#Opinion

Why A Transformation Is Required To Enable Women Entrepreneurship

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In India, women entrepreneurs have a potential to create transformational employment and generate 150–170 million jobs according to a joint report by Bain & Company and Google. However, women continue to struggle for accessing equal opportunities, equal payment and equal recognition.

The abysmal state of women can be verified by a mere glance at the data – the World Bank estimates that 35% of India’s women of the working-age population currently do not have paid work. Although women represent 42% of the agricultural labour force in India, they own just 2% of farmland. Women’s Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) in India is among the lowest in the world and continues to decline. The unemployment rate among women is 18% in India against the overall unemployment rate of 7%, in the country.  As per the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (2015), India performs below the 20th percentile in the female entrepreneurship index. By 2030, the working-age population of India will surpass 1 billion, the highest in the world. Research suggests that just women alone will need 400 million jobs.

To decrease the economic disparity between men and women, India collectively needs to take a non-traditional approach. While the Government of India and civil society organisations are undertaking various initiatives to promote employment and entrepreneurship among women and have created successful examples across India, there is room for tremendous improvement. And to solve a problem, one must look deep enough to identify the reasons behind it.

 Educational Empowerment

While the gap between boys and girls in school enrollment and completion is narrowing, completion of secondary school remains elusive for girls. Secondary school education is one of the key routes to stimulating significant shifts in cultural norms over time – from increased participation in workforce to nutrition to reduction of domestic violence. However, to successfully rise, young women not only need formal education or vocational skills, but also training to develop their confidence, self-esteem and a belief in their own capabilities whilst broadening their aspirations.

Additionally, they should be exposed to diverse educational fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, digital literacy and early training programs to enable and encourage their participation in diverse entrepreneurial fields.

 Cultivating Mindsets

An extensive study by Bain and Google in India, shows that a majority of women lack self-confidence for pursuing entrepreneurial aspirations. Workshops and trainings that help women build non-academic skills such as collaboration, problem-solving capabilities, work habits, personal competencies and community involvement equips them with the needed mindsets, awareness and confidence to help them envision themselves as leaders. Along with all these, health and hygiene-related trainings such as menstrual hygiene, safe sex and maternal health, increase their chances and period of participating and staying in the workforce.

Also Read: New Horizons 2019 Will Foster The Future Of Women Entrepreneurship

Skill Training

For women to build, sustain and scale enterprises, entrepreneurial training must be provided – skills such as business planning, marketing, customer diversification – as they are essential for the success in any enterprise. Financial support should be provided for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. And finally, regular mentorship should be provided to them in administrative, scientific, infrastructural and financial areas.

In the wake of increasing disasters that have marred the Indian subcontinent, women need to be equipped with climate-resilient entrepreneurial opportunities too so that they can have a sustainable business that can stand the test of change.

 Financial Literacy

Women entrepreneurs, particularly in rural areas, often experience difficulties making financial decisions, accessing relevant financial products and services due to a lack of appropriate products, information, understanding of their needs and collateral. Educating women on savings & credit management and various banking instruments would enable them to make sound and independent financial decisions for the survival and scaling of their enterprises. Finally, they should be linked to appropriate government and non-governmental schemes that would support women to save, sustain and scale their businesses.

Also Read: Women entrepreneurship: The journey of a mompreneur in India

 Digital access

As the world becomes more and more digitally connected, women continue to lag behind men, particularly mobile technologies. That means they are less likely than men to have access to vital services such as trade platforms, cash transfers, medical information, educational content, or employment opportunities. Currently, there are 300 million fewer women than men who use mobile internet, representing a gender gap of 20%.

Therefore, providing a comprehensive digital literacy to girls and women, and access to equipment to continue their training forms an important aspect of supporting women’s enterprises.

 Reducing rural women’s domestic workload

Studies state that a key prerequisite for a woman’s entrepreneurial success is lightening her domestic workload – especially in patriarchal societies of developing economies where the sandwich generation prevails, namely societies in which women are the primary homemakers and caregivers, regarding responsibility for housework, children and older dependent family members.  Provisions should be made for improved access to water sources, health services, renewable energy sources and connectivity to markets, and the provision of childcare facilities in communities, rural markets and workplaces to help women have more free time on their hands and enabling them to engaging in financially meaningful activities.

 Conducive Policies

The Indian Government has started several initiatives and schemes to address systemic gaps and encourage increased participation for enterprising women. The government should use popular media, such as radio, to disseminate information about these schemes to rural areas for better awareness. Further, the government can also use their buying power to support women and their businesses. For example, the Dominican Republic has created quotas for women and youth in public procurement to ensure more equal participation.

 Community Involvement

Almost 70% women admitted that social and cultural factors were one of their greatest obstacles in starting and running viable businesses. Women’s entrepreneurship is not broadly accepted in many societies and women face attitudinal obstacles in their starting, consolidating and developing a sustainable business.  The government and civil society need to engage with communities including men, women and children, through various interventions – mass media, role-model creating, necessary workshops and trainings, and move them towards shifting perspectives through effective communications and interventions.

As a professional who has been working in the livelihood sector for more than a decade, I can say that to encourage entrepreneurial aspirations amongst women will require a rigorous, coordinated multi-stakeholder approach, starting out when a woman is yet a child, across a number of dimensions, including government policy, funding and investments, and formal and informal mentorship.

Ananth K, is the Sr. Manager – Livelihood, at ChildFund India. The views expressed are the author’s own.