Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
SLASSCOM’S Women Technopreneurs Forum...
In an attempt to bridge the digital gender divide and encourage women-led tech start-ups, Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM) recently launched the Women Technopreneurs Forum.
All women technopreneurs have been handpicked from around Sri Lanka to trailblaze the journey with SLASSCOM and are engaged in various avenues to help empower other women to achieve their true potential in the industry.
The event was graced by the presence of Norwegian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Trine Jøranli Eskedal, as the guest of honour.
Shedding light on the idea, SLASSCOM Vice Chairperson Sandra De Zoysa said that around two years ago, there was an idea of SLASSCOM focusing and supporting women start-ups.
“The people who came forward with the idea suggested that it would be better to have women supporting women and men supporting from behind the scenes. We thought about it carefully and sought advice from the initial advisory board. We are looking at a journey, which is global and looking to foster the connections we have across the shores.”
The advisory board includes five dynamic individuals, including Melony Mahaarachchi from NASA, Ironone Technologies and Boardpac Co-founder and CEO Lakmini Wijesundara and Lanka Angel Network CEO
Chalinda Abeykoon, among others.
She also took the audience through the pillars and partners supporting the forum.
Adding his thoughts, SLASSCOM Chairman Channa Manoharan said that this forum would be an initiative that would create a profound impact not only in the lives of women but one that would also transform the industry and Sri Lankan economy as well.
“There’s enough literature, which shows that if we improve entrepreneurship and women’s participation in any economy, the GDP of our economy will be multiple fold. Despite those obvious benefits to the economy and lives it will change, if you look at Sri Lanka’s track record in this space, even after having the world’s first woman prime minister, there haven’t been much progress, in ensuring women empowerment, participation and entrepreneurship.
Around 60 percent graduates, who qualify from universities, are females but when they enter our economy or industry, only 30 percent participate directly in our companies. Most of them join research institutions, teach or decide not to work at all. By the time they reach top managerial levels, the percentage drops to a dismal 12-13 percent, which is made up adequately by the women trailblazers.
But if you look at statistics, much of the initiatives we think are progressive in our country and in our economy, do not reflect or trickle down to empower women and help them achieve their true potential. We have less than 5 percent women entrepreneurs among us and that is something we want to change. So, we are embarking on a journey, which is not going to be easy but there are many who want to see this road succeed. On the other hand, we will also bring men who will believe and support women in order to empower them to reach their potential.”
“Sri Lanka has 52 percent females but how many start-ups are led by females?” questioned SLASSCOM Director and 99X Technologies COO Shehani Seneviratne.
“It may be less than 10 percent and how many IT businesses are run by females? It’s quite a sad situation, where we have many talented, educated females in the industry but have few taking part in these ventures. This explains the whole objective of this forum.
Therefore, we want to get more technopreneurs to contribute to the economy and to generate more export revenue to the company. SLASSCOM has a target of achieving US $ 5 million in revenue by 2025 apart from starting 1000 start-ups.
Therefore, we want more females to contribute to this overall target. A technopreneur is a new-age entrepreneur, who is creative, innovative, dynamic and someone who makes use of technology to make something new and disruptive.
A female technopreneur would do things differently when compared to another business person. Women may have home businesses, which are quite successful but we can help them to take it to the next level and even help them earn export revenue and contribute to the country’s economy.
We therefore want to identify people from all around the country and bring them into our hold and help them build their businesses to the next level. We want to create an impact in terms of revenue while also creating a lot of networking opportunities.
There are lot of role models and experienced entrepreneurs, who can create a huge impact through a lot of networking. Through this forum, we aim to help women overcome their barriers, reduce women unemployment rate and help bridge the digital gender divide.”