WHAT IS HOLDING WOMEN LEADERS BACK IN STARTUPSCENARIO?
In variousorganisations, women were hardly seen in leadership roles and as the trend hastoday changed the ratio of women leaders in the startup scenario also shows thesame image.
The questionarises, What is holding them back? While it is alarming that today whole numberof start-ups founded in India is growing at a significant pace, the role ofwomen is not seen as much as men. It is neither the lack of talent or ambitionthat holds them back but they still face the difficulty to succeed.
In theconstantly developing scenario of the Indian startup ecosystem, more and morewomen are chasing the entrepreneurial dream and succeeding in their venturesbut the barriers affecting the low women entrepreneurs' rate continues toexist. One can look for successful entrepreneurs in India and found a list withmany known names appearing on the list but one may not have those kinds of rolemodels in Indian women entrepreneurs list. Why? Aren't they successful?
Well, they are,but there are a very few known. Many women entrepreneurs in India have overcomethe hurdles of starting a business and created a name for their brand when itcomes to listing one may not be able to list any role model who they thinkinspires them to be a startup owner.
From NeelamDhawan, MD, Microsoft India to Ekta Kapoor, the creative head of BalajiTelefilms, these women leaders showcase that with passion towards the work andgreat leadership skills, one can be known as synonymous of success. There havebeen many initiatives that are seen today to ensure that the young girls andwomen who are still a part of the traditional household roles inspire and takeactions towards becoming a successful start-up. Being aware of their journeyand how they faced the challenges of being a woman is essential as they may notbe the same as the ones faced by the male entrepreneurs.
WHAT IS HOLDING WOMEN LEADERS BACK?
India is amongthe countries where the women business owners face challenges based on theirgender. The women leaders and professionals who are a part of the startup sceneare usually the prey of the same challenges that other business leaders wouldface when it comes to generating funding, limited understanding of customers,penetrating the market, hiring qualified employees, and the complex regulatorybut they are also facing challenges of less favourable conditions, pronouncedcultural biases, and a lack of business resources such as finances, capital,training, and development.
While being awomen leader or startup owner in the latest stages of their career, the womenentrepreneurs may not face challenges directly based on their gender, the basisof it can be related to them being a woman. The unconscious bias is basicallythe intentional and automatic mental viewpoint that is created due to thetraditions, norms, values, culture and experience.
CONFIDENCE IN BUSINESS SKILLS
The most commonstereotype of "Women are not meant for business" has existed in the country fora long time. People around the world are of the thought process that men aremore competent when it comes to financial matters. Women leaders andentrepreneurs have been facing such attitudes reflected in communication. Theyare often treated with less respect and they sense doubt when interacting withbusiness partners.
The challengesdo not stop for women entrepreneurs here, they tend to have constant negativefeedback which makes their mindset towards their venture as women entrepreneurmore difficult affecting their confidence. Many women leaders have faced andovercome this challenge and with their strong mindset tend to introduce an ideaof being more than what society says about them. While many women leaders andentrepreneurs still tend highly successful women often struggle with self-doubtand underestimate their abilities and performance, while the opposite has beenobserved for men.
ACCESS TO FINANCE
Entrepreneurshipis said to be a risky undertaking, women are often easily assumed to be lesswilling to take risks. One of the most famous Indian women leader andsuccessful entrepreneur, Mazumdar-Shaw, observed a great deal of scepticismtowards women entrepreneurs. When she initiated, she was considered 'high-risk'by potential funders whose investment she courted for her biotechnologycompany, Biocon.
When it came tofinancing, stereotypes appear to manifest in behaviour as fewer women activelyapproach investors and are more reluctant to divest stakes, as observed by oneinterview partner. The approach followed by many investors across differentindustries prefers men over women despite identical content of their pitches.Women rarely own property, which can be used as collateral for loans which isanother problem.
NETWORKS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The men focusedon corporate cultures are prime barriers in women entrepreneur's leadership.While a male employee may categorise the Indian startup ecosystem as a "broculture" of "alpha males", with a lack of empathy and talking about emotionalchallenges is perceived as a weakness.
Womenentrepreneurs do not feel comfortable in prominent industry networks with thesexual harassment and the approach the industry leaders have. Not being a partof such networks also affect their progress as they tend to miss important opportunitiesto mingle and connect with people in the market and thus, struggle even morethan male entrepreneurs with getting access into the market.
India might havecome a long way when it comes to the women working outside but their roles haveincreased and so has their loads. The predominant social norms expect women tofirst and foremost look after their home which leads them to a position ofjuggling between both home and company which can be challenging; family supportis considered a core success factor for Indian female entrepreneurs. Many womenleaders consider themselves lucky to found a family that has a modern outlookand understands their passion which is truly a challenge India has to overcomeas a society.
Some perceivethe entrepreneurial careers as difficult to reconcile with duties at home, theymight be a good opportunity for women, allowing them to work with more flexiblehours and space. However, being a woman entrepreneur and a mother leads tofurther difficulties holding them back. Being an entrepreneur means nomaternity benefits and after pregnancy, the guilt is one of the big factorsaffecting their decision of continuing their career. They need support toensure like the grandparents or child-care options to look after the kids.
SAFETY IN WORK AND PUBLIC SPACES
India has beendealing with women's safety as a factor for years. When it comes to the safetyat the workspace as well as during commutes between the office and home, theissue continues to exist in India. Delhi, the capital of India, which isconsidered one of India's four global startup cities continues to benotoriously poor in ensuring women's safety and has high rates of sexualcrimes. The perception of danger reinforces social norms, which restrictwomen's mobility and thereby, their economic participation and freedom.
Women are multitasking and powerful individuals but there are various factors that harness their potential to become successful. Acknowledging these problems are essential for overcoming these challenges requires a load of passion within the women entrepreneurs themselves as well as tackling the external factors that are affected by the society and the corporate ecosystem.