Is China eclipsing Silicon Valley in promoting women?
As Silicon Valley struggles to shed its male-dominated "brogrammer" culture and bring more women into the technology industry, Asia can proudly point to a long list of female tech entrepreneurs -- including a number of self-made billionaires. Each of them has a remarkable story to tell.
For this special report, Nikkei Asian Review journalists interviewed five women who are thriving in a famously male-dominated industry.
Doris Hsu, raised in a poor farming community in Taiwan, runs a top global semiconductor supply company. Shilpa Vyapari's software firm competes in one of the most promising areas of tech: the internet of things. Carman Chan launched two startups of her own before becoming a successful venture capitalist, while Bai Xue and Han Mei both left top positions at Alibaba to pursue their entrepreneurial visions.
Their success should not be taken as a sign that Asia's tech companies are hiring and promoting enough women, however.
Pocket Sun, co-founder of SoGal, a U.S.-based venture capital firm that invests in women-led startups, says obstacles remain -- particularly in markets such as South Korea and Japan.
"Asia is not better or worse for women entrepreneurs," Sun says. "Raising funding for women entrepreneurs is hard everywhere, and in Asia, women face more blunt discrimination and straight-out biased questions at pitch meetings."
"There will be more successful women entrepreneurs across Asia and in the world. No doubt about that" Pocket Sun
China is emerging as a leader in promoting women in tech, however. Nearly two-thirds of startups in China have women in the executive suite, while 57% of their U.S. counterparts have no women in top roles, according to Silicon Valley Bank's 2018 Startup Outlook Survey.
One Chinese tech executive who believes in promoting women is Jack Ma, Alibaba's founder. At a technology conference last year, he advised companies to "hire as many women as possible."
Sun says women in Asia have new opportunities to start businesses on their own terms, thanks in large part to the opportunities created by the web.
"Today's women entrepreneurs tend to create businesses that are an extension of their self-expression, which really adds color to the business world," she said. "There will be more successful women entrepreneurs across Asia and in the world. It's a great time in history to be a woman."
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