Unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs will take time

Last Updated 30 November 2021, 07:15 IST

Waking up everyday to work in a space you have created yourself is an unparalleled feeling. But making the switch from an employee with a guaranteed monthly income to a business owner who does not know when they will be paid is not easy.

In a country where gender roles are traditionally defined, being a woman entrepreneur is even more challenging. Which is why the news like Falguni Nayar joining the list of self-made women billionaires is a source of pride and inspiration.

Women own just a small percentage of all MSME enterprises, but the pandemic has been a turning point. The sheer necessity has given women the impetus to start something of their own. A report by Bain & Company indicated that India has a staggering 13.5 - 15.7 million women-owned enterprises.

Despite this, there is no shying away from the barriers that women continue to face.

The biggest obstacle for many women is the absence of support within the family, the fear of failure, cultural and political barriers and lack of knowledge.

Balancing personal and professional commitments is a delicate art. Often, the demands from both spheres can pressure a woman to abandon the business.

Often women-owned enterprises are seen as 'hobbies' and only taken seriously when the venture starts making some money.

In addition, for any business to function, access to capital is critical, and women-run companies lack this support and funding. It is not uncommon for women-run businesses to be denied loans in public sector banks.

Reports indicate that in 2019, just 6.5% of the top 150 funded start-ups in the country were owned by women.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum stated that eight out of every 10 media reports worldwide are about men: only two of them have women in focus.

This clearly explains the “think leader-think male” phenomenon which is predominant across the globe.

Women also experience biases stemming from expectations and perceptions of female leadership roles.

Harbingers of change

When people are given opportunities and support, it gives them the power to think outside the box, and create something that stands the test of time.

The country needs a conscious effort to unlock the talent of women by providing them with a level-playing field, comprehensive policy framework, equal access to funds, education and knowledge, mentorship & networking channels and cultural openness.

Creating new sources of capital, such as crowdfunding and impact investments, along with incentives for individuals and organisations to invest in women-owned companies can go a long way.

Finally, a few takeaways from my own experience: channeling your energy and emotions (both good and bad) into something productive will go a long way and result in a positive outcome.

While failure and success are two sides of a coin, making an effort to take that first step is what counts.

Last but not least, do not mistake shyness or timidity with humility. Women need to stand by their success and let people around them realise it.

Ultimately, unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurship is a multi-faceted effort. We have come a long way in this journey, but we still have miles to go.

(The author is the VP - Marketing at a pharmaceutical company)

(Published 30 November 2021, 07:09 IST)

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