The dawn of this new decade looks very promising to drive women entrepreneurship. Winds of change are gaining momentum. Some tactical and structural interventions will provide the necessary fuel to the flight.
By Ratna Mehta
“When women move forward, the family moves, the village moves, and the nation moves.”- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world – traditionally, women have been acting as intrapreneurs by managing households and families. Since the past half-century, they have stepped into the business world. While the road has been laid with many inspiring stories, a lot of ground needs to be covered to drive an equal opportunity environment.
Setting the runway for the flight
Tactical near-term interventions: These interventions are key to support the existing and potential women entrepreneur pool.
Mentorship access: While women-focused incubators and accelerators are emerging, mentorship access for women entrepreneurs is still a challenge. Having a formal mentorship program through schools/colleges, corporates, networking platforms, and govt organisations can help to guide women in the right direction.
Network access: The importance of networks cannot be undermined. Having the right network helps significantly to react to changing needs, changing markets. Public and private organizations should design women-focused networking platforms to help create an ecosystem around themselves.
Skilling: Women are not educated or trained to become entrepreneurs. If we are able to identify the skill gaps and design appropriate programs to boost entrepreneurship, that will provide the necessary impetus to increase labour force participation of women as well as the percent of women entrepreneurs.
Awareness: The journey to anything starts with knowing it. The key to moving forward is that women need to be made aware of the opportunities now available to them. Spreading awareness about new policies and schemes is critical as much as launching new interventions.
Financing: To get anything off the ground, it is important to have the ability to finance it. Women have traditionally limited financial inclusion and thus access to finance. With multiple government schemes as well as private MFIs and NBFCs, this is rapidly changing.
Promote and celebrate women’s successes: It is imperative to celebrate successes to instil faith in the women who have just started to wet their feet in the entrepreneurial ecosystem
Structural interventions: While these are more difficult to implement, we are seeing some positive offshoots:
Gender unbiased parenting: Parents are the best and most impactful teachers. If children are raised in an environment where gender biases have no significance in daily activities, it can go a long way in training the men as well as boosting confidence for women. This is a long road and will need government as well as private organisations to drive it through counselling.
Holistic education: In large parts of our country, even today, education for girls is not focused on making them independent and driving them to pursue a career – whether corporate or entrepreneurship. If the education system sows the seeds of entrepreneurship early on, it can go a long way to create a breed of confident and goal-oriented women.
Building inclusive families: Social acceptance of women entrepreneurs is as important as skilling and funding. And like all good things, this needs to start at our homes. Family support is key to creating successful women entrepreneurs. To change the thought process of the larger population, parent/family counselling should be included as part of the curriculum and taken up by schools and colleges. Once the wave starts, gradually, social acceptance will increase as an increasing number of examples mushroom.
Building inclusive work environments: What you create, you leave for the next generation. Women and men need to be encouraged to build organisations that respect the differences in fellow humans and celebrate the skills that one brings to table to improve overall effectiveness.
Government policies and schemes: While we have seen some Government encouragement through policies and schemes, this needs to be done consistently – not only in design but also in driving awareness and implementation
While these measures and interventions will need system-level changes, as individuals we must take the baton in our hands to stir conversations around us and drive initiatives and actions to build a better and inclusive environment for women entrepreneurs.