Sort Sort Alpha Down Sort Alpha Up Sort Amount Down Sort Amount Up Sort Down (Descending) Sort Numeric Down Sort Numeric Up Sort Up (Ascending)
Weaving Women Empowerment in Tech and Beyond with Gina Romero
Health and Wellness

Weaving Women Empowerment in Tech and Beyond with Gina Romero

Gina Romero

Founder, Community Builder, Women's Empowerment
Gina Romero
Margaux Zurbano

Gina Romero is an advocate for women in technology and entrepreneurship in the Philippines. She is also the Founder and Head of Special Projects at Connected Women, a Philippines-based company that provides ethical Data and AI Services at scale. Their guiding principle, "Bringing Opportunities Home," mirrors their commitment to enhance the well-being of Filipino women through socially responsible  online work. Their aspiration is to fuel the future's inclusive workplace by bringing  women into tech. Gina has also been actively involved in fostering a community that encourages collaboration and growth for women in the startup ecosystem. With that in mind, why don’t you join me in learning more about Gina Romero.


Can you share a bit about your journey into the startup ecosystem and how you became a community builder?


I started community building around 2005 when I was in the United Kingdom. My community-building mentor is from the UK and when I met her she was building a Nationwide women's community there. I was a member initially, and  eventually became more and more involved. In 2008, I became the UK Operations Director and in 2012 I moved to Singapore where I  co-founded the APAC chapter.   

In 2013 I founded the Connected Women community in Singapore which was focused on technology upskilling. Then I moved to the Philippines in 2016, with an idea to launch Connected Women as a job matching startup. We weren't trying to build a community as such, but we were focused on solving the problem of bringing digital jobs to the Philippines so the Filipino women didn't have to leave their families to work overseas just to earn a decent wage. Ironically, when we penned our mission, the community here grew even bigger than any of the communities that I was deliberately building in other countries. I think it was really because that was a problem that a lot of women resonated with. The growth was very organic.

So far, what business ventures have you dived into and how are these businesses doing now?

I've been dabbling in all sorts of businesses since I was young. One started out as a side hustle, buying and selling laptops with my husband when he was working as a tech engineer in the UK. We would buy old used laptops from classified ads in the local newspaper and resell them on eBay which was in its early stage of e-commerce. We also sold Wi-Fi in 2002 including  the first deployment of wifi in a residential building. I also experimented with various paid membership communities which is a really challenging business model. Most communities fail because they struggle to monetise or sustain membership. My husband and I both love innovating in tech and doing interesting new things because we are passionate about  solving problems. But in the early days we were not as successful in commercialisation since we were more excited about creating the solution than selling it.


When we came back to the Philippines and we wanted to launch Connected Women, the first thing that we did was to find a co-founder who would bring the sales and partnerships   expertise to the table. We were introduced to Ruth Yu-Owen through a mutual friend and we knew she would be an amazing  co-founder. She’s a natural when it comes to partnerships and investments. She's also a successful entrepreneur who runs her own renewable energy company that puts rooftop solar panels in commercial buildings. Ruth brought a different dynamic to the Connected Women business and was able to open doors and get a lot of things moving. But definitely, the technology, community and impact intersection is what we  are most passionate about because that really shows how we can collectively solve really challenging problems at scale.


As a founder and community builder, what key initiatives have you undertaken to support and foster the growth of startups in the Philippines?


I think as a mission-driven entrepreneur and someone who also wants to build a sustainable commercial model, it’s been really challenging since I think the Asian ecosystem isn't very mature yet when it comes to social impact startups. We've come across a lot of barriers  where tech investors don't understand the for-impact, for-profit business model. At the same time, as a for-profit company we appear to be too commercial for the philanthropic funders. It's really difficult to get that balance of demonstrating that you're serious about creating profit and scaling, but also that your impact is equally as important. Finding partners and investors in that space is really difficult. We aspire to be a success story of a social impact business in the region. Right now, this is the third evolution of Connected Women. We started as a community initiative in Singapore, then the second evolution was a startup AI-powered job matching platform. Our AI services outsourcing business model is a better fit for our vision and we're gaining traction quicker.

