From Visibility to VCs: Leanne Robers Helps Women Bridge the Gaps in the Tech Industry
International Women's Day

Mind The Gap: How Leanne Robers Bridges Women-Led, Women-Impact Tech

Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.

In an exclusive interview with Vogue Philippines, She Loves Tech co-founder Leanne Robers raises hope with a psychology-backed platform for visibility and connection that allow women to take the stage.

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She Loves Tech co-founder Leanne Robers is unapologetic about her lofty goals. Growing up, she found inspiration in how her father, psychologist Dr. Harold Robers, changed lives. While she felt it was essential for her to follow in his footsteps, she aspired to do things at a different level. “I am a very ambitious person, and I am very impatient in many ways. In the clinic, lives are transformed one at a time, and sometimes it takes years to do that. I want to do it at scale, I want to impact thousands of people,” she declares.

And the 39-year-old is actively achieving this through She Loves Tech, the global organization she co-founded in 2015 with Rhea See and Virginia Tan. Observing the absence of women in technology conferences and startup competitions, they embarked on a mission to bridge the gender gap. Their commitment is to build an ecosystem for technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation that creates opportunities for women.

Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.

Today, She Loves Tech boasts of the world’s largest startup competition for women and technology, sifting through entries numbering anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 annually. Similarly, the She Loves Tech yearly global conference stands as a leader in the space. Their efforts have directly impacted more than 15,000 women in 76 countries.

The ripples have not gone unnoticed. Robers has earned the distinction of being an Obama Leader for Asia Pacific in 2019 and booking.com’s Tech Playmaker of the year award and Champion of Change award in 2020. In the same year, she was recognized by the Singapore government as one of the country’s Top 100 Women in Technology. In 2023, she was given the Woman of the Year special prize in Monaco by Princess Charlene and Prince Albert II.

Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.
Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.

“Back in 2015, I had investors tell me, women don’t build good technology, women don’t like building technology, and women they don’t like technology. They only like beauty and fashion and the extent of technology that they like is e-commerce. That’s not true at all. We see the most amazing women building AI, fintech, agri-tech, and climate tech solutions, and they are changing the world,” she argues. The problem was that they were nowhere to be seen. “They are just so used to doing the good work, thinking that they don’t have to be on stage. Maybe being on stage makes them uncomfortable, maybe because it’s all men on stage. So they think ‘I’m going to put my head down and do the good work and when I do good work, people will recognize this’ but if you’re not visible, no matter how great a technology you build, nobody’s going to know about it,” she explains. 

In addition to providing a platform for visibility, tools, and resources, She Loves Tech facilitates connections between founders and venture capitalists (VC) along with other capital resources. Soon, She Loves Tech will be equipped to support founders directly from its own pockets. “We are raising a fund and one of the places that we are investing in is the Philippines,” says Leanne who was recently in the country to deliver the keynote speech for the International Women’s Day forum hosted by the Philippine Commission on Women in collaboration with UN women, and in partnership with SM Supermalls. 

Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.

“We believe in investing in cockroaches, in hard-to-die companies. We want to back companies that are resilient, that have longevity, that will make it far, and that the failure rate is very little. That’s what we believe will bring the best returns for our investors,” she discloses. 

Robers mentions the word ‘resilient’ frequently, as she believes it is a key characteristic of a thriving entrepreneur. She certainly knows what she’s talking about; after all, she has built three other businesses before She Loves Tech. The first was Waterside, a company that managed boutique hotels. This was followed by Comish, an e-commerce platform that linked clients and creators in art, music, food, and fashion. Finally, there was The Hedge Club, a social media trading platform that connects fund managers with retail investors.

“The reality is, technology is going to keep changing. So, the main thing is how can we be agile to make sure that we keep learning and we keep shifting with the times and how can we be problem solvers that no matter what comes in front of us, that we know how to fix it?”

Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.

In 2018, Robers merged her psychology training from the University of California, Berkeley, and the National University of Singapore with the endeavor of She Loves Tech. Noticing that many challenges faced by women founders were internal, she brought in tools from the psychology clinic to develop mental health courses, housed under the umbrella of “Psychology of a Founder” within She Loves Tech.

“It really helped them to overcome some of the self-limiting beliefs, some of the things that were holding them back internally so they can be the best entrepreneur that they can be, so that they can really grow and scale without being held back, without the critic that keeps telling them ‘I can’t do this, I’m not good enough,’” she shares.

Mindset significantly influences result, and it’s crucial to cultivate the right one from an early age. In 2022, She Loves Tech introduced the “Girls Love Tech” program tailored for the age groups of 12 to 16 and 17 to 23. These sessions aim to instill an ethical and responsible perspective toward technology, covering diverse topics such as entrepreneurship and ethics in artificial intelligence (AI). The program also includes a segment on robotics, but utilizing everyday objects like chopsticks. “We want to show the girls that you don’t need a lot of money to start innovating, you can create innovations out of things that you already have in the household.”

Leanne Robers wears COS. Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.

Robers’ exposure to technology wasn’t until her first job in the United Kingdom. She was tasked with business development for trains and railway solutions at the German conglomerate Siemens. One day, her boss announced a special project that required assistance. Despite having no knowledge of coding and creating a SharePoint site, Robers volunteered. She taught herself the basics and effectively delivered the requirement. “I’m somebody who’s daring, who isn’t scared to venture into things that I don’t know. I’m always very curious.” She is undeterred by failure. “If we reframe failure as experiments, we’re never going to feel like a failure. If I do an experiment and it doesn’t work out then what do I do? I tweak it, I change it, and then I run the experiment again. Failure is more of a teacher than success will ever be.”

If there’s one thing she is cautious about, it’s burnout. Having experienced the gamut of sudden weeping, a lack of drive, and the inability to get out of bed, she reflects, “it’s real, and it’s very scary.” So rest is now a part of her schedule. “I fiercely protect my weekends, I spend it with things and people that give me energy, I sleep a lot and spend time with my husband.”

In all of Robers’ pursuits, her husband, Anant Gupta, is her closest ally. He acts as both her cheerleader and a sounding board for her business ideas. At times when she is wrong, he has no qualms letting her know. “What made me realize that he was the one was he always saw the two of us as a team, even with the housework, we’re a team,” she reveals. However, there’s an exception when it comes to laundry. Leanne may be well-versed in AI but she humorously admits she can’t operate the washing machine. And she makes no apologies for that either.

Photography by Sela Gonzales. Photography assisted by Olive Strugar. Styling by Chelsea Sarabia. Styling assisted by Jia Torrato and Andrea Ang. Produced by Bianca Zaragoza. Hair by JA Feliciano. Makeup by Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics.
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