Frauen in der Informatik - NEWS - Frauen in den Ingenieurwissenschaften
"Sites Cast Net
to Bring Asian Women Online"
Times (10/30/00) P. C1; Iritani, Evelyn
A number of
new Web sites aim to help women in Asia overcome the barriers that prevent
them from taking part in the new economy. Women in Asia, particularly in
Japan, have unique problems in trying to start online firms because they
have historically been excluded from corporate and political activities.
Despite their high levels of education, stereotypes about women and a shortage
of female role models have prevented many Japanese women from becoming
entrepreneurs, says Kumi Sato, founder of Womenjapan.com. However, Japanese
women are increasingly moving online, and are expected to increase their
numbers from 37 percent of the online population today to 50 percent by
2003. Womenjapan.com and similar sites such as WomenAsia.com, Cwow.com,
and Webgrrls International are helping Asian women start online companies
by providing training programs, advice, networking, job banks, and female
role models. Men account for 78 percent of Asian Internet users, and the
gender divide could intensify if no efforts are made to help women move
online, says Rosemary Brisco, founder of WomenAsia.com. The Internet would
bring many advantages to Asian women, who account for half of Asia's workforce
and lead 35 percent of small to midsize companies, says Brisco, whose company
provides Internet training programs for Asian women.
To learn more
about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
Monday, October 30, 2000
Sites Cast Net to Bring Asian Women Online Internet: Although
they run 35% of small and medium-size firms there, they constitute
just 22% of e-users. Ventures offer advice, support, networking.
By EVELYN IRITANI, Times Staff Writer
For Hiroko Shimo, WomenAsia.com was teacher, support group
and friend rolled into one. Through the Web site for businesswomen in Asia,
she was able to get advice not only on business plans and venture capital
but also on how to overcome some peculiarly Japanese problems. Like how
to set up an office in a country where landlords don't like renting to
women. (Her father ended up signing the lease.) "Japanese business newspapers
and magazines only have success stories, especially about men," complained
the 30-year-old founder of Onna.com, a Japanese women's lifestyle and shopping
Web site. "I get frustrated." Since last April's collapse of the
technology markets, starting an Internet firm anywhere has taken a fair
amount of nerve. But it is particularly tough for women in Asia, a part
of the world that has traditionally discouraged them from climbing
the corporate or political ladder.
Online communities such as WomenAsia.com,
Womenjapan.com and Webgrrls International are offering Asian entrepreneurs
such as Shimo a way to overcome their isolation and tap into a global network
of corporate sisterhood. In Japan alone, more than 50 women-focused Web
sites have cropped up in the last year. Finding a way to make money
from these ventures has been difficult, particularly with the collapse
in tech fortunes this year. Most
sites depend heavily on advertising; some offer
e-commerce or charge commissions for services. Womenconnect.com,
a global Web site for businesswomen, recently closed its doors.
Tim Clark, strategy director for Tokyo-based Web Connection, predicts many
of these women-focused Web sites will go bankrupt or be acquired by stronger
companies. "Portals are important because they are symbolic and inspirational,
not because they present real business opportunities," Clark said. But
Rosemary Brisco, founder of the San Jose-based WomenAsia.com, believes
the Internet's potential for women is huge in Asia, where they
constitute half the labor force and head up 35% of the small and
The Internet drastically reduces the expense of launching a business, which
can reach as high as $1 million in places such as Japan. Doing business
online also is an attractive option for stay-at-home moms--still the norm
in many Asian countries. Brisco fears the "digital gender divide"
will worsen unless these women are trained to use the Internet and get
access to computers and low-cost Internet hookups.
Though female Internet
users outnumber men in the U.S., 78% of the Internet users in Asia are
male. In Indonesia, just 12% of the 15,000 members of the country's largest
businesswomen's association even have e-mail accounts. Brisco hopes
to help correct that imbalance. In addition to a Web site that offers entrepreneurial
success stories, a job bank and a database of women-owned businesses, she
offers Internet training programs in Asia. Graduates agree to teach
at least one other woman how to use the Internet within 30 days.
