Women entrepreneurs today face fewer gender biases compared to the past, yet they still encounter numerous challenges when launching their businesses. Transgender women are still underrepresented in the entrepreneurial community, but there are exceptional cases of individuals who have defied the odds. Sasin Inclusion, UN Women, We-Can, and Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs collaborated to host “Women in Entrepreneurship: Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Diverse Voices; Fresh Perspectives,” on October 19, during Women Entrepreneurship Week 2023. Nayada Thippayaatsawapakin, the Founder of BeWise Academy, is one such individual who succeeded in starting her own business despite discrimination from her conservative family. Nayada’s journey began with a passion for teaching, which led her to establish BeWise Academy, a tutoring school with 10,000 students, providing opportunities for students to study abroad and pursue various vocations. Despite facing gender discrimination within her family, Nayada adopted a resilient mindset and remained focused on her goals. “I grew up in a military family that viewed transgender individuals as having a gender disorder. No matter how hard I tried, I could never meet their expectations. So, I used the method of controlling my thoughts to overcome my pain,” she said. This mantra guided her through life, where she emphasized the importance of control, adaptability, resilience, and dedication. Throughout her journey of founding BeWise Academy, Nayada learned to stay dedicated to her passion and become resilient in the face of criticism. She also realized that she didn’t need to conform to societal expectations. “The notion that you must be a fixed version of yourself is limiting. Adaptation enables you to become the best version of yourself,” said Nayada. Another remarkable entrepreneur is Nattakan Denwanitchakorn, the founder of Joy Ride, a professional caregiver business platform for the elderly. Nattakan’s dreams of starting her own company were realized through the same resilient mindset that Nayada exhibited, allowing her to remain dedicated to her passion. Prior to starting her own business, Nattakan faced obstacles while working as an office worker. Like Nayada, her dedication to helping people and her resilient mindset guided her journey. After seeking treatment for her depression at a hospital, she observed numerous elderly individuals without their children to care for them. This experience prompted her to establish Joy Ride, where she initially provided care by driving elderly individuals to hospitals in her car.
“Organizations with male leadership should actively embrace female perspectives to enhance their business, foster innovation, and synergize energy, skills, and expertise.” – Nattakan Denwanitchakorn, Founder of Joy RideWhile many women aspire to start their own businesses, they often struggle to find resources or harbor a fear of failure. Joni Simpson, the founder of WE-Can, a program that offers technical and peer support to women entrepreneurs, believes that support systems like WE-Can are crucial for women to learn about entrepreneurship and grow their businesses while building connections in the business community. “Women often feel alone in their entrepreneurial journey, having to navigate how to start their business, where to go, how to stay motivated and maintain momentum. While there are accelerators and entrepreneurship programs, most of them don’t cater to women entrepreneurs,” said Simpson. Haidy Leung, the Business Development Manager of Change Fusion, a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring, incubating, and investing in businesses with social impact, echoed the importance of a gender-smart approach. Despite working with women entrepreneurs, Leung recognized the need to remain vigilant against gender biases and stereotypes, emphasizing the significance of building a gender-sensitive community to foster inclusivity. Leung also remarked on a sentiment felt by many women entrepreneurs: “I do have my problems being an entrepreneur, but I don’t really have problems being a woman entrepreneur,” said Leung. While gender was not a hurdle for them, women faced challenges such as a lack of business acumen and proficiency in applying technology and digital tools. Some women, especially younger entrepreneurs, also faced ageism, as Nayada shared, “If you’re young, then the seniors will automatically assume that you’re incompetent.” Nattakan expressed similar sentiments, highlighting the gender disparities in the innovation tech sector and hackathons, where most investors were men. She emphasized that what women truly needed was not a fast track to entrepreneurship but equality – an equitable opportunity to build a strong foundation of knowledge, enhance their skill sets, realize innovative ideas, and receive support where they may have shortcomings. Nonetheless, Nattakan emphasized that women should not defer from starting a business, and they should not fear failure but rather leverage it as a learning opportunity. Simpson advised aspiring women entrepreneurs to identify a niche and seek opportunities that align with their strengths rather than imitating others. When it comes to gender roles, Leung finds that women often need to juggle between family and work commitments. The guest speakers all agreed that flexible work arrangements and the support of male champions are critical for empowering women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. The journey to gender inclusivity in entrepreneurship may be ongoing, but the efforts of people like Nayada, Nattakan, Simpson, and Leung are paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future.