What do we do about the abysmal state of women entrepreneurship in India

What do we do about the abysmal state of women entrepreneurship in India

Women Entrepreneurship

Summi Gambhir

Summi Gambhir

345 week ago — 5 min read

Women constitute only 14 percent of all business owners in India - 1 out of 7. Within that number, a large percentage would comprise of self-employed entrepreneurs - those with only one person involved in the running it. These are generally women who may have pursued entrepreneurship for financial reasons and also as an extension of a personal interest or hobby. Examples of these include – tutors, home caterers etc. While these are valued and should be encouraged, each of these have the potential to expand and create more scale for the entrepreneur and more contribution to economic development and employment opportunities for others.

Overall, the representation by women in entrepreneurship is still abysmal, given that at least half our population is made up of women. Women are just as intelligent, industrious and brimming with potential as men. In fact, certain qualities women so naturally possess, like a high emotional quotient and the ability to multi-task, lend themselves very well to the challenges of entrepreneurship. Why is it then that we see such a wide gulf in the number of male and female business owners?

The reasons are many, but the most common ones include:

- Overall lack of awareness of own potential, opportunities or merely following stereotyped roles out of their own choice

- The home and the hearth is still the place of a wife and mother and society often does not support women in a meaningful way when it comes to them making a change

- Social barriers are also intimidating - with many women having to deal with hostility from people closest to them before venturing out to do business on their own.

- Women in India still face trouble getting funding for their enterprise because of mistrust from mostly male financiers (this in addition to the usual challenges all entrepreneurs – male or female, face in general).

While, we are focused on India, this issue is quite widespread the world over and there are similar imbalances. These were also felt in the corporate world, where women continue to seek equal opportunity and equal pay.

It was, in observing a similar phenomenon in the United States, that the idea for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) was conceived by a distinguished entrepreneur, Wendy Diamond, in New York in 2014. The aim was to ‘celebrate, empower and inspire’ women entrepreneurs and commemorate their successes on a special day. Getting like-minded women to meet and encourage each other to pursue entrepreneurship was at the heart of this unique initiative. Today the movement is a global phenomenon with handpicked ambassadors around the world pursuing this agenda and holding events in over 140 countries.

I was appointed this year by WED to be the Global Ambassador in India. As the Ambassador for WED responsible for India and also for its global digital activities, I wanted to lend a clear focus to the subject and built on a core theme of 'Connecting Women Entrepreneurs'. I believed this would provide great context to the effort that lies ahead in: (a) encouraging more women to take to entrepreneurship; (b) helping such women to build great national and global brands; and (c) encouraging such women to work towards building scalable businesses, which may one day, be counted amongst the leading global corporations. I decided my energies were best directed in inspiring women, through the examples of others who had gone through a similar process themselves and allowing connections amongst women entrepreneurs, aspirants and supporters of women entrepreneurs. This would allow participants to network so they can share and empower each other in their individual journeys helping them to scale their enterprises.

Women entrepreneurship is almost as old as commerce itself. However, we also know most times these efforts have been local and on a smaller scale. This has started to change and today, we are fortunate to live in a world where its is easier to start and scale an enterprise. Now is the time for women to follow their natural calling. Just as we are bestowed with natural maternal instincts, so are we with entrepreneurial instincts. The digital age provides the perfect inflection point for more women to think and dream bigger. It provides the opportunity for more women to take to entrepreneurship and for existing women entrepreneurs, it offers the opportunity to scale their efforts further.

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