Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Women entrepreneurs in a so-called man’s world


Entrepreneurs are considered the key drivers of a country’s economy. While the majority of entrepreneurs are men, there are several women who are shining brightly in this segment. Their stories are inspiring for many.

The first thing that came to my mind when I started picking my thoughts on this very topic, was to have a majority to be able to relate the theme of this article. One of your initial thoughts could be – “We are living in 2021, and there are many woman entrepreneurs we know of.” Think again and count at least 10 entrepreneurs in your circle. Are they Men? Are they Women?

Now we begin

Themes like – gender equality, diversity at workplaces, women bosses etc. have been discussed over and over at numerous webinars and events. I feel it will be another 20 years from now when our dream world takes shape. Where the conditioning by the Gen Z of today, who would be parenting their children, would probably imbibe such values right from the start. How much ever we talk about equal opportunities for both men and women, it’s not the same way we think in our heads.

Men are considered as monarchs in the male-oriented kingdom of entrepreneurship.

When the start-up bug bit India and we as a country felt encouraged by the ‘Make in India’ wave, there were a lot of ideas on the table and still continue to pour in. Some of them have been/are mighty impressive. We must appreciate them for what they have done for the industry and for the country in the long run. It totally changed the way industries and some sectors used to work. Things that we did not even imagine also, are now a part of the new normal.

It was a little later in the day that we started hearing of some women shining in their entrepreneurial hats! I feel it was never the case that women lacked a big idea or knowledge. I mean women as entrepreneurs are more sovereign, more positive and more critical thinking than men.

Think about what a man needs when he has the big idea –

  1. Investment
  2. Partners (if at all)

What does a woman think about when she has the big idea –

  1. Investment
  2. Partners
  3. A nod from the family/spouse
  4. Thought around the schedule management of her children
  5. Support from the industry

It is all about the encouragement, even at smaller levels, like family or peer group, that one gets – it is just different from what a man would probably receive.

The milestones in a woman’s role and her life journey is so many times, perceived as a hurdle in the way of another milestone. By nature only, a woman is a caregiver. This virtue of her personality alone, makes the majority take a lot of things for granted when it comes to a woman’s entrepreneurial journey.

For e.g., If she is to get married and settled, she is not all that free in her head to think of running multi-city operations for her venture. If she is the family way, she knows in her head, the next 2-3 years she will have little focus on work. Having said that, there have been exceptions also, and I guess only those many exceptions managed to climb the ladder.

Nearly 20% of the total entrepreneurship in India is served by women.

~ Sixth Economic Census 2019

For a woman entrepreneur, she requires a supportive team around her – a supportive partner, supportive children, and supportive family. A man hardly needs that. He dictates and others follow. Again, I am talking for the majority here.

Let’s see some statistics and facts

The report of the 6th Economic Census (2019) released by the Indian government points that nearly 20% of the total entrepreneurship in India is served by women. Surprisingly, some firms are registered as women-owned due to financial and administrative reasons but are actually managed and operated by men. India has between 13.5 and 15.7 million enterprises owned by women. Government intervention, improved financial access and access to education led to an increase in women-owned enterprises from 14% to 20% in the last decade.

India’s business environment is not favourable for female entrepreneurs. There are several social, technical and financial barriers that hinder the growth of women-owned businesses.

This can only be felt and not said

When a woman enters a room full of male entrepreneurs, she still gets those many awkward looks, men judge her by the way she is dressed, and the way she looks and smiles at everyone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that goes in when woman entrepreneurs get in the game of bidding, pitching, voicing out etc. So much more politics and lobbying happens. Because of some obvious reasons, a woman might not have strong social, industry or financial connections. She might not be able to pull those many strings. And that doesn’t make it any easy for her to run her business. She is doubted, questioned, not believed in – so many times. And this doesn’t happen that often for men. So how does one expect that women will shine brighter in this Alpha male ecosystem?

Women, from an Indian middle class family, find it tougher to break the age old notions.

I have had my own partner, laugh at the industry recognition that my firm was being rewarded for. I remember the words – “Such awards are bought so frequently, so please don’t make a big deal out of it.”

I now have my own firm and it has been 3 years since I founded it. I still have close connections from immediate family, who bring new job offers to me and ask, if I am interested. To which I say, but I have my business, my own firm. And then they just shrug and smile. Like ya, you forgot about it.

Women, from an Indian middle class family, find it tougher to break the age old notions.

The other side of the coin

A woman, from the beginning, is shown a different picture of the world, a world that will be one of her dreams. Boys are hardly told stories of a Prince charming and tooth fairies etc. The manner in which a girl grows up in India is much protected, cocooned, dreamy, happy go lucky. Even her career choices that are offered to her or shown to her all throughout her upbringing are softer, artsy, they are rich in beauty, care etc. She is hardly encouraged to be in conversations that circle around profit and loss, balance sheets, economy, world events etc.

So, because of these multiple factors, her knowledge is not multi-directional in terms of driving a business. This might not be true for some but generically speaking, this is the scenario for a lot more women who could have been possible, successful entrepreneurs of the future.

Also Read: A brief history of women empowerment in India

(Geetika Gulati is the founder and CEO of ZIVComms, a boutique PR firm.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:


More like this

The growing need for security at the Edge

By Rahul S Kurkure With the growing focus on cybersecurity,...

Improving mental health in India: Challenges before us

By Siddhartha Mitra Mental health remains a major issue in...

Carbon fibre in EV is the future

By Nikhil Das and Tilak Gowda Carbon fibre is known...

CXOs believe there’s no conflict between climate goals and growth

Is there any conflict between the climate goal of...