Women in the pursuit of equity
The Indian economy grew steadily over the past decade, and there has been an aligned surge in the number of startups and new businesses. Although men have found a majority of these, women have an equal ambition towards entrepreneur-ship. However, in India, women business owners, women leaders and professionals struggle with less favorable conditions like pronounced cultural biases, and a lack of business resources such as finances, capital, training, and development.
In a nation like India, where women are close to half of the demography, if women cannot realise their fullest potential, significant innovations, economic growth, and job creation are at stake. According to a recent study, measures to close the gender gap could lead to a 6.8-per cent gain in GDP in India. Another study estimated that advancing women’s equality could boost the GDP by $0.7 trillion by 2025.
A glance at Women entrepreneurship in India
On an individual level, women always had strong entrepreneurial skills and business acumen. On an institutional level, there is more noticeable political will to empower them through several schemes that nourish the entrepreneurial motivations of women.
Despite high economic growth rates and an increase in the proportion of working-age women, participation in the workforce has decreased. The fact that few women own companies relates to a low female labour force participation rate as well as women having fewer opportunities to become business leaders, professionals and technical workers.
Regardless of gender, starting a business is a challenging prospect. Critical challenges for startups in India include access to capital, generating funding, understanding of customers, market penetration, qualified workforce, and the complex regulatory environment. For women entrepreneurs, however, there are additional barriers which are part of a broader and more pronounced gender gap in the male-dominant Indian society.
Studies show that there are varied levels of inherent biases when it comes to women entrepreneurs. And they also suffer from a lack of entrepreneurial role models who can help guide newer entrepreneurs on paths and perspectives more likely to garner success.
Unconscious gender bias
Unconscious gender bias is the unintentional and automatic mental associations based on gender, rooting from traditions, norms, values, culture and experience. It is a key factor impeding the progress of women entrepreneurs.
Access to finance
While entrepreneurship is an inherently risky undertaking, women are often easily assumed to be less willing to take risks. Again, stereotypes appear to manifest in be-haviour as fewer women actively approach investors and are more reluctant to di-vest stakes. Further difficulties with procuring funding occur since Indian women rarely own property, which can be used as collateral for loans. Moreover, a majority of women-owned ventures are self-financed, but families are often hesitant to sup-port their entrepreneurial ventures financially.
Many Indian women often do assume greater responsibility at home and spend, on average, five times as much time than men on housework, household care, and oth-er unpaid activities. As juggling between both home and company can be challeng-ing, family support is considered a core success factor for Indian female entrepre-neurs.
These barriers and tackling structural factors in the external environment, which they have limited control over, need to be conquered with grit and passion.
Overcoming the challenges
There is a need to re-shape the entire narrative of prospects for women entrepre-neurship in the country, to accelerate the growth process with added scope for em-ployment generation as well.
- Policies aimed at including more women in senior and leadership positions are needed and will help women gain experience and knowledge, which in turn will enable them to start their businesses.
- Assistance in fundraising and policies aimed at reducing collateral constraints can improve equal access to finance and networks for women entrepreneurs in India.