Women entrepreneurs have the ability to influence and inspire future generations. For women, the reasons behind beginning their own businesses might vary. As per the Landscape Study on Women Entrepreneurship by EdelGive Foundation, 64 percent of the women surveyed began their own ventures out of necessity, and due to their families’ financial circumstances. However, 63 percent also expect that the impact of their entrepreneurial ventures would result in an improvement to their social status and secure a degree of financial independence. Given these motivations and expectations, it follows that besides meeting basic needs of food and shelter, women entrepreneurs are also likely to invest in improving their families’ standards of living.
About 53 percent of women entrepreneurs, as per the aforementioned study, invest in the education of their children. 80 percent felt that there had been a considerable improvement in their status (within the family and in society), and 43 percent felt they could now decide where they should get treated for illnesses. With the attainment of financial independence, women entrepreneurs are more likely to be able to cultivate independent mindsets amongst their progeny, by explaining and establishing the importance of having a separate income, the freedom it provides, and the sense of achievement having a career can bring. Leading by example, women entrepreneurs can inculcate vocational and life skills in future generations and simultaneously use their income to further improve their standards of living.
However, in India, women’s participation in the workforce and in entrepreneurship is neither as widespread nor as robust as it is in other nations around the world. The Periodic Labour Force Survey 2021 found that the female labour force participation rate in India was as low as 26.4 percent in rural areas, and 20.4 percent in urban areas. A variety of factors such as patriarchal mindsets against women’s participation in economic activities, internalised gender roles which are further reinforced by their families, and difficulties in obtaining the necessary finances or assets to start a business all come into play when women consider starting a business.
Fortunately, recognising the significance of socio-economic contributions of women entrepreneurs from semi urban and rural regions, the government has brought forth a number of schemes and policies to enable women to start their own enterprises. Some of these include the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, the Prime Minister‘s Rojgar Yojana (PMRY), Entrepreneurial Development Programmes (EDPs), Management Development Programmes and Women‘s Development Corporations (WDC).
Furthermore, at community levels, models such as self-help groups, cooperative societies, and NGO-aided businesses go a long way in helping women start, establish, and sustain their enterprises. In India, SHGs and cooperatives provide a platform for women to share and enhance awareness about savings, education, health, family welfare, cleanliness, nutrition, environment and more. NGOs can further support women entrepreneurs with training, skill development, networking, and sharing information related to their legal rights. Therefore, these collectives and collaborative enterprises are not only instrumental to seeding women entrepreneurs, but also enable capacity building, sharing of knowledge, and the ability to undertake calculated risks for the purpose of scaling up or expanding their businesses.
Then there is another underlying force at play – women being examples of success for not only other women, but also for communities and societies. The success of one person, especially a woman, holds the possibility of changing people’s mindsets about stereotypical gender roles. Observing a woman entrepreneur succeed in the economic sphere, particularly one from the local community, can inspire other women to start their ventures and encourage their families to support them too.
By enabling and empowering the ecosystem required for the independence of women – starting with gender sensitisation and support from their families– the entrepreneurial spirit in women can flourish. It will ensure women’s long-term participation in the work force and allow them to earn higher and more stable incomes. It is essential that we keep working for all women across India, providing them with equal opportunities to make a living, develop a sense of self-worth, improve their financial and social standing, and assert their independence.
The writer is executive chairperson, EdelGive Foundation.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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