In summary, I think you have to experiment to get the right business model that fits what you're trying to achieve. The platform model wasn't the right fit for us at the time because it was difficult to fundraise for and it was considered very risky.  It was also really hard to gain traction without continuous investment to build and scale.  We pivoted to a more ‘service-based’ model which was a good way for us to grow without having to be too reliant on external funding. This was a short term move for us to de-risk the business model. Now we are ready to fundraise and. Our ambition is to go back to the startup model because it's the best way to scale.


You are a very prominent figure in the startup space for being a vocal advocate for women empowerment. With that said, what specific challenges do you think women face in the startup world, and how can these challenges be addressed?


Any area related to tech lacks women. This was an inconvenience, I guess in many ways for years. But now it's becoming a significant risk because we live in a society that's built on technology and driven by technology. This divide doesn't represent a small problem  in terms of representation and diversity, it means we're actually building out technology that doesn't represent half of the planet.


I think that more than ever before, it's really essential that we have diversity of all kinds, including gender embedded into technology, companies, technology ecosystems, startup ecosystems, and all the rest. I think the challenge has been that traditionally, it's just been really male-dominated.  We really have to understand why diversity matters. We have to look at what is the output of a lack of diversity and how does that cause real world issues or how does that escalate the real world issues that we already have.

I don't know the answer as to how we solve it, but I do know that we need to be more vocal about why this is an issue. Connected Women is solving the problem in our own small way, which is starting at the grassroots and advocating and championing for women to be involved in industries like AI. That's how we're tackling it, but I think we really need everyone to tackle it in their own way and be creative and innovative as well.


Can you share some success stories or initiatives you've been a part of that have empowered women in the startup ecosystem?


There are a lot of initiatives that are focused on bringing more women into startups or bringing more women into tech.  The challenge is that a lot of these things happen also in silo. I’ve attended a number of events around the region where we have women-in-tech tracks or women-in-tech specific panels. I think that's great, but it is also counterintuitive to the mainstreaming of the conversations. I get invited to a lot of mainstream tech events where the only panel that I sit on is the women-in-tech panel. I think that solves it in one way because we're talking about an important issue. But I think on the other hand, we need to also put more women in tech on the mainstream panels to talk about their expertise, like AI or non-gender related matters. Otherwise, we're just kind of propagating the same thing: that women-in-tech is like a separate track that women should attend and deal with. We need a combination of specialized tracks and topics around this so that people can be educated. We also need the male-heavy development teams to sit in and understand how they can attract more women into their teams. At the same time, we also need to bring more women into the mainstream conversations to showcase that women do exist in the industry, create more role models, and everything else.


What advice would you give to women aspiring to enter the startup world or build their own businesses? 


The startup world can be a bit brutal. If you're really serious about building something scalable and getting funding and investment, you really have to be ready for a pretty steep learning curve. I think you can't really learn that theoretically until you actually do it hands-on. The startup model is probably one of the most brutal business models because it's very demanding. However, it’s also an area where you can grow a lot as an entrepreneur, probably more than dabbling in small business and side hustle. I’ve met a few startup founders who did not succeed   for whatever reason but they're still here. Maybe they've moved into different areas or maybe they're still trying to do the same thing. Failure is really an integral part of the startup world. You have to be willing to have that experimental kind of mindset where the outcome is either it fails or it succeeds, and then you go again.


But I think if you're still new to entrepreneurship and you just want to dip your toe into entrepreneurship, maybe the startup model isn't the right way. You can start with softer business models that are a little bit easier to test out. But definitely, if you're going to do a startup, find a good co-founding team. That's not something you want to do on your own because like I said, it can be a pretty brutal journey, especially when you start fundraising. Having a good team is the only way that you'll survive in my opinion.


Visit if you would like to know and connect more with Gina Romero.

Work with Techshake

Are you a startup, investor or corporation? Or do you just enjoy talking about startups? There are many ways that you can work with TechShake.

We’d love to hear from you!