Women entrepreneurs striving for greater heights in business world

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Women entrepreneurs play a key role in economic development throughout the world and over the years, they have proved that they can perform equally as compared to their male peers. Women business owners continue to display extraordinary economic prowess worldwide, with every 1 in 11 women (8.9 per cent) involved in entrepreneurship across the globe, revealed the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM).


Experts say that the level of economic development of a country can be measured by the numbers of women entering into the world of entrepreneurship. “The ratio of women entrepreneurship is much higher for countries like Brazil, Russia, Jambhia and Ghana,” says Manoj Mittal, GM, SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India).

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report has identified ten major countries with women entrepreneurs, out of which India stands in the second position and Thailand is in the first position followed by other countries.

The other side

A recent report by Genpact on Women’s Leadership reveals a dark truth that Indian women consist of only 25 per cent of the total labour force. The number even declined to 19 per cent in urban India as against the global average of 50 per cent.

In many developing countries, women choose the path of entrepreneurship out of necessity and not by choice. Usually, Indian female entrepreneurs face plethora of problems in establishing their venture, among which socio-cultural issues is one of the determining factors that restricts women at the thought of setting up their own business.

Among 35 states in India, only 10 states have two digit percentages of women managed enterprises and 8 states have two digit percentages of women entrepreneurs. Out of the total numbers of women entrepreneurs in India, Mizoram has 27.67 per cent and Meghalaya has 33.03 per cent of total women entrepreneurs and so on. And in terms of literacy rate, Kerala is the only state which has 87.86 per cent of the total female literate population.

This growing literacy rate among women folk has ignited the spark in Kerala State Women's Development Corporation (KSWDC), an organisation under Kerala's Department of Social Justice, to provide trainings to women entrepreneurs under the project named 'Sandesh One', a first of its public-private partnership (PPP) social enterprise in Kerala.

'Sandesh One' centres have been set up in every local body in Kerala which is likely to generate significant employment opportunities and allow women entrepreneurs to start their own ventures in high-tech agriculture, preventive healthcare, water management, waste management, renewable energy, etc.

“Even today, in India, very few women are represented on board – only 15 per cent companies have women representatives on the board. The problem lies in the segment of population who are not allowed to study. The change is more needed at the lower level and in the mindset of families in providing child education to make them employment ready, without determining by his or her sex,” says Deepak Singhal, Regional Director, RBI.

The union government has already set standard norms for private and public firms with an annual turnover of Rs 300 crore to have at least one female director on their board. Gender-inclusive growth can only happen if the government of India take crucial initiatives and make amendments in the existing policies towards the empowerment of women leaders. “A circular came in the year 2000, which said that banks should have women officers sitting in the branches and there should be a cell which can interact with women and understand their problems,” shares Rachna Dikshit, General Manger, RBI.

Women's Empowerment Initiative

In order to democratize the banking facilities and making gender equality an integral part of the work culture, SIDBI has initiated Poorest States Inclusive Growth Programme (PSIG) for Financial Inclusion and Women Empowerment.

Financial Literacy (FL) and training of women clients of micro-finance are the key task areas of PSIG. The key objective of this programme is to build aptitude of women in understanding the financial products and upgrading their skills and confidence in making the right financial decision.

SIDBI has contracted Indian School of Microfinance for Women (ISMW), an affiliate body of SEWA Bank Ahmedabad to undertake pilot study on various trainings (financial literacy, legal rights, health & hygiene) with MFIs based in UP and Bihar. The pilot will have training of trainers (ToT) for 80 master trainers on financial literacy and gender empowerment in UP-Bihar cluster. As part of this pilot, 60,000 women clients of selected MFIs will be provided trainings.

“SIDBI does not differentiate between women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs not only in terms of scheme, but also in the behaviour of the staff. In SIDBI, we have a women staff ratio of 20-23 per cent, who will be more comfortable dealing women visiting the branch,” tells Mittal.

Emphasising on the gender equality in the business world, Singhal says, “In banking sectors, large number of chief executives on the board are women. The girls who are allowed to get educated and work tend to do equal if not better that their male counter parts.”

Recently, Genpact Limited and Ashoka University have joined forces to launch the ‘Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership’ (GCWL) in an intension to drive gender-inclusive growth that empowers and promotes women’s leadership across sectors in the country. The centre is expected to formulate laws and policies in favour of gender equality and women’s leadership and conduct training and mentorship programmes to develop and enhance leadership skills of women.