What is holding Indian women entrepreneurs back?

Have you ever wondered what is the percentage of female entrepreneurs in India? According to the Sixth Economic Census, conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, women make up 13.76% of the total number of entrepreneurs in India, i.e. 8.05 million out of a total of 58.5 million entrepreneurs.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (2015), India ranks below the 20th percentile in the female entrepreneurship index. This is well below developed markets such as the US and UK, and developing markets such as Brazil, Russia and Nigeria.

So what is holding women entrepreneurs back in India? Let’s look at the three main factors and think about solutions that can level the playing field to maximize the chances of success for female entrepreneurs.

1) Lack of financial support:

It is a known fact that women have some risk covering financial opportunities and a lack of credit support. In most states of India, ancestral land, property and wealth are inherited, and the main obstacle preventing women from claiming their rightful share of inherited property is the widely held belief that the fair share of a woman limits herself to her dowry. This is a major hurdle for new entrepreneurs and women growing up in semi-urban and rural India.

Solutions: We need to enable women to access capital through alternative means and gradually change the narrative of risk hedging in semi-urban and rural areas. How could we do this:

I. Build a modified lending process across the country and make things more transparent and streamlined. We need to offer financial products suitable for women, such as small and innovative secured loans.

II. Provide greater visibility for investors in women-led businesses through mainstream and mainstream media. Investors and mentors of women entrepreneurs need to become an ecosystem within the larger system to spread awareness.

III. Create external growth opportunities for small business owners so they can amplify their economic contribution. These female entrepreneurs will have an immense effect on overall job creation and serve as an aspiration for their female employees.

2) Struggles of the average working middle class woman in India:

Oppressed in the workplace for a lack of quality higher education, fighting the war on the pay gap, managing household chores, being a mother to her children, and all of this while needing to cook perfectly round rotis, the parallels between entrepreneurs and the mid-earnings of a working woman are there to see. Yet the middle-income working woman has a slim chance of being able to explore entrepreneurship as a possibility, and most of this sector comprises the upper class.

The solution: We must enable the ambitious middle-class woman, who has demonstrated success and confidence in the workplace, to evolve by expanding access to structured knowledge, finance and market opportunities. Here are some ways to do it:

I. Improving accessibility to adult learning and continuing education for growing businesses in India. The rate of enrollment in higher education in developing countries such as Egypt is 20%, Thailand 20%, Mexico 16% and Turkey 10%; but India is far behind them with 7% of its population

II. Campaigns that highlight the success stories of entrepreneurs and their families, with a focus on their bottom line, across all media platforms

III. Encourage women entrepreneurs in the business sector by pushing for a reassessment of corporate human resource standards

3) Oppression in female-dominated sectors:

The health workforce is 70% female-dominated globally, women are also the primary caregivers of the elderly and children. Despite this clear dominance of health, investor interest in female health startups is rare, with even high-level positions in this sector lagging behind the statistics, according to the recent Oliver Wyman Reportingwomen represent 30% of senior executives and 13% of CEOs.

Another example is the fashion industry which is practically supported by women, they spend three more time on clothing than men, hold the majority of entry-level jobs and above 88% of fashion designers are women. However, less than 50% of well-known women’s clothing brands are designed by women, and only 14% of major global brands have a female leader.

A little closer to home, according to a recent study by the Academy of Time and Trends8 of the 10 most successful Indian fashion designers in India are men.

Solutions: Since there is no dearth of potentials and candidates in female-dominated industries, there should be no reason why female entrepreneurs should be disadvantaged any further. Here are some ways to prevent women from being retained in these industries:

I. Women-focused scaling accelerators with sponsorship from influential leaders.

II. Existing entrepreneurial ecosystem mentoring engagements

III. Build networks with successful male and female entrepreneurs who will help create a platform for ideas, information, capital and mentorship.

In conclusion, the persistence of the 13.7% of women to succeed as entrepreneurs despite all the adversities of being a woman and trying to make it as an entrepreneur is something truly commendable.

As we applaud these women, we must realize that if they can do it, so can others who aspire to come forward in this field. Regardless of the manifest oppression on the ground, women have always faced adversity with our own unique blend of tenacity and resilience.

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