Tackling Gender Bias in Business: New LinkedIn Data Reveals Persistent Gaps Between Men and Women

By Jennifer Cheng

New LinkedIn data shows that despite improvements, women still face barriers to succeeding as leaders and business owners. We speak to entrepreneur Roshni Mahtani Cheung about her own challenges as a founder and tips for women to thrive at work

Tatler Asia
Cover  Roshni Mahtani Cheung, founder and group CEO of The Parentinc (Illustration: Raphael Quiason)


Young, Asian and female, Roshni Mahtani Cheung had to prove that who she was did not hinder her ability as a businesswoman. As a show of her determination, she brought her infant daughter to work after giving birth and breastfed her during meetings with clients and investors.

“While my journey as an entrepreneur started as me proving to everyone that being a woman was not an impediment to running a business, later it evolved into me wanting to normalise the image of a working mother when I had my daughter,” says Mahtani Cheung. “That being one doesn’t make me any less effective as a founder and a leader.”

Mahtani Cheung is the founder and group CEO of The Parentinc, a parent-tech company focused on building content, community and commerce platforms for parents in emerging markets. Her struggle to prove herself as a leader bears out LinkedIn’s latest data on women at work, which was published in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022.

The good news is that the findings reveal that the proportion of female entrepreneurs in Singapore surpassed that of males for the first time in at least five years. Compared to the study’s 2016 benchmark, women in entrepreneurship in 2021 increased by 1.95 times, compared to 1.91 times for men.

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The same report, however, shows that globally women are not promoted internally to leadership positions at the same rate as men, with only 3 in 10 leaders being female. Among the Asia-Pacific countries surveyed, Singapore and India fared the worst, with men 42 percent more likely to be promoted, compared to the Philippines’ 26 percent, New Zealand’s 20 percent and Australia’s 18 percent.

Given that women encounter more barriers to advance in the workplace than men—hampered by gender biases that prevent their hiring or promotion, or by the stigma surrounding flexible working arrangements that help women juggle career and family—it’s not surprising to see them creating their own opportunities through entrepreneurship.

Feon Ang, LinkedIn’s managing director of APAC, says, “We saw this, especially in the years of the pandemic (2020 and 2021), and it took a harder toll on women’s careers and required them to seek out other forms of income. We also know some women were seeking out greater flexibility or re-evaluating their careers based on their passions.”

Being [a woman] doesn’t make me any less effective as a founder and a leader
Roshni Mahtani Cheung

Mahtani Cheung believes that female-led businesses will continue to grow post-pandemic. “Seeing other mothers hustle from home is motivating women to deeply consider the many possibilities of running a business,” she says. What’s more, they now have fintech, e-commerce and social media platforms to help them realise their dreams.

These tools were not so developed in 2009 when Mahtani Cheung started her entrepreneurial journey in New York by launching a blog about Asian parenting. But business followed and today, The Parentinc’s theAsianparent website and mobile app collectively draw 35 million users monthly from 13 countries in Asia and Africa. The company launched a direct-to-consumer, Halal-certified mother and baby products brand, Mama’s Choice, in 2019 and this April, it welcomed new shareholders such as East Ventures to further fund its growth.

Her company is a success story now, but Mahtani Cheung says she had few female role models to learn from in the past. And she believes this to be a reason why fewer women venture into business.

To create a supportive environment, she co-founded the Female Founders Network in 2014, an organisation that aims to inspire entrepreneurs and raise the proportion of women in tech startups and on company boards. It now has over 2,000 female members across Asia sharing knowledge and moral support. The collective serves as an invaluable resource, as 30 percent of all startups fail in the first three years of operation due to inadequate knowledge, experience or finances.

Read more: Stop the "She-cession": Holding the Line on Gender Equality in the Workplace

We need to find ways to uplift women in every generation. It takes the whole of society to drive positive change for more equitable workplaces
Feon Ang

Addressing its data’s revelation of gender imbalance in the workplace, LinkedIn’s Ang asserts that equal representation for all genders will inspire diverse ideas and thinking, which produces better business results.

Ang is an advocate for implementing inclusive hiring practices and prioritising internal mobility and development opportunities for women to grow within their organisations. She also calls for employers to offer flexible work options to retain female talent, as LinkedIn data shows that 62 percent of women in Singapore have either left a job or considered leaving one because it doesn’t offer flexible working policies.

And what can women do to succeed in business or a corporate setting? As the founder of a company with more than 450 employees, Mahtani Cheung has some tips.

Aspiring startup owners should choose an area they are passionate about, Mahtani Cheung says, because “when you love it, it’ll be harder to give up on it easily”. And executives seeking to move up the leadership ladder should actively ask for that promotion. “Tell management why you deserve it and ask what it will take to get it,” she says. “Even if you fail, you still win, because you created your own opportunity. You pushed yourself to do something and that matters.”

“We need to find ways to uplift women in every generation,” adds Ang. “It takes the whole of society to drive positive change for more equitable workplaces, and also communities that support female entrepreneurs and women in the workforce.”

LinkedIn’s latest data on workplace gender disparity and insights on creating more equitable outcomes for women in the workforce can be viewed here. To support female entrepreneurs and women in the workforce, LinkedIn is offering the following courses for free until 23 August 2022: Gender in Negotiation, Getting to Yes: Advice for Female Founders on How to Get Funded, Leadership Strategies for Women and Success Strategies for Women in the Workplace.

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