Being a Female CEO of a Tech Startup in Southeast Asia (Part 3)

the anti tech conference story - mailbird

The Anti-Women Tech Conference Story

My name is Andrea Loubier, I am the CEO of a tech startup, an amazing email company called Mailbird. I am driven, highly motivated, a strong networker and a balancer. I am someone who loves building something from the ground up. Here is a snippet of a day in my life in my role that I wear wholeheartedly on my shoulders.

I received an email at 10:37 am on a Saturday from a lady whom I’ll call “Casey” for purposes of privacy. It was November 15, 2014.

I’ve always been a big advocate for women in tech, and that is even without being from a technical background. The tech industry is not only made up of software engineers, but also of business development and marketing professionals. Much like Marc Andreessen, Ben Horrowitz and Peter Thiel’s philosophy, I also don’t believe that “a great product will sell itself”.

Image Credit: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227134
Image Credit: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227134

 

Back to the story…

This email I received from “Casey” explained that her and a group of other women who have been leading the female entrepreneurial movement in Asia have requested one of the bigger tech conferences in Asia to feature more women in their agenda by way of integration on a panel discussion, highlighting the roles of women in tech in Southeast Asia.

“Casey” contacted the conference organizers with this special request, and their response…

“Sorry we don’t really have room in our conference for girls.”

They elaborated that they only allow for high quality speakers to participate in the conference and hold the speakers to a very high standard. It was bad enough that these inspirational, leading, innovative, incredibly smart and entrepreneurial game changers Casey was referring to were referred to a girls. So “Casey” submitted a list of amazingly qualified and accomplished women in tech to counter the refusal of integration.

The conference organizers reluctantly said they’d consider having only 4 women from the list of over 30 that was submitted. These women included Sara Schonhardt, Marissa Anita, Melissa Guzy and to my surprise…..me. I thought,

“What? Ok that’s cool, would be happy to represent entrepreneurial women in tech, from Southeast Asia.”

However the proposed involvement was rather insignificant, almost unnoticed. They shared that for my participation, they only wanted me to speak on a panel at some event happening outside of the main tech conference – so not quite the better integration of women that I believe “Casey” was looking for.

 

Appalled

“Casey” and her team cut any further communication with the reps of the mega Asia tech conference  and instead decided to organize a full-on tech conference dedicated to women – a tech entrepreneurial conference with a special focus on women and their contributions to our world as it develops through technology. Even more important, is that both men and women would be encouraged to participate in support of more women in tech and entrepreneurship within Southeast Asia.

She explained the motive of this conference would be,

“To celebrate the achievements of women in technology, build relationships, share knowledge and access to resources, network, and inspire a young generation of women to enter the STEM field. It’s also important to note that the event we are planning doesn’t exclude men. Actually, several of the first people to get on-board with our concept were men in the tech industry who are eager to support, hire, and promote women and find ways to open up the dialogue about what it is keeping women out of the industry.”

I loved it and excited to see such a passionate movement in action for women in tech and female entrepreneurs in the world trickling into Southeast Asia. It is especially an honor for me to be a part of it all.

women

 

Discussion

Have you ever noticed or encountered this type of set back in building a balanced ecosystem for tech and entrepreneurship for women? If so, share your story below in the comments.

 

You would like to read more posts like that?

Then you should also check out Part 1Part 2 and Part 4 of the series.