Network for women entrepreneurs launched to help them scale up their businesses in region

(From left) SBF chairman Lim Ming Yan; Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth; Ms Rachel Eng, who chairs SG-WEN's executive committee; and SBF chief executive Lam Yi Young.
(From left) SBF chairman Lim Ming Yan; Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth; Ms Rachel Eng, who chairs SG-WEN's executive committee; and SBF chief executive Lam Yi Young.PHOTO: SBF

SINGAPORE - Women in Singapore may soon find it easier to do business with a new network set up to connect them with other female entrepreneurs, as well as business leaders and trade associations, in the region.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) launched on Tuesday (Sept 21) the Singapore Women Entrepreneurs Network (SG-WEN) to bring together such professionals across the Asia-Pacific region, especially those in South-east Asia.

SBF said the network aims to attract women entrepreneurs in Singapore from diverse industries and sectoral backgrounds to be its members.

Ms Rachel Eng, who chairs SG-WEN's executive committee, said women entrepreneurs often have a much smaller network compared with their male counterparts.

She added that collaboration with other female entrepreneurs in South-east Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific region could lead to opportunities for "everyone to scale up and grow together".

"While we have many successful women entrepreneurs in Singapore, we hear that, anecdotally, these women encounter challenges, discrimination or biases that are not faced by male entrepreneurs.

"By bringing women entrepreneurs together, I hope SG-WEN will provide women with support and help for them to be successful," said Ms Eng, managing director at law firm Eng and Co.

She added that the network will look into issues such as whether there is unconscious bias that affects businesswomen. 

"We often hear of women being subject to unconscious bias and we hear that female start-up founders have a harder time fund-raising.

"What we hope to do is run proper research and surveys, collect some data and, on the back of that, see whether we can advocate some changes in policies to the relevant stakeholders," said Ms Eng.

The network will also provide a platform for existing women networks to collaborate to promote business growth, influence culture and policy, and drive industry changes in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific.

SG-WEN had more than 50 members prior to its official launch and plans to expand its base in the next few years, said the SBF.

Singapore's apex business chamber added that the network will support women entrepreneurs in four key areas.

First, it will champion women business issues though engagement with senior government officials as well as "data-driven advocacy".

Women entrepreneurs will also be able to share their knowledge with one another through fireside chats and networking events.

Third, SG-WEN aims to collaborate with other women groups in Singapore, including those of trade associations and chambers, and network with overseas groups.

It will also recognise the achievements of women entrepreneurs.

One of SG-WEN's key responsibilities is to be Singapore's official representative at the Asean Women Entrepreneurs Network. The regional network advances the interests of women entrepreneurs and creates opportunities such as networking through events and exchanges.

SBF chief executive Lam Yi Young said that SG-WEN and its members will be able to tap SBF's platforms and initiatives in the areas of internationalisation, digitalisation and transformation, as well as jobs and skills.

The network was launched at a hybrid event at the SBF Centre in Robinson Road on Tuesday and attended by more than 300 entrepreneurs and business leaders from diverse sectors.

Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth, was the guest of honour.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the event, Ms Low said that entrepreneurs here have to go global because of Singapore's small market.

"They have to think of unique products and services that will not be disrupted by competitors and technology - not just in Singapore, but in the region and the world."



Ms Low Yen Ling (second from left) speaking during the panel discussion with (from left) moderator Ang Shih-Huei and panellists Jenny Lee and Rachel Lim. PHOTO: SBF

Panellist Jenny Lee, managing partner of venture capital firm GGV Capital, said entrepreneurs need to have a clear vision and surround themselves with people who can spur them on.

Ms Rachel Lim, co-founder of fashion brand Love, Bonito, said women entrepreneurs need to overcome unconscious biases they might have about themselves, and discover their own style of leadership.

"Tenacity is a muscle - it gets stronger the more you work on it," added Ms Lim, who was also a panellist. 

The panel was moderated by Ms Ang Shih-Huei, chief executive and co-founder of Klareco Communications, who sits on the SG-WEN executive committee.