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Frauen in der Informatik - NEWS - Frauen in den Ingenieurwissenschaften

  • "Sites Cast Net to Bring Asian Women Online"

  • Los Angeles 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 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. and similar sites such as,, 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 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

    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, 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, 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, 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., 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, 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 medium-size businesses.

                  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.

             One of 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 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.

            The challenges 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, 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 household finances.
             But 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, offers an "Ask the Experts" column featuring female attorneys, businesswomen and doctors and presented an IBM-sponsored "Give us your best E-dream" contest.

             Elsewhere 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, 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.

            Webgrrls International, 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.

             The author 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.

             Webgrrls 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,, a Hong Kong-based medical Web site, expand into Southeast Asia.

            It was through 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 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,,  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," she said.

             A discouraged 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 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 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. " is straightforward."
                                                                                    * * *
           Evelyn Iritani recently completed a fellowship at the Pacific Council on International Policy, where she studied technology in Asia.

         Search the archives of the Los Angeles Times for similar stories about:  Internet (Computer Network), Electronic Commerce, Technology, Asians - Women, Japan - Women, Asia - Economy,  Women Owned Business - Asia,, Web Sites. You will not be charged to look for stories, only to retrieve one.

    copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times

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