The nation waits anxiously for the 1st of February – when the government shall present its last budget before the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The usual expectations for some reliefs and benefits for the poor and middle class are there. India still being a largely agrarian economy – it is expected that the government will bring in some solutions for the farmers’ crisis and poor income.

From the start-up world, the expectations are more on the lines of clarity than real changes. Start-ups are looking for clarity on angel tax, on ease of shutting down a business, on tax on ESOPs. Serious consideration is expected for the tax holiday period. While three years is a good help, more and more start-ups who are serious on being long-term players are realising that increasing this period to five years will come across as a genuine effort towards shielding startups from taxes early in the game.

As women entrepreneurs again – the expectations are on influencing the mindset changes – either through policies or incentives than a lot of monetary benefits. The real challenge is the lack of role models and what that means is – we need more women at the top – in start-ups as well as established businesses.

As women entrepreneurs again – the expectations are on influencing the mindset changes – either through policies or incentives than a lot of monetary benefits.

With women making up to 42 % of new graduates, and only 3.27% board chairs held by women – there is a huge leak in the system, causing lack of moral encouragement for women. Tokenism is not the solution and hence, the focus should be on skill building, leadership and diversity inclusion trainings. And in the given situation, government intervention through audits and reviews of these training and mentoring initiatives and the results achieved – is expected. The idea is not to just have initiatives taken but also be tracked and reported with the progress made.

With women making up to 42 % of new graduates, and only 3.27% board chairs held by women – there is a huge leak in the system, causing lack of moral encouragement for women.

One setback we saw last year for women workers after the extension of maternity leave was a lot of chaos and discussion on the drop in percentage of hiring women. Rs 400 crore proposal this year to reimburse employers for seven of the 26 weeks of extended maternity leave, is expected to increase participation of women in the workforce.

Rs 60 crore was allocated towards promoting safe and convenient accommodation for working women. By no means could this amount suffice the huge need we have. For women to work safe in the daytime as well as nights – there is a lot to be done. Commuting from remote areas need to be made safer.  More budget allocations and review on ground level implementation is expected in 2019.

Few straightforward expectations that can be seen coming from various women entrepreneurs at the policy level are:

  • Focus on skills development programs for women (including re-skilling for outdated skills) – organisations mandated to do so internally.
  • Hiring initiatives to bring back women force (lost after maternity leave)
  • Equal pay policies to close the gender pay gap – being paid less than peers for the same job – is not only wrong but morally discouraging.
  • Internal review system on women safety at work and ‘on way to work’ to continuously seek feedback, for dealing with new and evolving forms of threats.
  • More focus on the implementation of the policy initiatives on the financial inclusion for poor women – including more support for women in rural areas to start their micro businesses.

Smita Mishra is the Founder and CEO of Fandoro Technologies and founder of QAZone Infosystems. She is an international speaker on technology and diversity in tech. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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