Mrs Guelich was in Phuket last weekend to speak at an International Business Association of Phuket (IBAP) meeting about female entrepreneurship in Thailand.
Born in Germany, Mrs Guelich has degrees in Business Administration and Graduate Ceramic Design. She earned two MBAs, from the University of Maryland in the US and GSBA Switzerland. She is also an external PhD candidate at the University of Eindhoven, and has 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur in Germany.
These days she’s in the Thailand team for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey, which examines entrepreneurship around the world.
Of the 54 countries observed in the 2011 GEM report, Thailand’s entrepreneurship was among the highest. With regard to female entrepreneurship, Thailand was the only country which reported more women entrepreneurs than men, Mrs Guelich says.
Before her talk at IBAP, Mrs Guelich told The Phuket News that the future was bright for Thai female entrepreneurs.
“But there are challenges because the AEC is coming, and I don’t think all of them are prepared. I think competition will come. We can still do more internationally as Thai entrepreneurs, because even though a lot are exporting, not every business is international, and they’re not too innovative.
“Even if you look at the medium-size businesses – they are already starting to check what it’s like in Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere. It will be easier to become international with the AEC, because it’s like the European Union – it’s not exporting any more, it’s viewed as in-country.”
She said it was surprising Thailand’s entrepreneurs rated highly in the GEM report, despite the country generally not coming off well in other gender equality surveys.
“[Female entrepreneurship] is the only place where we see gender equality in Thailand. We don’t have a lot of women in parliament or other areas. In the United Nations Development Programme gender inequality index, Thailand ranks below the average,” she explained.
The big question for researchers was to find out the “why” – why Thailand seemed to be a good place for female entrepreneurs.
“It’s not because they don’t have another choice,” Ms Guelich said.
“It’s not necessity that drives them to become an entrepreneur. They see an opportunity – either they earn more or something else, but they are not forced into it.”
“I think the culture is a plus. If you look back in Thai history, women are heroes. For example, take the two heroines in Phuket [Thao Thepkrasattri and Thao Srisoonthorn, who successfully defended the island against a Burmese invasion in 1785].
“Being an entrepreneur is something very positive for women here. It’s in the top 10 as a career choice. It seems to be in the big family businesses, often the father seems to work well with the daughters.
“There are many family businesses lead by women. I have some citations from interviews with female owners in family businesses, and they are very tough and seem to be very good team leaders, and regard their employees as family.”
Phuket, however, had too small of a sample for conclusions to be made about the island’s female entrepreneur setting specifically, she said, and therefore was included in statistics for the whole of southern Thailand.