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JPMorgan says ‘shockingly low’ number of startups in Asia led by women

A silhouetted pedestrian near the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (Akio Kon/Bloomberg)
A silhouetted pedestrian near the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (Akio Kon/Bloomberg) (Bloomberg)

By Denise Wee

(Bloomberg) — Only 5.7% of startups in Asia-Pacific are led by female entrepreneurs, a percentage that has stayed stagnant for five years, according to a JPMorgan Chase & Co. study.

“The number is shockingly low,” Kam Shing Kwang, chief executive of the JPMorgan’s Asia private bank, said in an interview. “I think sometimes we focus on a few very successful women and say, oh we have arrived. We are minorities.”

Women remain heavily under-represented at the top echelons in high-growth private businesses in the region, with only 848 of nearly 15,000 firms across the region led or founded by a woman, according to the study.

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Women-powered private firms in Asia, include unicorn Airwallex, a payments company co-founded by Lucy Liu, ranked first on list compiled by J.P. Morgan Private Bank and Ernst & Young LLP. Xendit, an Indonesian digital payments firm co-founded by Tessa Wijaya, ranked fourth. The rankings took into consideration factors including funding, investor confidence and operational and financial components.

JPMorgan and EY collaborated to rank the top 100 private companies backed by venture capital or private equity financing that are founded, co-founded or led by women at the C-suite executive level in Asia-Pacific.

‘Bro Culture’

Several women business owners also highlighted network building as being critical to scaling a business, and yet being elusive. Kwang said women cite the so-called networking effect as working against them.

“In Indonesia, a lot of business meetings and networking happen after hours as part of a ‘bro culture’ that women don’t have access to, and it takes extra effort for women to break through that,” said Wijaya in the report.

The female-led firms have raised a total of US$37 billion (S$50.148 billion) since the establishment of their enterprises, according to the study. The five markets with the most funds raised are China, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.