While the number of women entrepreneurs in India has vastly increased in the last few years owing to more networking opportunities and resources, some problems still persist.
Important among those is people’s perception of women CEOs. India still deals with an ecosystem where ambition is frowned upon and women are being asked to choose between career and family. Mothers who are also entrepreneurs (mumpreneurs) have to deal with a misconception on a daily basis that their ambitions are keeping them from being fully invested in their family’s well-being.
Young women find themselves dealing with presumptions and perceptions; often people question their ability to achieve success because it doesn’t fit the mould of an archetypal entrepreneur. It’s time women learn to professionally counter these misconceptions.
The best way to do so is to let your work speak for you. If someone expresses doubt about your entrepreneurial capabilities because you’re young, convince them by showing your professional qualifications and achievements.
Show relevant industry examples of leaders who started their ventures at a young age. Women of marriageable/childbearing age as well as pregnant women can assert their professionalism politely yet firmly.
Creating your own ideal of what an entrepreneur should be, and ignoring lore (entrepreneurs can code, entrepreneurs don’t sleep) - remember, it's only crazy until someone does it.
There have been so many stereotypes about entrepreneurs; popular culture too has been instrumental in shaping public perception. For eons, people have believed that to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be a code whiz, burn the midnight oil or be young and tech-savvy. But new-age entrepreneurs, especially women, are challenging this archetype.
Women are rewriting the age-old rules of entrepreneurship. For exampleYou don’t necessarily need a prestigious MBA degree to start and flourish in your own ventures. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw or Vandana Luthra don’t have fancy degrees. You don’t necessarily need a tech degree to start a tech-enabled venture. You can be a CEO and dress well or be comfortable in sweatshirts should you choose to. You can even wear ethnic outfits and be a corporate leader, as many of our women leaders in the Indian banking and consumer industries have proved.
Entrepreneurship has never been one-size-fits-all; it is about creating your own rules, own success stories and carving out your own niche.
Responsibility to hire / mentor women and have women-friendly policies
We’ve all read about the need for workplace gender diversity. The only way to achieve it is to promote more capable and deserving women to leadership positions and have a structured mentorship programme with more female mentors.
Women-led firms should take charge and hire more women leaders and mentors who can serve as role models, empower other women, and help bridge the gender pay gap in their respective industries. Internally too, there are many benefits of women-led mentorship programmes; they help women employees lean in and learn from each other, communicate more effectively, maximise their potential and help in their overall professional and personal development. From creating professional networks and more opportunities for women to paving the way for entrepreneurship, women leaders can help fight gender disparity in the Indian workforce.
Further, we need to promote women-friendly policies such as paid maternity leaves, work-from-home policies, career development programs which not only create a women-friendly culture, but also reduces attrition of female workforce and boosts their productivity.
If you have a woman centric product, leverage your community / audience- women are very open to giving honest feedback!
Consumer dynamics in India is changing as more and more Indian women are becoming financially independent with an increase in spending power and more control over personal and family financial decisions.
Women are also more vocal and opinionated and very open to giving honest feedback, so if you have a woman-centric product or service, or find yourself catering to more women consumers, you must proactively ask them for feedback, without fearing bad reviews or backlash.
Instead of heading off negative feedback, brands can listen to women to build better products and customer experience. Women-led firms have an added advantage; with more women in leadership the brands can actually relate more to their consumers, speak their language and understand unspoken but extremely important issues only women face.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)