DWEN 2019: Great time for women to be entrepreneurs, but there are still gaps to fill
By Tan Jee Yee July 17, 2019
- San Francisco Bay Area crowned best city for women entrepreneurs
- Lack of funding and gender pay gap inhibits Asian growth
SUPPORT for women entrepreneurs is improving worldwide, but there is still a lot more to be done.
That’s one takeaway from the 10th annual Dell Women Entrepreneur Network Summit (DWEN), held in Singapore from July 14 to 16. During the event, Dell Technologies took time to announce the findings of the 2019 Women Entrepreneur Cities (WE Cities) index, which ranks 50 global cities on their ability to foster growth for women entrepreneurs.
Done in partnership with global information provider IHS Markit, the Index researched and ranked the cities on five characteristics, including access to: Capital, Technology, Talent, Culture and Markets.
The index notes that all 50 cities have made progress since the last WE Cities index, which was in 2017. This year, the San Francisco Bay Area outranked New York for the number one spot, largely due to how the Bay Area serves as one of the best places for women to gain access to capital, the index notes.
The city also moved from sixth place to second place when it comes to Culture, which is indicative of the impact from the number of role models there as well as public dialogue around eliminating the “bro culture”.
Following New York, the other cities in the top 10 are London, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Seattle, Paris, Toronto and Stockholm.
IHS Markit’s consulting associate director Karen Campbell says that even cities in the bottom 10 still made great strides overall.
“This year we can see some patterns emerging. Ranked cities have collectively made the most improvement in the Capital and Culture pillars, which shows the importance of measuring not just the operating environment but also enabling environment for women entrepreneurs,” she says.
It may be an upward trend, but as the index notes, even the No.1-ranked San Francisco Bay Area scored only 63.7 out of a total of 100 possible points. Essentially, there is a lot of room for improvement even among the top-ranking cities.
The SEA condition
It’s important to note there are no Asian cities within the top 20 of the index (Singapore is ranked 21st, and is the highest-ranked Asian city). Singapore has fallen tremendously from the list – the city state was ranked 8th in the 2017 We Cities index.
Malaysia didn’t fare any better – this year, it ranks at 44th, having fallen from 41st in 2017.
It’s not to say that Asian cities are not improving. As Dell Technologies’s Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) president Amit Midha (pic, above) notes, all cities in the index are improving – it’s just that some are improving so fast, they displace those which were previously higher on the list, as in the case of Singapore.
The study found that APAC has the lowest average improvement scores compared to other regions.
Midha says that, in Asia, talent and access to technology is improving well. Singapore’s Talent pillar in particular, benefitted from increasing its top school rankings as well as its business school rankings, in addition to an increased pool of professionals needed to help scale businesses.
The gaps in Asia, however, are primarily in access to funding and the gender pay gap. “There isn’t enough money coming through the system. It isn’t a systematic issue, it is a fact-based issue – it’s about money going to female founders in these cities,” he says.
The index notes that in Singapore, for instance, VC funding to female entrepreneurs is still relatively light compared to other cities. Additionally, Singaporean women also saw less crowdfunding and there were fewer female founders.
“As more female founders get access to money, cities will continues to rise up in the list as well,” Midha says.
There is still significant room for improvement, but Midha nevertheless says that it has “never been a better time to be a female founder, and to be in the technology business.
“This is a great level playing field. Size is no longer the advantage. Speed and innovation is the advantage,” he says.
There’s also no ignoring Asia as a hotbed of technological innovation and economic growth. “This is just not necessarily a cheap place to manufacture, but it’s also a great innovation engine.”
Emerging technology is also impacting women entrepreneurs in this region. “The business case is super strong. With micro-financing, the write-offs are lower. The success rate of companies with a more diverse founding team is significantly higher in Asia – 60% of the higher performing startups has a female as a founding or co-founding member,” Midha says.
“When more women work, economies grow. Technology is helping to drive this progress as a gender-neutral enabler, and helps create a level playing field. Whilst all cities in the Index have improved, the crucial factor is the consistency of this improvement across the different factors that impact women entrepreneurs’ success.”
He adds that the biggest thing countries should think about to make long-term progress is how to get more STEM education. But access to funding and capital shouldn’t be forgotten either.
“Getting women to have access to funding, access to networks, are the core ingredients to creating a better society. This is our [Dell’s] moral responsibility. This is our cause. And we’re asking other companies and governments to join us in this cause,” Midha says.
DWEN will be Dell’s contribution to this cause. The event sees over 150 female founders, CEOs, dignitaries and Dell Technology leaders convening to connect and discuss pressing topics through keynotes, panels and workshops.
"When we invest in women, we invest in the future; communities prosper, economies thrive and the next generation leads with purpose,” says Dell Technologies executive vice president and chief customer officer Karen Quintos (pic, above).
“By arming city leaders and policymakers with actionable, data-driven research on the landscape for women entrepreneurs, we can collectively accelerate the success of women-owned businesses by removing financial, cultural and political barriers."
Tan Jee Yee reports from the 10th annual Dell Women Entrepreneur Network Summit (DWEN) in Singapore, at the invitation of Dell Technology. All editorials are independent.