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Welcome to 2019, where more and more opportunities are provided to women.
Indeed, industries have taken efforts to reduce the gap between men and women. Policies are now in place to give women the freedom to do things that were historically limited to men — get jobs, manage teams, speak across the board, and even build their own businesses.
And yet, women continue to face obstacles in the present.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, revealed that there is still a 32% global average gender gap that we need to close. A 32% gender gap exists in East Asia and the Pacific, in particular.
In terms of economic opportunity and participation, a 41.9% global gender gap remains. Women occupy a mere 34% of managerial positions around the world. Furthermore, only 60% of the countries studied give men and women equal access to financial services. Women are also affected by a 63% wage gap and 50% estimated earned income gap.
In the end, women are still outnumbered and disadvantaged compared to men, especially in the workforce. This, on top of pressing issues like enforced stereotypes, reproductive health and rights, sexual abuse, and more.
How do they deal with it?
This International Women’s Month, we ask that question to five women entrepreneurs from various fields: education, consumer services, IT, health, and marketing.
In a world ruled by men, these notable women take the reins.
After having kids and taking sewing and knitting lessons, Sitinee Sheffert launched 4Charlie Designs, an online customised clothing store for children in 2012. But she felt that she can do more to contribute to craftsmaking.
So, she founded Giving Artfully, a website that connects crafters with organizations that are in need of craft materials. Along with the venture was Giving Artfully Kids, an after-school program that teaches children to practice kindness through crafting projects.
“As a female entrepreneur, I believe that succeeding in a male-dominated industry requires the right mindset and collaboration,” she shares. “The mind is a very powerful tool and it can easily make or break your business.”
“As women, we need the confidence that our business will be successful and don’t let fear prevent us from achieving our goals. Whether it is the fear of selling, fear of failure or fear of perfection, we need to overcome this mindset to truly succeed in our business.”
“Also, finding other entrepreneurial women for support and collaboration is key,” Sheffert adds.
“Being able to exchange ideas, have accountability and friendship with other entrepreneurial woman makes the journey less intimidating.”
“We cannot underestimate the power of our tribe and how lifting each other up can help us as women make huge strides.”
With her passion for giving gifts to her loved ones, Rebecca Smith built Little Luxe, a small business that allows people to create their own gift boxes and buy pre-made ones. From starting small in Perth, Australia, Little Luxe now caters to the whole Australian region.
As a beginner in entrepreneurship, Smith had to take on hurdles before launching her brainchild. Thankfully, she got by with a lot of help from fellow women who own small businesses.
“The small business community here is quite close-knit, particularly amongst women small business owners. You really become friends — you know that whatever you're going through, they're going through too,” she says.
“You don't always want to talk about business with your friends, but then when you connect with other small business women — they understand and empathize with what you're going through. They're there for the ups and the downs, the wins and the times of trial. There are no judgments, there's just support.”
“It definitely surprised me when I first started my business. I thought, ‘Oh, I'm gonna have to learn so much by myself. There's no support out there,’” she recalls. “But as you start connecting with other people on Instagram, Facebook, or even in networking events, you soon realize that you're definitely not alone.”
Jane Martinito graduated college with a degree in psychology in the Philippines, but soon found a passion for designing websites and making a mark in LinkedIn.
With that, she established Meiro Studio, a web design business, and became the first LinkedIn Local Host in her Cavite hometown. She aims to educate her community about the power of LinkedIn to transform their careers.
And that doesn’t stop there. Martinito juggles those ventures with being a mother and a wife.
“Being a mom and an entrepreneur has always been a challenge for me because I have to balance business and family,” she shares. “I have to attend to my daughter every day and work online at the same time. The good thing about it is that I'm only working from home while my husband's in a corporate setting.”
“Perhaps, I made it to a male-dominated field because I'm always a learner. I always keep myself updated. I always read. I always listen to online courses and podcasts. And most importantly, I apply what I've learned.”
“Another reason that I've thought of is that I'm a mom,” she adds. “As a mom, I'm inspired to do more and to be the best person that I can be every single day. Even though things are hard, I've overcome it because of my love for my child. If you're a parent, you'll do everything for your child(ren) whatever it takes.”
Driven by the unfortunate circumstance of her grandmother dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Maria Artunduaga invented a device that would continuously monitor lung function, lifestyle, and other medical data of patients of COPD. That led to the rise of her startup Respira Labs.
With two master’s degrees in public health and translational medicine, and 12 years of clinical, research, and technology experience under her belt, Artunduaga persists in solving problems in the public health sector through innovation.
“I am not afraid of taking a leadership role. I often volunteer for difficult projects or problems,” she shares. “I always knew that if I wanted to run my own company, I would have to push myself outside my comfort zone. I am also an aggressive autodidact, which has helped boost my confidence.”
“At meetings, I own my place at the table. I always strive to have important, relevant information and facts when I speak. I hold myself to high standards, and set myself specific goals that I re-evaluate every 3 months,” she adds.
Sheena Yap Chan is many things: podcast host of The Tao of Self-Confidence, speaker to events, author of 101 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence and 101 Ways to Make Money From Podcasting, and self-confidence coach and consultant.
All of that leads to one primary goal for Chan: to help people in their journey towards self-confidence, especially Asian women.
“If you want to make it in this world it will take guts and work on your part,” she advises. “You will make mistakes and encounter obstacles, but it will be worth the ride. That is what builds your strength.”
“Sometimes men will tell that you are not good enough because you are a woman. Sometimes they do not take you seriously. As a woman who has been working in a male-dominated industry, it can suck,” she comments.
“But change has to start with you. If you start taking yourself seriously, then other people will see it and start taking you seriously, too.”
“Surround yourself with people who can lift you up or walk with you side by side. Make sure what you are doing aligns with you and your values,” Chan adds. “Most importantly, believe in yourself! Once you believe in yourself, you will start taking the necessary actions to get your work done.”
"Trust that the Universe has your back and you are never alone in this journey. Remember, behind every successful woman is herself!”
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