The numbers are truly alarming: As per the UN (World Population Prospects 2019), despite comprising of 48.04 percent of India’s population, they only make-up for 19.9 percent of the country’s workforce. While India has made tremendous progress since independence, the potential of women as entrepreneurs and on the economic front remains untapped.
The reason for this gender disparity in the workforce is because of various structural and societal barriers that prevent women from making a significant contribution to the economy. Some of the challenges that women face in the Indian context are a lack of financial support, biases, unfavourable working conditions, and the existing gender pay gap.
According to research, a 6.8 percent increase in India’s GDP could be achieved if measures to close the gender gap were successful. Furthermore, it is well-established that a diverse workforce sees an increase in creativity and innovation due to varied approaches that lead to novel solutions. Let’s examine how the following trends lead to a new epoch for the participation of women in the workforce.
Changing perceptions towards entrepreneurship
While India is still a long way from achieving gender parity in the workforce, recent years have witnessed a record number of women entrepreneurs in the country. The reason for this is that the perception towards entrepreneurship by women in India is more favourable now. There are more women role models in various industry segments like health care, banking, entertainment, and fashion among others. These women entrepreneurs have set the path for others to follow towards self-reliance. Further, better access to education, improved infrastructure and awareness is contributing to an increase in women entrepreneurs.
For women entrepreneurs to succeed in the long-run, various support systems are critical. In an era of digital first, making sure that technology is attainable can enable and empower women entrepreneurs. In this regard many government initiatives such as the Annapurna Scheme, Mudra Yojana Scheme, Dena Shakti Scheme, and TREAD Trade-Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development) have helped women entrepreneurs become financially empowered. Startup India through its initiatives and policies has helped consolidate the women entrepreneur ecosystem in the country.
Role of corporates and banks
For an entrepreneur, easy access to finance for their business can make the difference success and failure. Many corporates and banks have many schemes that help women entrepreneurs fulfil the finance needs of their business. Some of the prominent schemes are the Bharatiya Mahila Bank Business Loan, Dena Shakti, Scheme, Cent Kalyani Scheme, Orient Mahila Vikas Yojana Scheme, and the Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme. Corporates need to create an environment that offers fair opportunities to women for career growth and leadership.
The current push towards remote-working has acted as an enabler for bridging the gender divide in the workforce. It helps women employees and entrepreneurs with the freedom of making their own decisions and also support their families. Women can bridge the geographical divide and even gender parity problems with remote-working. They now have the ability and flexibility to work on their schedule. This means that women no longer have to drop out of the workforce or lose out on pay parity with their peers. They can take up senior and eventually leadership positions in the organization more effectively. Women are known to better at multi-tasking, team management and are calculated risk-takers. The new normal can create a conducive environment for the growth of women entrepreneurs.
While Indian women find themselves in roles of increasing business responsibility, many are taking the path towards entrepreneurship. There is a lack of awareness and resources – training and mentoring, security and family-support, infrastructure, skill-based and financial to help women make a transition into business leaders of the future. Presently, steps are being taken at the government and corporates, a lot of work is still needed. Corporates, institutions and various other women-oriented must come together to create an effective system that enables and empowers women entrepreneurs. The availability of training, mentoring and the necessary resources can go a long way towards unlocking the true potential of women entrepreneurs in the country.