Women Entrepreneurs Are Essential for India

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

July 18, 2021

For centuries, India’s women have struggled to find an equal footing as men. Be it at home, in the workplace or in positions of authority, the role of women has been undermined. While many have been successful in breaking societal barriers and glass ceilings to race past stereotypes, their examples are only but a miniscule share in the bigger picture.

It is often difficult for Indian women to leave home to learn new skills. How must women be encouraged and supported to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? How to make learning exciting as it will be the future of economic growth and the key to supporting their future families? How to make the world of work safer for women? 

Horasis is organizing the Horasis India Meeting on 24 July 2021 to deliberate on such topics. The one-day virtual event will see participation from a diverse range of people, spanning members of governments, businesses, academia, and the media. The goal is to collectively devise actionable and sustainable solutions for pressing problems.

Women Must be Encouraged

Much like in developed economies, the trend of dual income households is fast becoming the norm in India. Several of its metro cities have costs of living that are at par, or even exceed, that of their developed economy counterparts. It is, therefore, necessary for both men and women to engage in employment that contributes to their household income.

With the advent of technology platforms, learning has become more engaging. It is no longer a drab routine that is only confined to classrooms. Learning goals, meanwhile, can now be successfully fulfilled even from home. These skills can then be utilized in seeking employment or even starting a small business.

In a positive trend, women entrepreneurship has been steadily increasing in India. This will enable them to participate in opportunities of the digital economy. The government’s Startup India portal even has a dedicated segment for women entrepreneurs.

One shining example of female entrepreneurship in India is that of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. She is a first-generation businessperson and is the founder of India’s largest biopharmaceutical company Biocon. Her organization’s philanthropic arm, the Mazumdar Shaw Medical Centre, has outlined plans to develop a sustainable and inexpensive cancer care framework. According to Forbes, Shaw’s net worth is now $4.1 billion. And she is just one example of an Indian woman leader. There are many across industries and through history.

A Change in Mindset is Necessary

The mindset—that women must assume the lead in fulfilling household responsibilities—is an archaic one. It lost relevance eons ago but it tends to rear its ugly head ever so often for one precise reason. Young, impressionable minds are often being fed the same ideas that were somewhat accommodated by baby boomers or the generation that succeeded them.

The onus of changing mindsets, in this regard, lies squarely on new-age parents. Even a post-modern education system cannot undo what a child is exposed to during his or her formative years.

Women must be encouraged to pursue higher education, especially in STEM fields. History is replete with examples of women who made transformative change; their talents and abilities hold immense potential.

Making the World of Work Safer for Women

India has made significant strides on many fronts, but women’s safety needs to prioritized. There is pressing need to make workplaces safer for women. This will go a long way in encouraging higher female participation.

An initial step in this direction could be to introduce periodic trainings in workplaces. Workers must be sensitized to women’s concerns. Often, women bear the brunt of unconscious bias that adversely affect their emotional wellbeing.

Furthermore, safety mechanisms and deterrents must be put into place. These must be taken stock of periodically to determine efficacy.

Society Needs to Drive Change

Much as India’s government has taken steps to encourage female entrepreneurship, societal hurdles remain. Many women are discriminated against by their own families. It could be in the form of less encouragement to pursue higher education, family pressure to give in to early marriage, or in the interests of prioritizing home-making.

However, technology offers workarounds. It is the one enabler that allows women to perhaps transition from societal roadblocks. A driven entrepreneur does not necessarily have to begin with a large capital outlay or require a physical place of work. Rather, the first key step would be to familiarize oneself with current market demands such as content creation, drop shipping, coaching, or even home baking. Thereafter, a smartphone and an internet connection are all it takes to establish one’s presence in the infinite digital economy.

Having said that, there are studies aplenty that say it will take over 100 years to close the gap between men and women. India is no different. So, it is critical that countries begin closing this gap as early as possible and now is the time for change. Like the old Chinese saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Photo Caption: A woman entrepreneur focussed on pottery and ceramics in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. Photo by Vaibhaw Kumar on Unsplash.