While we’d like to think entrepreneurship is not about gender, it’s a disturbing fact that women who take to entrepreneurship inevitably face more challenges than their male counterparts.
Earlier this year, on Women’s Day, HerStory published a report on the State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in India. The survey revealed that over 83 percent of respondents felt that women entrepreneurs face struggles different from their male counterparts.
These include lack of investor confidence, gender bias, and being judged on personal choices like marriage, children, and work-life balance. Women’s commitment to their venture is also questioned.
Despite the challenges, women have continued to thrive, grow and scale. On the occasion of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day we reached out to entrepreneurs to find out what makes them tick. What are the skills, qualities and talents that help them succeed. Here is what we found.
Ambition and perseverance
Ambition with perseverance is the key to success for Tanuja Gomes, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Furtados School of Music, a music education company.
I think it’s not only important to set goals which are extremely aggressive, when you start, but also when you come close to achieving the same, one must recalibrate and set a higher benchmark all over again. Your ambition should be so high, that it should scare you. Perseverance also plays a very important role; one needs to train oneself to continue during the lows, or even the highs for that matter, and pursue your entrepreneurial journey.
For Shalini Singh the Founder of andwemet, a platform for individuals looking for a committed relationship, three things matter. She says, “Passion, perseverance and grit in equal measure. It really does not matter if you are a man or woman. If you want to make a difference, you need these three.”
“I feel there are many factors at play for women to become a successful entrepreneur that are not different than those for our male counterparts,” says Manisha Raisinghani, the Founder and CTO of LogiNext, a logistics and workforce optimisation SaaS company.
She believes it’s important for women to cut through the noise and also stop seeking validation.
Women due to years of oppression, have developed a mindset where we seek validation and approval for everything we do. We try hard thinking we need to match up to standards or prove every time that we are equally good. This is absolutely not true! We should start developing a belief within us and cut through the noise of gender equality; we need to rise above it by just doing what we feel is right cause that self-belief is what helps us to become a successful leader and an entrepreneur.
Priyanshi Choubey, the Co-founder of InstaCar, a marketplace for outstation taxi rentals says,
“The most important aspect of being an entrepreneur is consistency. The process should be - think, research, execute, and learn. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, but the key is to keep trying without giving up. It is also important to unlearn what we have grown up with, since we are in a society where there are different sets of rules for men and women. Additionally, we must never let gender get in the way of business. We still struggle with sexism in almost every industry. But again, in every industry, you will find successful women. It’s because they never gave up. Perseverance and resilience are what keep women entrepreneurs going.”
Honing your core-competency
Jayalakshmi Manohar, Co-founder of Streak, a financial technology startup says it is important to focus on the core.
She says, “As women, we are naturally good at multitasking. While this is an essential skill in our day-to-day lives, when it comes to walking the entrepreneurial path, you need to carve out a specialisation where you can stand out. Figure out what your strengths are and work on them relentlessly till you can wield it any which way. Sometimes, identifying this core-competency might be very easy: maybe you are good at coding or sales. But more often than not, identifying this unique skill might turn out to be tricky and you might need to step out of your comfort zone and fail a few times before you figure it out.
But once you know your strength you have won half the battle, you then need to work on that skill every day to stay ahead of the game and find the most innovative and meaningful ways to hero it in your entrepreneurial journey.
Being good at what you do
Aruna Schwarz, Founder and CEO of Stelae Technologies, an innovative software startup, says.
“While most skill sets to succeed as an entrepreneur are similar for both women and men, the most important thing for a woman to be twice as good in domain/subject matter compared to a man. And even more importantly, exude confidence in your depth of knowledge and not be fazed by passive-aggressive questions often put forward by male audiences.”
Leverage technology to its fullest
The market is gender neutral even if entrepreneurship ecosystem isn't. Ihitashri Shandilya, Founder of MITHILAsmita says that while business should be guided by long-term goals and market needs, it is important for women to see rejections as opportunities to improve their business models, learn from global competitors, persevere and look for customer validation because there is no bigger validation than that.
“Despite all efforts, the reality is, as a woman, you would be constrained in terms of social barriers as the world is grappling with gender issues, not just India! (As per WEF, it can take up to 200 years to bridge gender gaps). Market demands and your innovation cannot wait! The good news is that technology is gender neutral. Use it to counter gender disparity in business. Use it to upgrade yourself and for research, communications, networking, business development, sales till you can hire talents to delegate them all."
Be kind to yourself
Neiharika Rajiv, Founder of the SuvidaCare app that aims to make healthcare easy for the elderly, says it is important for women entrepreneurs to be kind to oneself. She believes this is something women as a rule often overlook or sidestep.
She says, “Multitasking, and pleasing everyone is supposedly in-built or systematically inculcated in women. The various roles that we take on, each with their own set of expectations can be a lot for any individual. Add to that the entrepreneurial hat, which is ever-evolving, and demands different aspects and skills on a daily basis. Typically entrepreneurship is deemed as "a choice" and hence this willful additional role shouldn't lead to any pre-existing priorities being impacted.
What has really helped me is, to differentiate between "being the best" and "trying my best". It is essential to develop a slightly thick skin to folks around you making judgements about you, your capabilities and your decisions, personally and professionally, as a woman entrepreneur. Hence, just don't be kind to others, but also be kind and easy on yourself. Entrepreneurship is a journey which helps one grow and realise what boundaries one can push, it is about self-belief and it is about trying your best.
As a woman entrepreneur, what keeps you going? How are you battling stereotypes, expectations and barriers to make sure you build and run a successful startup or SMB? Tell us in the comments section below.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)