Brisco's success stories, Doan Thi Minh Chau, moved her Ho Chi Minh City,
Vietnam-based travel business online. She has pared down her overseas phone
call bill from $2,000 to $200 a month and has been able to expand her business
far beyond Asia. Brisco, whose WomenAsia.com has gotten support from a
few large companies, such as Northwest Airlines and CNBC, is trying to
close a second round of funding. She is working with several governments
in Asia to set up Internet training programs in their countries.
of bringing more women into the digital work force and Internet start-up
boardrooms vary widely across Asia. In Japan and South Korea, patriarchal
attitudes represent a huge barrier to female entrepreneurship. Women face
pressure to quit their jobs when they get married and have children. Those
who want to work full time suffer from a shortage of good, affordable child
care Kumi Sato, a Tokyo public relations executive and founder
of Womenjapan.com, said sexist stereotypes and a lack of role models have
kept Japanese women from contemplating entrepreneurship, even though they
are highly educated (85% are college graduates) and usually control the
female Net-savvy is rapidly increasing in Japan, where women make
up 37% of the online population and are expected to constitute 50%
by 2003. To encourage entrepreneurial ambitions, Womenjapan.com offers
an "Ask the Experts" column featuring female attorneys, businesswomen and
doctors and presented an IBM-sponsored "Give us your best E-dream" contest.
in Asia, female entrepreneurs may face different barriers. In Hong
Kong's heavily Westernized business culture, women are more likely to be
found in top jobs in government and
business, supported by a huge pool of inexpensive
Filipino nannies. In China, where Communist leaders advocated women
holding up "half the sky," female managers and shop owners are common.
Angeline Chow, 30, and Patricia Tung, 28, the Hong Kong-based founders
of Cwow.com, a Chinese women's Web site, believe the Internet has
created an environment where they are more likely to be judged by
their merits than their gender or age. "The Internet is a lot more
egalitarian than traditional business," said Tung, a former investment
banker with Goldman Sachs.
But female entrepreneurs
still find it difficult to secure funding and break into the cozy network
of family- or government-controlled firms that are usually headed by men.
Women also are less likely to be found in the scientific and technical
fields that feed their graduates into these "new-economy" firms.
Denise Brosseau, co-founder of the
Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and a former Motorola executive who
worked in Asia, said female business owners in Asia often are still
forced to use male business partners to open doors.
the online community, is building an alternative "old girls network"
among its 30,000 members and more than 100 chapters worldwide.
Aliza Sherman, the self-described "cybergrrl" from New York who founded
Webgrrls in 1995, believes these online communities will flourish because
women--regardless of their ethnicity or nationality--are more likely than
men to offer help or ask questions of others.
of "Cybergrrl!: A Woman's Guide to the World Wide Web" explains it
this way: "The difference between a male venture capitalist and a female
one is that the female one says, 'You're doing yourself a disservice;
why don't you rethink those numbers?' The man just says, 'Oh, that doesn't
sound like a good idea. Next.' " The Hong Kong Webgrrls chapter, which
has about 80 members, has a Web page with chat rooms and a
job bank and holds monthly meetings focused on issues such as Web
design and new wireless products.
members use their global network to get business advice, identify potential
partners and find new employees. "We don't see each other as competing,"
said Liz Moscrop, who used her Webgrrl connections to help her firm, Ehealthcareasia.com,
a Hong Kong-based medical Web site, expand into Southeast Asia.
It was through
WomenAsia.com that Angtha Childress met Ruth Paul, the owner of an Indian
handicrafts export business near New Delhi. Paul helped Childress,
who is based in Indore, India, hook up with Indian social service
groups that are helping her establish a support center for women
in crisis. In exchange, Childress is building a Web site for Paul's company,
Kriti Handicrafts & Exports.
Shimo, a former
Japanese language teacher, used the WomenAsia.com network after unsuccessfully
shopping around her idea for a Japanese women's portal in the summer
of 1999. Some Japanese businesspeople were offended by the name, Onna.com,
which is based on the Japanese word for woman. "In Japan, people
don't want to use the word 'woman' as a name because it is too strong,"
Shimo returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she had moved four
years earlier after marrying an American who had taken her language class.
But she continued pursuing contacts she made through WomenAsia.com
and other places. Last November, just as she began contemplating
bankruptcy, a group led by Israeli investors agreed to put nearly
$5 million into her online business.
The soon-to-be-launched Onna.com
will offer chat rooms and online sales of foreign products.
"I felt we should be proud of being women," said Shimo, who has moved
back to Tokyo to run her new business. "Onna.com is straightforward."
* * *
Evelyn Iritani recently
completed a fellowship at the Pacific Council on International Policy,
where she studied technology in Asia.
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