Breaking into the boys’ club: The rise of women in tech

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Kontinentalist

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 30/11/2021

Credit: Zafirah Zein, Griselda Gabriele, Bianchi Dy, Isabella Chua


Zafirah is a freelance writer and journalist as well as the co-editor of an independent magazine called AKAR. She was previously a correspondent for Eco-Business, where she covered topics such as the environment, sustainable development, and human rights. At Kontinentalist, Zafirah is a writer who produces data-driven stories with an Asian angle. 

Griselda is an illustrator / multimedia designer previously involved in the animation and games industry. Some of her notable projects include “CoFounders of the North”, an educational gamification project for SUTD Game Lab and Singapore Management University’s business management module. At Kontinentalist, Griselda is mainly a multimedia designer in charge of assets planning and creation for Kontinentalist’s social media marketing. She also manages the company’s social media accounts and creates editorial illustrations for projects.

Bianchi is an urban scientist and artist. Trained in environmental engineering at NTU, she has applied her STEM background to research projects in computational architecture; data visualisation for decision making in architecture and engineering; and urban analytics. Her passion for scientific communication and context-sensitive data storytelling led her to work with Kontinentalist, where she collaborates with writers on collecting data, data visualisation ideation and design, and turns data sketches into code.

Isabella Chua was a Senior Writer at Kontinentalist. A graduate of NUS (BA Hons in Sociology + USP) and Columbia Journalism School’s Lede Program, Bella creates stories about people and culture, and runs Kontinentalist’s Medium blog and monthly newsletter. You can find her at @Patcheez94 on Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Project description:

This story, done in partnership with female-focused tech platform  She Loves Tech, unpacks the unequal playing field that male and female founders face in the tech start-up industry.

Impact reached:

By analyzing data on pitches, investor bias and unpaid care work, this story sheds light on disparities in funding, and lack of societal and infrastructural support that women encounter and have to overcome in the tech industry. This raises awareness on the invisible barriers faced by female entrepreneurs and aids in spurring action on levelling the playing field. Analysis of women-led start-up missions and interviews with five female entrepreneurs from across Asia also further reveal the benefits that women not just bring to the table, but to wider society. By centering the experiences of female founders through an interactive map, readers get to hear from women themselves and be inspired by the innovative tech they have introduced to benefit their communities. 

Techniques/technologies used:

For the dot plot and bar chart, we edited basic visualisations from RawGraph by adding illustrations and stylizing them further on Figma. The data was sourced externally and extracted from reports by United Nations Women and International Finance Corporation. 

For the word cloud, we did a text analysis of the mission statements submitted by applicants to the 2021 She Loves Tech Global Competition and generated the visualisation on Flourish. 


What was the hardest part of this project?

The lack of open financial data, particular sex-disaggagrated data, made this story challenging from the get-go. Most investment data found online were hidden behind a paywall, while the numbers we could find were not broken down into male and female-led businesses. 

Although we know that women face far more obstacles in accessing start-up funding and participating in paid employment, for some reason this data hasn’t been collected globally or made publicly available to understand the full scale of the problem.


What can others learn from this project?

Many issues facing women go under or unreported, although there is a wealth of stories that can be gleaned from speaking to women, or exploring what exists and what’s missing from gender-related data. 

This project underscores the importance of telling such stories, and as data journalists, seeking and gathering sex-disaggregated data. This can help reveal long standing bias, and highlight more nuanced, useful and revealing insights to help improve the lives of women.


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