Local tech companies say they are experiencing issues with gender diversity in their ranks, just like their counterparts in the United States.
SINGAPORE: Members of local travel accommodation site Roomorama’s product development team are all men, even though more than half of booking decisions are made by female customers.
Mobile applications company BST Mobile is facing difficulty in attracting women to its technical team here, but does not have this problem in its overseas offices.
These local tech companies are experiencing issues with gender diversity in their ranks, just like their counterparts in the United States.
Twitter revealed recently that only 30 per cent of its staff are female, while just 10 per cent of its technology-focused jobs are filled by women. Similarly, only 17 per cent of Google’s technology team workers are women, while the proportion at Facebook is 15 per cent.
It turns bleaker when women try to attract venture capital funding in the US. A Forbes article, quoting research firm Kauffman, said only 4 to 9 per cent of such funding goes to females.
Besides Roomorama, the local technical teams of BST Mobile and Carousell, which offers a consumer-to-consumer marketplace app, also do not have a single female member. This gender gap, said the firms, means they are not able to get a woman’s perspective when designing products for female consumers.
At Carousell, fashion and beauty products make up 70 to 80 per cent of its listings. Yet, it has resorted to unconventional methods to seek feedback from women, such as conducting surveys with them at flea markets.
Ms Teo Jia En, co-founder of Roomorama, said: “Our products are made by male engineers. Having a female engineer could bring more relevant and interesting ideas, as many of our customers are women.”
The companies cited a lack of awareness of the tech sector’s job attractiveness for the dearth of women in the industry.
Mr Quek Siu Rui, co-founder of Carousell, said: “Women who excel in these jobs, especially those in technical roles, should be highlighted. It will be helpful to have more Marissa Mayers in the world and for Singapore to have a couple of our own too,” he said, referring to the Yahoo! chief executive officer.
“We should help them get exposed at the community level to technology and pick up basic programming skills through workshops,” he added.
BST Mobile CEO Paddy Tan said his offices in Yangon and Bangkok, which handle software development and design of interfaces, respectively, do not have problems hiring women.
“A lot of the girls are very young, in their early 20s, and they are already doing hard coding. The women there try harder because they need more skill sets to get hired,” he said.
The lack of female representation extends to the tech venture capital segment. Female entrepreneurs in Singapore pointed to a lack of confidence that venture capitalists - typically men - have in them.
Ms Teo noted: “Every venture capitalist wants to know the commitment level of the entrepreneur … and when I was pregnant previously while going out to meet investors … one can understand how they view my commitment to the job.”
Female entrepreneur Mouri Aouri added: “I have heard many venture capitalists asking women about their families. They are not confident women can prioritise business over families.”
However, women in the industry are taking steps to tackle the gender imbalance.
Ms Aouri started an initiative in January to help women attract funding through venture capitalists and crowd funding by organising pitching events and providing mentorship as well as contacts.
An inaugural ASEAN Women INVESTING in Women Summit is being planned in Singapore and elsewhere. Its founder, Ms Anu Bhardwaj, said: “There is a lack of role models in many mainstream technology conferences, where the authorities in the industry are invited to speak. Structured mentoring programmes would be a way to assist women in gaining access to fast-track career channels for senior-level positions.”