While women’s participation in the overall economy declined during 2000-2012, a period of high economic growth, things have been looking better since then. While the statistics are yet to come in, women’s participation in various roles in the government and private sector does appear to be increasing. Beyond that, women have also begun making an impact within the startup ecosystem. And they haven’t limited themselves to sectors that were traditionally considered "soft" or “suitable for women”.
Participation by women in the economy through entrepreneurship was a key topic taken up at Shakti – Women Startup India, an event organized by the National Commission for Women on International Women’s Day (8 March) in New Delhi.
Speaking at the event, Annie Philip, Associate AZB & Partners, said: “Participation of women in startups was limited before 2012, but over the last three years we’re witnessing more women entrepreneurs taking the plunge.” She added that that women do need to traverse a long path to compete in the fast-paced world of startups. Starting up is a big decision and should be backed with strong domain expertise and awareness of the challenges it entails, she explained.
Annie also said that it was only a perception that women entrepreneurs need capital and mentoring assistance to compete in a male-dominated startup world. She emphasised that today, this was only a mental barrier, and should not be a barrier to women who truly want to be entrepreneurs.
Alok Rawat, retired IAS officer and the NCW’s first male member, agreed. “A mental barrier is more dangerous than a physical one. I see women as far more capable for startups than men. They have been managing the homes and lives of men for a long time. Women only need to weed out this mental barrier,” he advised.
Also speaking at the event was Ravinder, Director, Department of Industry Policy and Promotion Board (DIPP). When asked why the government wasn’t allocating special funds and incubators for women entrepreneurs, he said the government was working aggressively towards triggering entrepreneurship at all levels. “We are endeavouring to fuel the startup culture amongst women; however, it won’t happen overnight,” he said, adding that the government was working to identify the challenges that women entrepreneurs face and work on coming up with solutions in a phased manner.
Aditya Shankar, Partner at Law firm Kaden Boriss, warned startups against taking legal issues lightly because ignorance, wilful or otherwise, can usually come back to haunt you later. “Don’t be scared of the law. It’s there to protect us. However one needs to comply with all legal frameworks while incorporating startup.”
Shakti, which hopes to become a movement, aims to discover the challenges women entrepreneurs face in traditional as well as emerging sectors, and how these can be addressed through both practical tips and policy changes, where needed.