Filipinas Urged to Take Internet Initiative

Filipina technology entrepreneurs should rise to the dot-com challenge by leveraging the power of the Internet. This is the advice given by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Abby Molano to Filipinas and women in general, whom she said should form Internet startups now that the technology, economic situation and political environment have become more conducive for business.

"This is a lucrative time for Filipino women to enter the IT business environment," said Molano, who is the president and chief executive officer of the United Professionals Group (UNI-PRO), a San Jose, California-based international strategic marketing company.

In an interview with Computerworld Philippines, Molano said the Internet acts as an equalizer for today's women entrepreneurs who want to take a stab at the market potential of dot-coms.

"The Internet brought the business environment down to the fundamental elements - individuality, brains and connection," she said. "Now you can stand on your merit and no longer complain that there is discrimination or bias because it all boils down to, if you're good, you will succeed."

The fact that one can open a shop on the Internet and operate it in the bedroom or living room is a phenomenon that suddenly propels women into the same business environment, with equal strength, as a large retail outlet of a brick-and-mortar company, Molano said. She also said that women have an inherent quality that is conducive to Internet-based ventures. "Women are natural collaborators and they are able to draw people into play. They are not isolationists, instead, they are networkers. This quality suits the Internet because it's one giant network."

This personal quality, Molano said, is now being appreciated by most dot-com founders, who happen to be people in their late 20s, who "grew up seeing their mothers not just as plain housewives but as people who have an asset."

WOMEN POWER

Speaking from a U.S. perspective, Molano said that changes in purchasing power and in the glass ceiling are contributing to the growth of women-based businesses there.

"Sixty-seven percent of all purchases are made by women (within the U.S.) and about $3 trillion worth of business is influenced by them either directly or within a company, while 50 percent of the businesses started last year are women-based," Molano said.

Furthermore, Molano said more and more women in the U.S. are opting to come right out of college and start their own business. These women, she said are paving the way for others and are now moving into positions of power.

"You got women coming in as support in the employee and employer structures, with natural collaboration inherent in their personalities and the huge purchasing power they have. All these things today combine to make it the age of the woman," she observed.

SETBACKS

However, Molano also noted a few setbacks to the success of women entrepreneurship in IT. "There are just too few women going into the technical and business sides of IT in terms of education. So what happens is that only a handful of women are in high-level IT positions."

She emphasized that women should start moving away from "girls-can-only-wear-pink-and-boys-can-only-wear-blue" thinking where education is concerned.

"More women need to get into engineering, mathematics or the natural sciences as well as learn the business aspects to be able to play by the rules of the new business environment," Molano said.

THE PATH

In the case of Filipina technology entrepreneurs, Molano observed that the "very machismo" business environment in the Philippines is one of the biggest hurdles that they have to overcome to succeed. "This is a drawback of Spanish colonialism. But if I understand correctly, the Filipino woman is considered the strongest person in the household. So I trust she can overcome such a hurdle."

However, local women-based startups will also need a supportive environment. Molano stressed that the government should provide initiatives for women entrepreneurs. "Making available micro-loans as well as venture capital for these women will make a lot of difference. Child-care support should also be provided."

Once these requirements are met, Filipinas who wish to build their own dot-coms can focus on cultivating their creativity, inventiveness and perseverance in the IT business arena. "I think this is a profile of a successful woman entrepreneur in general, whether she's into IT or anything else," Molano said. "Our natural ability to endure, to survive and to persist is the asset we are bringing in the business environment as a whole. So we don't have to sacrifice femininity to be successful anymore," Molano said.

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