Female tech entrepreneurs face cultural hurdles that require greater confidence than their male counterparts, but are increasingly carving out a role for themselves in app development and the start-up scene, says entrepreneur and TiE board member Ambika Malvia.
TiE is an international network of entrepreneurs who collaborate to support start-ups to expand into Asian markets.
Malvia coordinated an event last week for 30 women, with great ideas for apps but no technical background, to learn how to communicate their visions clearly to developer partners.
She told StartupSmart the idea for the event was born of statistics that found women both download and spend more on apps than men.
“The female app market is huge. We all know the best products come about when you experience a pain point and then develop a solution, so it makes sense to empower women to turn their ideas into apps,” Malvia says.
As women are still graduating from ICT degrees in considerably lower number than men, Malvia says female technical entrepreneurs needed to work harder to carve out their entrepreneurial paths in the male-dominated space.
“In the tech space it is quite different for women. The gender stereotypes we all live with set in really early, when we’re kids and we don’t encourage girls and women into technical studies” says Malvia, who studied and worked as an engineer in India before moving to Australia.
“There is a desperate shortage of women in tech. I’m working out of Fishburners (a tech co-working space in Sydney) and every day there is one woman to every nine guys.
“As the minority, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself and too often you just have to put up and shut up with things that make you uncomfortable and just get on with it.”
Malvia says Fishburners is a supportive environment for women, and adds that empowering more female entrepreneurs is something the whole tech community should support.
“Not having a good ratio of women to men is not good for the community. It’s very clear from research that organisations with a gender balance do better across most metrics including profitability, risk management and employee satisfaction, as well as innovation.”
According to Malvia, female entrepreneurs need to get on with achieving success, but recognise the environment is going to be a bit tougher for them.
“You need to recognise a lot of the time the environment is going to have its challenges and get ready for that because for women, it’s not business as usual, you need to be okay with being different.”
She adds Australian female entrepreneurs targeting international markets need to do extra homework to ensure they’re giving their company the best chance at success.
“There is no denying that every country has its own cultural attitudes and you need to consider those when you plan to move into those markets. I’m from India, so I know there are so many different Indias, all with different attitudes, in that one nation.”
Finding a local partner is key to success in Asian markets.
“The best way to is to go with a partner, I think any other way would be foolish.
“There is no amount of homework that will prepare you for all the unspoken rules and nuances of a place. Find someone who is established there who knows the local environment who you have good chemistry with, and trust them.”
Malvia adds even entrepreneurs who aren’t developing apps need to become more comfortable with technology.
“There is no such thing as a tech and non-tech business anymore. Whether you’re in retail or even a services business, you need a really strong understanding of tech as that’s going to be the primary challenge going forwards.”