At a time when the government’s push to entrepreneurship is ever-increasing, the significant aspect of it is that the drive at the policy-making level is also becoming gender-specific. Today, lawmakers, policy-drafters understand that there is a gender gap in entrepreneurship and they are also willing to reduce it by bringing in efforts to motivate women into entrepreneurship. India warrants an ecosystem that guarantees far stronger participation of aspiring women entrepreneurs by removing the hurdles on their path to establish business ventures, a national event noted today, in its efforts to lessen female under-representation in businesses related to science and technology.
Gender sensitivity is essential to ensure inclusivity in heading or working with startups, according to speakers at the Women Startup Summit being hosted by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM).
Kerala IT Secretary Mr M Sivasankar listed three major factors that are hindering the prospects of women entering entrepreneurship in a big way in the state. One is ‘social barriers’, where, say, ‘safety’ of girl students in hostels restricts their study hours in the campus.
Second is the increasing need for women with reasonable professional experience (of five to ten years) heading ‘brown startups’. Thirdly, there is near-absence of women coordinators in KSUM’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centres. KSUM is the nodal agency of Government of Kerala for entrepreneurship development and incubation activities in the state.
Kerala State Planning Board member Dr Mridul Eapen noted that most educated women in a high-literacy state like Kerala are yet to be conscious of their potential in business ventures. “The proposals and points emerging in a meet like this will have their resonance in the policy-making decisions of the board,” she said adding, “The summit is definitely a strong step towards woman empowerment.”
Dr Eapen said it was wrong to go by the general notion that startups should invariably be on products that are novel and innovative. “See, there are products that are necessity-based and others that are opportunity-based. Women should make use of their immense potential,” she exhorted at the start of the meet that also brought together successful women leaders, startup founders and policymakers besides aspiring entrepreneurs.
The session also called for providing women entrepreneurs and workers in startups with basic facilities such as food and transportation.
Teja Ventures founding partner Virginia Tan, while addressing the audience over live video, spoke of “She Loves Tech”, which she initiated in 2015 and the steady progress the movement made across continents over the four years to become the world’s largest female technology startup competition.
One of the panellists and Venture Capitalist Padmaja Ruparel of IAN said, “We are completely gendered agnostic. We don’t look neck down. Never have I ever heard my investors feel apprehensive of a founder just because she happened to be a woman, in the last more than two decades of career. So I also think that as women we have to understand that there are no excuses. Either we want it with a laser focus or we know that we don’t but life doesn’t include excuses.”
The meet comes in the backdrop of Kerala having 13 per cent women participation in the technology startup ecosystem and the state government’s proactive steps for increasing the participation of women in the sector. The administration has implemented multiple policies and schemes, which focus on supporting women startups. Based on the concept “Of Women-By Women-For Women”, the state government schemes can be availed by women startups from across the country. The support facilities offered by the government were shared in the women summit.