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Women’s entrepreneurship has hit a media tipping point. Women-owned entities in the formal sector represent approximately 37 percent of enterprises globally — a market worthy of attention by businesses and policy makers alike.
While aggregated data is often challenging to find, the recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found 126 million women starting or running businesses, and 98 million operating established (over three and a half years) businesses.
That’s 224 million women impacting the global economy — and this survey counts only 67 of the 188 countries recognized by the World Bank.
These entrepreneurs have cross the spectrum of micro to high growth — from supporting life to creating wealth. They include hair salon owners, high tech visionaries and everything in between, all making critical economic contributions.
Women entrepreneurs tend to be more successful because of their trusted status in the community. Controlling for firm characteristics, research suggests that women-owned firms outperform those owned by male counterparts.
In this conflict-ridden Himalayan territory, entrepreneurship has witnessed many a metamorphosis. Initially, it was taken up by the educated upper class men who invested their own money to build their fortunes.
Then educated women followed and few have made a significant mark over the years. However, what has not been recognised is that many uneducated women are also enthusiastically raising family incomes through micro ventures and reinvesting their earnings in their families and communities.
These women also inspire other women in their localities to pursue their dreams through entrepreneurship at the grassroots level.
For Instance, Kashmir is an agrarian economy with more than 70 per cent of the population depending upon agriculture for their livelihood. Even though grassroots female entrepreneurs are not undertaking their businesses at a commercial level, they are breaking barriers and inspiring other women to become self-reliant.
Unlike many working women who are finding it difficult to manage their professional and personal life, many females set an example.
The uneducated women entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas, still do not have access to technical and financial support that can give a fillip to their businesses from a domestic to a commercial level.
There are cultural and societal norms that hinder equal participation of women in ventures that men undertake. But women have to contribute to entrepreneurial activities in the best way possible.
Collectively, women entrepreneurs look different than their male counterparts. Their lower employment numbers and growth aspirations have historically led to questions of how to “fix” them. But different doesn’t mean deficient — or underperforming.Entrepreneurial activity creates growth and prosperity — and solutions for social problems. And today’s trends show that women will be a driving force of entrepreneurial growth in the future.
In India, women comprise about 30 percent of corporate senior management positions, which is notably higher than the global average (24 percent). But in the overall workforce, India is one of the worst countries in the world — 113th out of 135 — when it comes to the gender gap. And women entrepreneurs constitute only 10 percent of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country.
Women entrepreneurs have an edge over male entrepreneurs. Edges matter to investors. And the numbers back this up outside India. I believe that this is also true in India.
One of the most obvious reasons to invest in women leaders in India is that women control the vast majority of household spending. So unless you are a business that is focussed mostly on men, women are more likely to better understand customer perspective.
Another is that women are often better at building long-term relationships than men. Lasting relationships benefit a business tremendously, as only so much can be achieved without trust… with employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, government, etc.