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China’s Female Tech Investors: New Industry, Old Stereotypes
In Asia, China has a reputation as a more equitable country when it comes to gender and management positions. Globally, China has a slightly higher percentage of women in senior roles, an average of 25% versus 22%, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report in 2015.
However, in the tech industry, chauvinist views – namely that women are less capable of understanding technology than men – exist among both sexes.
“As a woman investor, we are very sensitive. We tend to be very sharp. In terms of tech background, it’s not my strength. That’s why I have my male investors help me,” says Xiaoting Zhang, the CEO and Managing Partner of Ming Capital, highlighting the prevalence of gender stereotypes in China’s tech industry.
At the “China’s Female Investors” panel at TechCrunch Shanghai on Tuesday, three female investors from Ming Capital, Autobot Capital Partners, and ZhenFund discussed the funding landscape in China, and of course, gender.
According to a report released in April by TechCrunch, only 7% of partners at the top 100 venture firms are women, where ‘top’ is defined by longevity, recent investment activity, rounds led, and funding amount. In China, it’s not clear what percentage of venture firm partners are female, but it’s fair to assume that it’s similarly low.
“As a female, we are a minority, especially in internet investment,” says Minman Gu, the Principle of ZhenFund. “I think that we should not…label ourselves as a woman investors. The moment you label yourself, you say no to some possibilities.”
Panelists discussed both disadvantages and advantages of being a female investor in China’s startup ecosystem. For example, according to Ms. Gu, female investors have the advantage of identifying blind spots and opportunities that their male colleagues might miss. She also believes that as a female investor, she has a keener intuition for certain products, such as Dayima (大姨妈), an app that tracks menstrual cycles and provides content related to women’s health and fitness.
In addition, how entrepreneurs handle their family life and family relationships is something that she will pay attention to but her male colleagues might ignore, says Lan Zheng, a Managing Partner at Autobot Capital Partners.
“There’s so many roles and responsibilities [for women],” says Ms. Zhang. “For example, one of our project owners is a startup entrepreneur. She just gave birth to a baby half a year ago. I admire her so much – she’s kind of my idol.”
In China, women are under a lot of pressure to get married and have children before their thirties. There’s the social stigma of becoming a ‘leftover woman’, or an unmarried woman in her late twenties and above. However, that trend is changing, especially in urban centers like Beijing and Shanghai, where more women are choosing to pursue their own careers. As Chinese society becomes more progressive, hopefully its investment culture will diversify as well, allowing for more open-minded views about female investors, especially female investors in tech.
“I’m very good at physics and mathematics. I’m very proud to be a tech-minded or science-minded person,” says Ms. Zheng. “I want to overcome the stereotype that women can only be good at cultural things and can never conquer tech.”