Hi Amel, can you tell us more about yourself and how you landed in Singapore?
Sure! I am a traveller. I love discovering new countries, cultures and people and facing new challenges. I have already lived in 3 different continents and experimented many different professional lives. As a consultant, I get to fulfill my thirst for discovery on a daily basis. The diversity of projects I have worked on, the clients or partners I met, fuel my drive to focus on innovative projects. My goal is to create new tech services, design new business models or ways of addressing the market. I wanted to make the most of my freedom and creativity by building something from scratch and scale it. In Hong Kong, I experienced the “hard” life of being an entrepreneur with no money, no direct team and using all kind of resources to achieve my goal! After having successfully sprayed my activities in few countries in South Asia, we sold the business to one of our competitor. Since then, I help local startups, entrepreneurs or foreign enterprises to grow their business in Asia. I’m always eager to learn and discovery new cultures. I feel very lucky to have spent a few years in Hong Kong and now Singapore, certainly two of the most innovative cities in Asia! The dynamism of the startup scene here in Singapore is amazing. I have the feeling you can test any idea and go abroad to scale.
How did you get involved in La FrenchTech and what is your role there?
Actually I’ve known La FrenchTech since the beginning, not from France but while I was staying in Hong-Kong. At that time, I had just launched “DigitalMind Media” with two senior French entrepreneurs, a startup monetizing entertainment contents (funny videos, games, wallpapers,…). I was mingling with the dynamic but dawning tech environment and wanted to contribute. I took over a well-established Entrepreneur Club with 2 other ladies focusing on early stage startups. We held events, networking and workshops every two weeks and we also co-developed events with La FrenchTech.
When I moved to Singapore, I met with the core team and felt inspired by their vision and enthusiasm. So I naturally decided to be part of the adventure. La FrenchTech Singapore is an inclusive and open community. We are deeply involved in the local community despite our name! Everyone could be a FrenchTech, it is a movement with no membership, no hierarchy, but only a willingness to act. After just one year, we became a reliable partner with SG government and associations. We gather among our movement different stakeholders – Corporates, Associations, Institutions, VCs – with the purpose of helping entrepreneurs and stimulate tech environment. As a member of the steering committee, I lead or support a number of projects: setting-up partnerships with local organisations, organizing events and launching initiatives such as “La FrenchTech for Good” and “Women in FrenchTech”.
So why did you decide to launch “Women in FrenchTech” here? What is your objective?
A simple observation: It is always a challenge to find women in steering committees, internal / external panels, female founders, investors / business angels and it is even worse when it comes to male female ratio in startups. Overall women represent 52% of the worldwide population but… To give a sense of proportion they are only 10% female founders, 3% female CEOs of big corporates, 9% Female VCs, and less than 25% in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
I don’t think it is because we lack talents! Reasons could be multiple: glass ceiling, tech attractivity, social roadblocks, lack of self-confidence, discriminations… We have just decided to tackle these problems one by one. Behind “Women in FrenchTech”, there is a bunch of women and men who believe in diversity, inclusion and that everyone could have an impact whether it is small or big!
Yes diversity and inclusion are key to the performance and success of a startup, or big corporates (higher operating margins, client satisfaction, employee retention, and even safety records…), or even at a scale of a country! It drives innovation and productivity, attracts and retains millennials and other talents.
A lot of surveys back it up : – When women hold 25% of decision-making roles, it generates 4% higher cash flow returns on investmentthan the overall MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) – when women make up half of the senior managers, companies produced 10% higher cash flow returns on investment than the MSCI ACWI (credit Suisse survey) – Organizations with the most gender-diverse leadership teams were more likely to outperform on profitability (21%) and value creation (27%) – (McKinsey, Delivering through diversity)
So stop complaining and let’s do it! Yes we can!!
Our ambition is simple: we want to highlight, help and inspire female talents across the region to become founders, investors, or managing directors. We identify talents, promote them at internal and external events (speakers in panels, VC pitches,…), while providing them with the necessary training to showcase their abilities and achievements through our network. We want to involve everyone that for a higher gender diversity.
You’ve travelled a lot, what is your point of view on women empowerment here in Singapore?
In Singapore I’ve been impressed by the number and diversity of associations, initiatives, incubators, investor Clubs and platforms that have been created to support female talent. I have stopped counting after 30 just in Singapore!
Honestly, I have been told more and more women have senior positions in VC structures, MNCs and among female founders…but from what I see in day-to-day business, it is not enough. The stats are crystal-clear: The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018 shows at early stage entrepreneurial activity Singapore has showed a drop of Female Founders. As for MNC, 8% of corporate board members are women (average in Europe is 15-20%) according to McKinsey’s 2017 report. Also in Corporate world, there is a gap between men and women in terms of wage and professional opportunities. In Singapore, the pay gap at the median wage was about 9% in 2017 according to Ministry of Manpower. The reasons highlight are already well known : women never ask for a rise, lack of confidence on their own capabilities, low awareness about diversity benefits…
However it is very different from one country to another. For instance, in China, in the former communist mindset and one-child policy, women are considered as equal to men. In many other Asian countries, discrimination toward women are founded on a deep patriarchal and hierarchical culture (mid- to large-size Japanese companies only 5 % of Female senior roles compared to 23% the greater Asia-Pacific region, Grant Thornton International).
At “Women in FrenchTech” we believe we can make a difference and we want to make it happen, together with other organisations across Asia.
Very cool. So what did you do until now and what’s next? How can people join your mouvement and/or become a follower?
You may visit La FrenchTech Singapore website, learn more about our growing community through our interviews of talented Women in FrenchTech, and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook and Linkedin. If you’d like to volunteer or just want to find out more, feel free to drop us a line on womenfrenchtech at gmail dot com.
Currently we are preparing events and 3-hours hand on workshops around investment, with our “Dare to be a Female Business Angel” series. This subject is part of our identity because we believe investment is an essential source of funding & support for startups which have a huge impact on economic growth. Women in this field could have an even more meaningful impact in terms of soft skills and investment choices. We have partnered with lot of women association to spread their initiatives among our community. We hope to bring more diversity in La FrenchTech, currently with a majority of male representatives:). We very proud to achieve at least 30% women speakers in all our panels to support and showcase women talents.
We will not stop all those initiatives in Singapore but we will spread the word across Asia and bring all French Tech communities together to support gender parity and diversity. Please check the calendar on our website to stay informed!
It’s a really complex issue. In your opinion what would be the best way to tackle this?
The situation can change but it will take time. In the meantime, we should all take simple actions -men as well by the way!
Apply a “dare to” mindset and not stay behind the curtain but front and center
Be more confident in our abilities even when we are not a specialist
As women we should support each other, and make sure we are not discriminating other women by being more demanding
Educate our children, especially boys, to eradicate all kind of discrimination and respect others
I believe change will come from women but not only. We have to be inclusive of men in our reflexion and our actions.
For instance, I appreciate the initiative “Never without her” in France; which is endorsed by entrepreneurs, players from the digital world, the media, the education industry and politicians. All the participants are accustomed to taking part in debates and public events. But, now they have refused to do so if there are no women involved.