Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the number of new businesses in India but a majority of them are owned by men. Many women in India also have entrepreneurship ambitions but it is often more difficult for them to succeed. Its women who own businesses, as well as women leaders and professionals, struggle with cultural biases, less favorable conditions, lack of resources for the business such as finances, capital, and training.
A recent study shows that if India should take measures to close the gender gap, it could lead to a 6.8 percent gain in GDP. Another study shows that if women’s equality is advanced in India, it could boost its GDP by 16 percent. The number of women in paid jobs in India is among the lowest in the world, at about 23 percent compared to men that are about 78 percent.
Women are inadequately represented and underestimated in corporate leadership. They make up only 6.4 percent of CEOs and about 20.5 percent as senior managers. The rest are regular workers
There’s a range of factors limiting women in the country from getting employed, they include the dominant tradition of female domestic responsibility and social patriarchy. Their cultural expectation is that women should stay at home and even if they’ll work, it is usually on an informal basis without the luxury of secured wages.
In addition to this, starting up a business requires significant efforts outside the normal working hours. This can lead to women being termed as irresponsible if they dedicate their time to entrepreneurship activities rather than family.
Women entrepreneurs in India: A glance at the figures
In India, some women have strong entrepreneurial ambitions. Research shows that they got inspired by famous male entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. On an institutional level, the government has introduced schemes to augment the entrepreneurial motivations of women and there is more political will to empower the women.
However, investigating the figures for the number of women who actually own businesses is a rather sobering balance. From the Sixth Economic Census that was carried out between January 2013 to April 24, of the 58.5 million businesses counted, just 8.05 million were owner by women which corresponds to a rate of 13.76 percent of women among the total number of entrepreneurs in India.
The low rates of women entrepreneurship are shown in a dismal score in the Index of Women Entrepreneurs, in which India is ranked 52nd out of the 57 surveyed countries.
According to a World Bank Enterprise Survey in 2014, the percentage not women in leadership positions was as low as 9 percent.
The top five states with the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs in India are Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Maharashtra. As of 2015, in the Global Women Entrepreneurs Leader report, India ranks 29th out of 31 countries.
Global Women Entrepreneurs Leader report by ACG Inc./ IndiaSpend
In recent times, things are changing. Women entrepreneurs in India are contesting cultural, social, and family pressure to challenge the status quo in their society.
They’ve also been empowering other women. In ancient times, women were confined to the four walls of houses performing household activities but in modern times, they have come out of these walls and have been performing well in different aspects of life which includes politics, academics, social works, and so on. Now they have started running enterprises successfully.
It is therefore important to discuss the development of female entrepreneurs in the country as we discuss entrepreneurial development. Let’s first consider the concept of women entrepreneur.
What is the concept of women entrepreneurs?
Using the general concept of an entrepreneur, women entrepreneur is a woman or group of women who initiate, organize and run a business.
In a nutshell, they are those women who think of a business, start it up, organize it, and undertake the risk involved in running the business.
Causes of low female entrepreneurship rates
Starting a business is a difficult process regardless of the gender. The major challenges for starting a business in India are generating funds, limited understanding of customers, hiring qualified employees, penetrating into the market. For female entrepreneurs however, there are other barriers which include:
• Unconscious gender bias
• Lack of confidence in business skills
• Access to finance
• Networks and relationships
• Family support
• Child care
• Safety in work and public spaces
Role of Women Entrepreneurs in India.
According to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “When women moves forward, the family moves, the village moves, and the nation moves.” Women entrepreneurship is an important and untapped source of economic growth. With the spread of education and awareness, Indian women have shifted from handicrafts and traditional cottage to higher levels of activities.
Women entrepreneurs not only create jobs for themselves but also for others. The role of women entrepreneurs are:
• Employment Generation. They do not only establish their enterprise but also create jobs for other women. In this way, they have an important impact on the economy in terms of their ability to create jobs for themselves and others.
• Economic Development. Women entrepreneurs contribute greatly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country by establishing their own organization and producing goods and services for the country. Due to this, women entrepreneurs bring dynamism in market. They also help in increasing the national income of their country.
• Better Utilization of Resources. The involvement of women in industrial development ensures the effective use of all the available resources in the country which includes labor, capital and raw materials. The issue of involving women in the industrialization process has been emphasized only in the last decade when the equality of womanhood and their contribution to both individual and national development became the center of attention.
• Improved Quality of Life. Women entrepreneurs are now economically independent and are able to make decisions on their own. They are also capable of upbringing their children the way they want. They also provide quality education to their children and a better standard of living for their family members.
A research reveals the inspiring story of some female entrepreneur in India.
• Pinky Maheshwari: she was challenged by her son to make environmentally friendly paper. She was able to create handmade paper made from cotton that is embedded with seeds. These can be planted and grown into trees when the paper has served its purpose.
• Padmaja Narsipur: she is the founder of a digital marketing strategy firm, supports women ‘re-starters’ to join her organization after. A break in their working lives. She said: “Women re-starters are highly qualified and committed. I have been one myself. I have built a workplace where trust in employees, giving flexible hours, work from home options, is built into the DNA and it is paying off.”
• Pooja Rai: she is the CEO of Anthill creations. She has a vision to create an interactive learning environment in public space with primary focus in sustainability. She will achieve this by using recycled materials to build accessible play areas in the rural parts of India.
These are just some of the many Indian women entrepreneurs who are creating businesses of real purpose.
They did not let cultural obstacles limit them. Their works are rewriting the rules for families, businesses and the society at large. Indian women are working on a journey to change perceptions and to create prosperity for themselves and the nation.
A female entrepreneur is one who owns and runs an enterprise and has a share capital of not less than 51 percent. With growing awareness and with increase in education over the years, women have starting engrossing modern activities like electronics, engineering and energy, popularly called the 3Es.
In certain businesses, women are doing well and excelling more than their male counterparts. Women in India are no longer confined to the four walls of the house rather they have started participating various activities like academics, politics and industry. Efforts are being carried out by the government and voluntary agencies levels to integrate women in the process of industrial development and small-scale industry development in the country.
Considering the number of women in the Indian population, if all women were allowed to start their businesses or develop their entrepreneurial skill, it will boost the economy of the country.
Harnessing the full potential of women entrepreneurs in India will promote innovation, economic growth and job creation.
The low women entrepreneurship rate is a broader gender gap on economic participation. It is therefore crucial to provide equal access to education and to all encourage women to use their skills by joining the workforce.
Women entrepreneurs in India need a better access to finance and networks. Organizations have been raised to provide dedicated support for women entrepreneurs such as NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform, Catalyst for Women Entrepreneurship, and the accelerator for women in tech initiated by Zone Startups India. They connect them with important people in their industry and promote networking among them and also allows them to learn from each other’s experiences.