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MOVING ON UP

This country is Google’s latest target for cultivating mommy entrepreneurs

AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man
Mothers in South Korea travel a lonely road.
By Jeanne Kim
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Google has announced that it will open one of its startup centers in Seoul, South Korea, providing workshops and resources for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. One of the classes it’s planning, focused on Korean moms, couldn’t come sooner.

Campus for Moms, which Google has already launched in London and Tel Aviv, is a series of nine weekly classes with speakers from experts in fields like technology, business, and marketing. Its goal: to inspire and assist mothers on maternity leave to become, or continue as, entrepreneurs—all this while allowing their babies to tag along.

South Korea could use it. The country ranks low when it comes to gender equality and participation in the workforce. Roughly 54% of Korean women are in the labor market compared to 73% in Sweden and 69% in Germany. It ranks globally at 120th in terms of equal wages. It stacks up worse in STEM areas and has the world’s lowest ratio of female to male entrepreneurs (pdf).

In Tel Aviv—a male-dominated society similar to Korea’s—the 50-person program has inspired mothers to launch startups such as Wizer.me which as of July 2013 recruited a chief executive officer with plans to start sales in the US, according to Bloomberg.

Even if Google is successful in South Korea, working mothers will continue to face larger systemic problems, including grueling work hours and a system that lacks childcare support. These difficulties often force mothers to leave the workforce or have fewer babies, both of which hurt the economy.

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