The Asia Foundation and APEC Chile Host Panel Discussion on Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age

Chile, October 4, 2019 — Women’s entrepreneurship and gender equitable business models are increasingly understood to be a key driver of economic growth and job creation globally. Yesterday at the 2019 APEC Women in the Economy Forum in La Serena, Chile, The Asia Foundation and APEC Chile hosted “The Future of Women and the Economy: Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship and Shared Prosperity in the Digital Age.” The forum, opened by Stefanía Lucía Doebbel Aponte, head of the international Affairs Department at the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity in Chile, included two expert panels.

The first panel, Accelerating Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC in the Digital Age, featured Sahra English, vice president of Global Public Policy at Mastercard; Mandy Richards, founder and CEO of Global Sisters; Lyric Thompson, director of Policy and Advocacy at International Center for Research on Women; and was moderated by Elizabeth Silva, assistant director for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality at The Asia Foundation.

Panelists reflected on the most pressing challenges women entrepreneurs face in APEC economies amidst the continuing digital revolution. “In our research and programs, we find that compared to men, women more often become entrepreneurs out of necessity, rather than opportunity. We need to support more women to study STEM and business-related fields, to enable them to pursue entrepreneurship and compete on a level playing field in high growth sectors,” remarked Silva.

A second panel, “Imperatives to Breaking Down Barriers to Women’s Leadership in Tech,” featured Anusuya Krishnan, executive committee member of the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia; Matías Hoyl, country director for Chile at Laboratoria; Maitetxu Larraechea, managing director at ThoughtWorks Chile and managing director of Girls in Tech Chile – Ingeniosas; and was moderated by Herizal Hazri, country representative for Malaysia at The Asia Foundation.

The panel examined how women are navigating the many challenges to entry and advancement in the digital economy, including recruitment of female engineers and software developers, access to venture capital for women-owned startups, and ensuring recognition for their innovations in an industry that has been male-dominated.

In addition to participating in this forum, The Asia Foundation has been supporting the annual APEC App Challenge since 2017. The 2019 APEC App Challenge brought together 22 software developers and designers, to design, build, and demo innovative mobile and web apps that have the potential to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses in APEC economies. In 2013, the Foundation collaborated on Access to Trade and Growth of Women’s SME’s in APEC Developing Economies.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

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