You might know that La FrenchTech Singapore recently launched its “Women in FrenchTech” initiative. Since then we did quite a bit of work, and we couldn’t think of a better day to shed some more light on this initiative and the driving force behind it: Amel Rigneau. We sat down with Amel for a good discussion on the challenges women face here in Singapore especially in Tech -and how this initiative tries to help.

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, La FrenchTech Singapore 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 bench 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 generate 4% higher cash flow returns on investment than the overall MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) and 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 and 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 for a higher gender diversity.

You’ve travelled a lot, how do see the role of women here in Singapore?

In Singapore I’ve been impressed by the number and variety of associations, initiatives, incubators, investor Clubs and platforms that have been created to support female talent. I 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, around promotion and wage there is a gap between men and women. 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 benefice from the hierarchy…

But the role of women is very different from country to another. For instance, in China where the former communisme mindset and one-child policy, woman is considered as workforce equal to men. On the other hand, many 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 the situation can change and we want to make it happen, together with other organisations across Asia. 

Very cool. So what’s in the works, and how can we follow the news?

 The easiest is La FrenchTech Singapore website, our newsletter as well as our Facebook and Linkedin pages.
Read our interviews of talented Women in FrenchTech
Currently we are preparing events and workshops around investment, with our “Dare to be a Female Business Angel” series. This subject is natural to us because we believe investment is an essential source of funding & support of startups which have a huge impact on economic growth. Women in this field could bring more diversity in terms of soft skills and investment choices.

It’s a really complex issue. What do you think is the best way to fight this?  

 The situation can change but it will take time. In the meantime, we should all take simple actions – men as well – leading 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
  We should all support other women and not be more demanding
  Educate our children, especially boys, to eradicate all kind of discrimination and respect others

I believe the change will come from women but not only. We have to integrate 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 of whom are accustomed to taking part in debates and public events. But, they have now refused to do so if there are no women involved.

LinkedIn Amel Rigneau

Amel, thank you !
If you’d like to be personally involved or want to chat, feel free to drop us a line on  @ womenfrenchtech at gmail dot com

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