-minded individuals so that the entrepreneurs have mentors and peers to turn to when in need. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey especially if your network of friends and family are not entrepreneurs, they may not understand the struggles that an entrepreneur would have to go through managing the business end-to-end in a lean fashion and having to play multiple roles at home.
It is also crucial that we constantly learn and up-skill ourselves as what we learnt back in school may not be relevant in today’s context. We must stay abreast of the latest trends, so that our business ideas can be relevant to our consumers of today.
Networking is key to allowing you to meet potential partners, clients, or even mentors. It is important for entrepreneurs to get out there to be seen and heard, that is part of marketing too as you cannot expect customers, mentors or investors come knocking at your doorstep without you going out to be known or heard. Therefore, build relationships with the people you meet to gain trust and credibility.
As for cultural and traditional biases against women, it’s a challenge that takes a lot to overcome. One way is to prove that you can wear multiple hats and do and achieve much more for the better for everyone without neglecting your priorities. That takes a lot of courage, multi-tasking and grit to achieve all that. If there are enough of such examples, perhaps the biases may diminish over time?
I encourage entrepreneurs to gather to learn from one another and network, while forging partnerships. Our upcoming H.E.R Asia Summit on 26 September would allow them to do so and learn from other successful entrepreneurs. Our aim is to inspire, educate and empower thousands of women entrepreneurs across Asia by 2019.
H.E.R Entrepreneur is a platform for women entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to be inspired, educated and empowered through our online resources, meet-ups, workshops and conferences.
Meet like-minded individuals who will be convening at our annual H.E.R Asia Summit on 26th September 2018. Click to find out more.