To say that men dominate the world of entrepreneurship would be a gross understatement. According to the Reserve Bank of India only 5.9% of the start-ups in India in the last financial year were led solely by female founders. Living in the 21st century women can be seen to be in the front seat of this global domination: Future is indeed female. This article aims to highlight the significant role that women play in the economy, and the necessary changes that should be made in order to help support those willing and wanting to work even during these difficult times.
One of the major obstacles faced by women in launching their own business ventures is the lack of funding required to start a business. In India, it is primarily the men who enjoy inheritance rights and property rights, which means that women hardly own any property. Out of 50 women interviewed in Karnal, a town in Haryana India, 47 said the family properties were registered in their male counterpart’s name. Lack of property makes them ineligible for loans they would need in order to start a business, as they are unable to provide any collateral.
In the world of business, women are still struggling to be taken seriously. Often, they have to find some male partner who serves as the face of the business and negotiates with suppliers and customers.
Most of the OECD countries and some developing countries have undertaken policies to promote gender balance on company boards, in senior management and at decision making levels. Twelve countries have removed restrictions on the industries, jobs and hours that women can work. Although laws and policies have been changed in recent times to empower women and make the business environment equally conducive for them, in practical terms the progress seems to be patchy because they continue to face a huge amount of stigma and discrimination in the workplace. A study carried out by Babson College in 2014 revealed that only 2.7% of companies with venture capital funding had female CEOs.
Moreover, VC firms with male CEOs or those that have no women in their executive team tend to invest in male-run start-ups. Men also tend to overstate and exaggerate projections while pitching to investors whereas the women tend to be more conservative and realistic. Male investors tend to assume that the women entrepreneurs have inflated the numbers and as a result, when those numbers are discounted it often results in inadequate funding.
Another major impediment for women, regardless of their qualifications and education level, is that they are expected to carry out the major, if not the entire, chunk of household chores and responsibilities, including child rearing, cleaning, washing, and cooking. This translates into very little time left to devote towards managing or running a business.In India women spent 6 times the number of hours men spent every day on household chores. Taking care of the children and their education meant that their business got less attention, putting them at a significant disadvantage in today’s competitive business environment.
While women often invest significant time and emotional labour into their households and family, this is rarely acknowledged as “work”. In calculating the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country, the non-marketed/unpaid services are excluded. A report prepared by the United Nations revealed that a staggering 75% of the world’s unpaid household work is carried out by women. The same report indicated that domestic work accounts for 13% of the world’s GDP. Indian women spend almost 7 times more minutes every day on unpaid work than the men. The figure stands at 352 minutes a day for women and a meagre 51.8 minutes a day for men.
In India, almost 50% of the women contribute to its GDP but their efforts are not even accounted for. The labour or effort put in by educated women in tending to the household, taking care of their children’s education and raising them to be responsible men and women, while providing support to their husbands, has immense value that doesn’t get counted in GDP as it is not exchanged for money.
Sunaina and Janya 17years old high school students studying at the British School, New Delhi initiated Project Sui Dhaaga ; this social service initiative advocates for financial independence for the impoverished women that migrated to India as a result of social persecution. They have been able to facilitate multiple partnerships to benefit the lives of 50000 women and their family, provided them an online platform to help sell their embroidered clothes, raised sufficient funds to support their operations, and continues to support them even during this pandemic.
In order to foster female entrepreneurship, women have to overcome the above-mentioned social and traditional constraints. In order to support them, we must adapt policies and sociocultural norms to make them more conducive to women starting and staying in business.