Gina Romero, co-organizer of Startup Weekend Singapore Women, shares her thoughts on female targeted events.
Singapore Women Startup Weekend is an event that I am honoured to be involved in as a volunteer organiser as it brings opportunities to help more aspiring entrepreneurs take that first step towards their dreams – this is an initiative that is very close to my heart. After hearing about the abysmal turnout of women at these types of events globally (80 percent male) it made me realise how necessary it is to champion such events – the idea of Startup Weekend Women’s Edition made so much sense.
I have been running women’s events in Singapore for over a year and I have always oversold without too much effort in terms of marketing as there is a huge demand for female centric business events of all kinds – but this event has been a hard sell. I have really pulled out all the stops – particularly in reaching out to the various other Singapore women, business and tech communities for help. Despite the massive amount of community support and the amount of effort that has been put in place by the organising team and the awesome line up of talent on the day – ticket sales have been very slow.
Why is this?
I realise it is because the event format is simply not conducive to a family lifestyle – this is especially true for women who still hold the majority of responsibility in the household . As a mum with three children, and two startup businesses to run, dedicating 54 hours of my weekend is a huge commitment and sacrifice of my personal and family time. I have had multiple emails from women who want to attend and who are not able to due to travelling husbands, childcare matters and other family commitments – not just affecting the weekend itself but also holding them back from taking the first step towards making their startup dream a reality.
What does this tell us?
As communities that support and foster entrepreneurship we still need to work harder to make this type of event more accessible to women and those that hold the primary homemaker responsibility. We need to listen harder and work harder towards making it viable to attend such events alongside other commitments.
How can we do this?
Here are a few practical examples (off the top of my head):
- Split long events into two or three parts rather than a full weekend – this alone will make it much easier to commit to and more accessible to parents.
- Utilise the technology tools available for online collaboration – make it possible for attendees to work remotely and regroup when necessary.
- Offer some kind of family friendly set up such as crèche or family break out area – this is more challenging and will require planning, thought and effort.
I run my small team and my two businesses virtually – without the technology tools available to me I could not possibly do the work that I do as well as being a wife and mum of three kids. Part of the new format should include making technology and the relevant training for running remote teams readily available to attendees – perhaps then we can create more opportunities for mum/dad-preneurs to be part of the startup scene rather than watching and wishing from the sidelines.
My biggest learning so far?
Simply billing an event as a ‘Women’s Edition’ does not increase female attendance, it is simply a marketing exercise. It’s obvious to me now that increasing community outreach to women’s communities and addressing a more targeted audience does not solve the problem. In reality we need to address the challenges and find a solution in the longer term. Perhaps if we did this there would be less of a need to create separate ‘Women’s Edition’ events as we would organically attract more women and homemakers to take part in the standard events?
This is not just about Startup Weekend – any of the events that we run in our communities should take these lessons into account. Let’s make it as easy as possible for women (and men who have similar family commitments) to attend and benefit from these awesome opportunities.
We will definitely make this event a success – but even more important is that we take these lessons learned and rally the support needed to make change happen in the future.
About the Author
Gina Romero, is the Managing Director of The Athena Network Singapore & Asia-Pacific and a self-professed “rock-chick entrepreneur”. Motivated by her belief that technology should not be deployed for technology’s sake, Gina, who previously ran an IT company for seven years in the UK, worked at her passion to eliminate ineffective technology to expand the business potential of her clients. She is also the coorgaziner for Startup Weekend Singapore Women happening this weekend.
You can purchase the S$99 special ticket price using the e27 discount code e27SGWSW
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