My Heroine - Taiwan's Women Social Enterpreneurs Break The Glass Ceiling

Jing-En Kin

Women are natural born leaders in the social enterprise space. But especially so in Taiwan, where female social entrepreneurs are over-represented.

Click for Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese version of this article

Michelle Bachelet, the 2012 UN Women’s Executive Director and president of Chile, once said that “women are natural social entrepreneurs”. This has been attributed to the fact that women often have to make altruistic choices when juggling career and family, as well as solve problems affecting those around them like family and community. Generally speaking, women have a natural proclivity to be nurturing and their work is an extension of how they see the world. (Though, this is not to say that men are not nurturing or altruistic, or that all women are nurturers - neither are the case and there are many shades of gray.)

Growing evidence that an increasing number of females are at the forefront of change in the social enterprise sector:

  • 38 percent of new social enterprise start-ups are led by females, with over 90 percent of impact ventures having at least one woman on their leadership team. On the other hand, almost half of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have all-male directors (The Independent)
  • Women are 1.17 times more likely than men to create social ventures rather than only economic ventures, and 1.23 times more likely to pursue environmental ventures than economic-focused ventures (Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Research)

Interestingly, Taiwan is an anomaly. Female social entrepreneurs are over-represented in Taiwan. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the total early-stage entrepreneurship (TEA) rate for Taiwanese females stands at 67 per cent, almost double Japan's 35 per cent in Japan and Korea's 20 percent. 

The reason for these high numbers is high education and an increasingly open society. in addition the Taiwanese government is a huge supporter of female entrepreneurship, going so far as to devote a chapter to womens entrepreneurship in its white paper on it as early as 2003.

These Taiwanese pioneers are showing that women are thriving in the social enterprise sector by making use of their unique strengths to achieve positive social impact. Here are two such SEs in Taiwan that are run by women. 

Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop

Claire Lin from Taiwan is one of those women. Claire devoted herself into non-profit work since graduating from college – training volunteers in developing countries. During one of her trips, she realized that menstruation has a social stigma attached to it, as women were always considered shameful and ‘unclean’ during their periods.

Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop produces sanitary pads made of locally sourced materials

One year later, when Claire bought the first menstrual cloth pad on her trip to south India, she was inspired by the idea and decided to start up the Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop in Nepal to empower and educate local women. The studio employs community women to make affordable menstrual cloth pads with sustainable materials and offers menstrual hygiene lessons.

Despite not knowing how to use a sewing machine, Claire persevered and worked with the women to develop eco-friendly Lovelady pads from locally sourced cotton.  

Dharti Mata is a social enterprise that employs women to produce cotton sanitary pads and educated them about menstrual hygiene

In less than a year, the company accumulated thousands of production and managed to break even. Looking back, she thinks the most important thing is to know clearly what you want to achieve.“You have to be moved by your own ideas. Once you’ve decided, you don’t need to think too much, just go for it!” 

Dharti Mata’s products now can be found in 9 different retail locations in Taiwan and Hong Kong. You can also purchase them online here.


Geng Shi Lian Yuan Social Enterprise

Geng Shi Lian Yuan Social Enterprise

Just like Claire, Su-Hua Yu and Ruei-Chu Chen began their social enterprise journey in New Taipei City by chance.

“Geng Shi Lian Yuan(耕心蓮苑)” was founded two decades ago, when Yu and her school teacher colleague, Chen went for home visit to her students’ families. She realized that many primary students in community schools were loitering around and performing more poorly than their peers, as their parents were mostly blue-collar migrants from rural areas who had to work long hours.

Moved by the plight of these children, they began to provide after-school care for students from families with poor financial conditions in their own homes.

It was not easy for them to take these first steps. Community members questioned their continued commitment and ability to support the students. It wasn’t until they saw students’ improvement in performance that the community began to support Yu and Chen’s work.

However, the massive growth in student numbers worsened their already tight financial situation. So, Geng Shi Lian Yuan decided to run a pay-what-you-want community kitchen to supplement their income.

At first, some showed up packing their large empty bowls and pots with food without paying. This was hugely demoralizing and saw a decline in volunteers.

Fortunately, thanks to the support from community members, the kitchen managed to maintain its business. During the global financial crisis in 2008, this community kitchen served as a strong caring center for many unemployed residents.

Now, the kitchen is like a joint common room for all community members – some help with preparing cooking ingredients, farmers nearby also send their surplus production for free to support the centre.

Yu has also branched out by opening the “Love Family One” social enterprise, which sells bakery products such as pineapple and walnut cakes made by community moms to support after-school care.

Check out more purpose-driven Taiwanese companies on our social enterprise directory.

[Traditional Chinese]



這些數據都顯示,已有愈來愈多女性選擇開創自己的事業,而服務業和社會企業,更是許多女性創業的優先選擇。前智利總統蜜雪兒.巴綺蕾(Michelle Bachelet)甚至在2012社會企業國際論壇的致詞中提到,「女性是天生的社會企業家。」




這個連縫紉機都不太熟悉的年輕女生,帶著從KEEP WALKING計畫獲得的一百萬獎金遠赴尼泊爾創業,從三名女性員工開始了小小的布衛生棉事業。透過培訓當地婦女縫製衛生棉墊,棉樂悅事不僅提供就業機會,也在村落推廣生理期的衛教知識,讓婦女學習如何照顧自己的身體;她們的棉布也從當地取材,製造符合當地消費水平又高品質的平價產品,希望帶給女性舒適、健康的使用經驗,目前已累積數千片的產量,不到一年就達損益兩平。












[Simplified Chinese]





这些数据都显示,已有愈来愈多女性选择开创自己的事业,而服务业和社会企业,更是许多女性创业的优先选择。前智利总统蜜雪儿.巴绮蕾(Michelle Bachelet)甚至在2012社会企业国际论坛的致词中提到,「女性是天生的社会企业家。」








这个连缝纫机都不太熟悉的年轻女生,带著从KEEP WALKING计划获得的一百万奖金远赴尼泊尔创业,从三名女性员工开始了小小的布卫生棉事业。透过培训当地妇女缝制卫生棉垫,棉乐悦事不仅提供就业机会,也在村落推广生理期的卫教知识,让妇女学习如何照顾自己的身体;她们的棉布也从当地取材,制造符合当地消费水平又高品质的平价产品,希望带给女性舒适、健康的使用经验,目前已累积数千片的产量,不到一年就达损益两平。



















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