Evolution or Revolution: A closer look at the rise of female entrepreneurship in Taiwan

At what point do you stop calling something a movement and start calling it a revolution? With the election of Taiwan’s first ever female president in January, it would appear that moves there toward gender equality are well underway. Expectations are high for President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party to not only pursue legislative reform, but to inspire and elevate a new generation of female political and business leaders who will drive growth and promote equality in future.

So where does Taiwan stand in terms of gender parity now? On the surface, things appear almost Scandinavian, with nearly a third of lawmakers elected to national parliament being women. There are party quotas that ensure female representation, and they are being exceeded. In politics, it would seem, things are headed in the right direction.

What about the business world? According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the early stage entrepreneurship rate in Taiwan in 2015 was 4.9% for females and 9.7% for males. This represents a ratio of 2:1 male to female entrepreneurial participation, which bests both Japan (5:2) and South Korea (3:1) in Asia. In its annual review of Taiwan, GEM also suggests that high-growth and innovation-driven entrepreneurial activity will be the key drivers of future economic growth for Taiwan.

Still, despite these positive signs, female entrepreneurs may still have their work cut out for them in this traditionally patriarchal society. Harvard Business Review’s recently published list of the 50 best performing CEOs in Taiwan featured just one female: HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang, who was ranked 21. Some might counter that the HBR list is skewed towards the traditional Taiwanese economy, while the next phase of Taiwan’s growth will be led by a younger generation of entrepreneurs. After all, it was the younger voters who were largely credited with bringing Tsai Ing-wen to power, and there is a sense that they will carry the destiny of Taiwan in their hands.

Grace Wang, CEO of lifestyle company VVG
Grace Wang, CEO of lifestyle company VVG

On May 27, the second annual Rakuten Future Forum Taipei will examine these and other key issues facing Taiwan as it steps into a new era. Under the theme of “Breaking barriers of the traditional economy,” the Forum will gather leaders in business, tech, government, and media from around Taiwan and Asia to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

One of the most eagerly anticipated sessions at the Forum is titled “Empowering the Female Entrepreneur.” Featuring a high-profile, all-female panel that includes Grace Wang, the prominent CEO of lifestyle company VVG; former Democratic Progressive Party spokeswoman Chia-Ching Hsu; and top Rakuten Taiwan merchant Momi Su, the session is expected to produce a lively and insightful debate.

Go here for a closer look at the upcoming Rakuten Future Forum Taipei.

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