How India’s women entrepreneurs are breaking societal stereotypes and rising above adversities
Be it in a metro, a smaller city or the remotest suburb or village in the country, it is extremely fulfilling to see so many women entrepreneurs emerge every day, writes Richa Jaggi, Co-Founder & CMO, Awshad
It is a story of the past when Indian women were confined to limited professions and there were certain stereotypes associated with some of the jobs and businesses that were considered exclusive to men. Be it the profession of a pilot, cricketer, real estate agent, stock market trader or chemical engineer, it’s 2022, and women are slowly beginning to conquer it all.
Unfortunately, this shift is gradual, and women still have to face hurdles such as conservative family mindsets and cultural setbacks to doubting their physical capabilities, among others. But then, today’s women are now beginning to challenge all of these labels that have been a part of their lives for years.
Thanks to the startup culture that has slowly emerged as a game-changer for the Indian economy, we are witnessing the country’s urban women population taking stronger positions in their respective companies. Also, with the rising popularity of homegrown businesses in India, one cannot deny that today, women are changing the status quo of the traditionally male-dominated sectors.
So when it comes to entrepreneurial skills and opportunities, how can women be left far behind?
For many businesses across both rural and urban India, the first and most obvious choice to run them was predominantly a male member of the family. While men were given the role to make primary decisions for the business, women were expected to automatically become the helping hand. But times they-are-a-changing, and more so in the post-Covid era. But then, what exactly happened during Covid?
A McKinsey report in 2020 found that 1 out of every 4 women in the corporate sector was back then considering leaving their jobs or downgrading their careers due to the challenges presented by the pandemic. While of course on one hand the pandemic was observed to be an uphill deterrent for many women who were compelled to shoulder the full responsibility of day-to-day household management and invariably were under great mental stress as their work suffered, there’s flipside to this story.
The pandemic also became an ‘empowering opportunity for many of India’s aspiring and ambitious urban women in particular, as many women, including myself, pushed themselves to be able to take up the ‘calculated risk’ to start their entrepreneurial journey during the pandemic. To put things in perspective, LinkedIn data published in the World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Gender Gap report showcases that the women entrepreneurship growth rate in India was at its highest amid the pandemic times, i.e. 2020 and 2021.
But in India, women's workforce participation has remained abysmally low through the years; it stood only at 20.5 per cent, according to 2019 data from World Bank. And the situation for women entrepreneurship in India is even worse; only one out of seven entrepreneurs in our country is a woman at present. Furthermore, the percentage of self-employed women in India went down from 55.6 per cent in 2011-12 to less than 53 per cent 2018-19.
While the above-mentioned facts and figures clearly project that the opportunities and scope for India’s urban women population in today’s day and age may not be adequate and optimal yet, one can notice the slow but steady progress happening. Starting from easier business loans and schemes being provided by the government for women, the ability to run a creative set-up from your home to more women-friendly work prospects being created by businesses are changing the game. This, in a way, is also reducing the gender gaps that the nation has been witnessing forever.
Somewhere deep down, the urban man is contributing to the rise in the number of working women population too. A little less in percentage though, working men have now to realize the shared responsibility of a household in the modern-day world that was traditionally and involuntarily given to a woman. This in turn is enabling today’s urban women towards striking a work-life balance, and that too quite easily! Be it a 21-year or a 65-year-old, women are nowadays increasingly able to work freely, dedicating more time to innovating and earning an income for themselves while pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
A significant majority of today's women also tend to support other women wholeheartedly. We can notice that a company run and/or led by a woman shall automatically have more women in the workforce along with safety measures and an enabling work culture that suits the women employees. Women entrepreneurs are becoming more mindful towards making a safe and sound environment for everyone.
It’s hard to admit, but the progress of successful urban women entrepreneurs in India is visible yet insignificant. There are a lot of hiccups along the way and still a long way for our economy to realize the fullest potential of the country’s working women and women entrepreneurs. Sometimes, situations such as a lack of financial support and backing followed by shaky confidence in business growth and skills hinder a woman’s potential. There is still a large gender gap we are witnessing even today, and thus a very tiny ratio of women are grabbing entrepreneurial opportunities without any hesitation.
One of the smartest ways to solve the ongoing business-related dilemmas for women entrepreneurs – both existing and aspiring- is by enrolling them in training/mentorship and/or upskilling programmes that can polish them to become confident entrepreneurs. Hassle-free funding solutions and investment policies for small businesses run by women can also help them overcome roadblocks to business growth and enable them to be more self-sufficient and sustainable in the long run.
That said and done, one of the most crucial aspects to enable women entrepreneurs to thrive remains to create a supportive ‘ecosystem’ for them that starts from their homes. No matter what stage of life she is in currently – whether single, married, a would-be mother, and so on – receiving social, emotional and financial support at home, from their family members and near and dear ones (especially parents and spouse), is something that can truly catalyse their journeys towards achieving seamless entrepreneurial success.
Be it in a metro or a smaller city or the remotest suburb or village in the country, it is extremely fulfilling to see so many women entrepreneurs emerge every day while ushering in ideas and innovations that are absolutely unique. While so many of us have grown up listening to the struggling stories of very few Indian women CEOs at big corporate firms, it is still hard for many women to pursue their dream life and career. There are unfortunately so many limitations that they have to face, but despite that, modern-day women are pushing the boundaries to become successful entrepreneurs and thus role models too.
We are also seeing a generation where women entrepreneurs today support each other and encourage one another to put their best foot forward. It’s inspiring and motivating to witness this change every single day. However, there is still a long way to go, but the momentous journey of the rising women entrepreneurs who are here to change the face of the Indian economy has already started.
Edited by Anju Narayanan
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)