Lena Wong is the dedicated founder of HK Momtrepreneurs, an organization that supports mothers who want to start their own businesses. She tells The Loop HK what it’s like to be a parent and a businesswoman in Hong Kong, all at the same time.
For mothers and parents in Hong Kong, it definitely involves more than just a passion to start a business. Oftentimes it is viewed as a luxury, in terms of time and money required, for one to consider having kids and starting a business. There’s a myth in Hong Kong that it costs $4 million to raise a kid, so most households can only do so by having dual income parents. Having the extra money to invest into a business seems rather absurd, and it is believed that parents should probably put that money into investing in the children instead.
Many of us see the world differently when we become parents. We want to do things that can bring positive change for our future generations, and even if we are running for-profit businesses, there is often a good cause behind it. Parents want to be the role models for their own children, which becomes a major driving force for them to do well by doing good.
There is definitely not enough support for Hong Kong mothers and parents (entrepreneurial or not) in general. Although we have the luxury of having domestic helpers in Hong Kong to support most of the middle class or above, the lack of proper childcare facilities makes it nearly impossible for many women to continue working while with young children in the house.
Besides, having domestic helpers or grandparents at home often means the parents are expected to work longer hours; it is implied that they do not need to rush home to serve their duty as parents. In many other developed countries, children are often put in daycare facilities where all the parents (as well as their bosses) must leave work on time in order to be able to pick up the kids.
Everyone works long hours in Hong Kong and acts like they don’t have family, which makes it harder for anyone (mothers in particular) to return to work after leaving the workforce for a prolonged period.
It sounds too good to be true to have it all. I think we all should try to strike a balance between career, family and community. These three pillars should always be important in anyone’s life. I can only say that I chose to start my own business so that I could be the parent that I want myself to be. Otherwise, I would have been a career woman and would not have been able to see my own children on most days of the week.
Even though Hong Kong is a very well developed city as we see it now, we are lagging behind in many aspects, including on gender equality. Female-founded businesses are still under funded, mothers are still serving as the default primary care takers of the house, and our listed companies are still only served by 14 percent of female board members. We can do better!