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Shanghai Ranks Top 5 Globally for Female Founders

Why Shanghai is one of the top startup ecosystems for female founders
Laís de Oliveira
on September 23, 2019

Known as the ‘Oriental Paris’, Shanghai is China’s biggest and richest city. Besides being a major industrial and commercial city, Shanghai is distinct from the other Chinese cities through culture, wealth, and internationalism.

In our latest research, Shanghai showed distinction by having one of the world's largest population of female founders, being amongst the top 5 global ecosystems for gender diversity.

According to WeWork’s data, China is the only country where women outnumber men at WeWork, which is impressive since the population is only around 45% female. One of the main goals of this article is to figure out why Shanghai is succeeding in creating a startup ecosystem that is so attractive to female founders.

According to the South China Morning Post, female entrepreneurs have said that they’ve found fewer traditional gender barriers in Shanghai and that the market in leisure lifestyle and creative industries has been growing with women. For example, one of China’s biggest fashion names, Masha Ma, is based in Shanghai.

One notable Shanghai-based female-founded startups is Equota Energy, founded by Charlotte Wang. Equota Energy is an AI and Big data-driven technology startup that provides smart energy solutions in energy efficiency optimization. Their goal is to create innovative ways to reduce energy.

Women empowering women

Throughout recent years, Shanghai has seen an increase of organizations and programs meant to connect women founders and provide them with necessary resources to succeed. She Power was founded in 2015 to connect and empower business women in the area. It consists of online and offline courses, corporate visits and conferences to share knowledge and gain insights. They received investment from Ucommune to expand their network and tap into the community's needs, hoping to build China’s largest woman learning platform.

In 2017, Mastercard launched Raise Her Business Plan, an entrepreneurship training program for women and children, in collaboration with China Women’s Development Foundation and Shanghai Women’s Federation. The program provides quality training for more than 5,000 women in Shanghai to equip them with skills in entrepreneurial, financial, and business aspects.

The Asia Foundation launched Accelerate Women’s Entrepreneurship: Supporting Migrant Women-Owned Businesses” program in Shanghai earlier this year. The program was launched to help 150 migrant business women in Shanghai to scale their businesses through training, customized coaching, and networking.

Lastly, the world-wide women empowerment organization, Lean In has a Shanghai branch. Lean In is committed to sharing successes and encouraging women to learn from each other. It focuses on community building and networking as well as connecting women through mentors.





Women’s Startup Events in Shanghai

Ladyfest Shanghai is an annual event that is held around International Women’s Day. Its goal is to foster inspiration, celebrate women empowerment, and promote conversation for gender equality. Ladyfest Shanghai is a grassroots organization looking to create an open environment which fosters mutual inspiration, exchange of experiences, and visions of femininity and equality.

Each of these organizations and events work to bring together like-minded individuals who are willing to share ideas, network and support each other.

Harvard Business Review noted that women who have a tight-knit inner circle, tend to achieve higher success. Perhaps this has a correlation with female founders. The organizations and events act as a catalyst to create the inner circle that helps women generate ideas and found successful businesses.

Are you from Shanghai and working to improve the entrepreneurial journey for women? We’d like to hear from you! Email [email protected] and let’s talk.


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Our data shows that collaboration is at the core of the fastest growing startup ecosystems. We work with forward-looking organizations who understand that joining the global startup economy is key to to drive innovation and spur economic growth.