While “entrepreneur” is the new buzz word these days, women still manage to raise eyebrows when they try to defy preconceived social expectations. The word “entrepreneur” preceded by “woman” is unnerving yet scintillating.
Although women in India have taken the entrepreneur world by storm, they often face a set of challenges not typically shared by their male counterparts. I would like to share my perspectives on some of these and ways of addressing them to our advantage:
#1. Owning themselves: In spite of all their accomplishments, women for most times have to conform to the male idea of what a leader should look like. Boardroom meetings, even those presided by women will typically witness women that are suited. It is almost like they feel the need to look like their male counterparts in order to register their existence in that domain. It is necessary that women own their personality regardless of how the opposite sex perceives them. Effort to come across as similar does not do justice to their talent. Talent is what does justice to their persona.
#2. Building a support network: In spite of proving their credibility, dependability and worth, women often falter at building a support system for themselves. A lot of times women mistake “who you should know” with “what you should know”. This usually happens as a result of their showering extra focus on their work, but in an age when social media has made the world a real small place, networking is a thumb rule.In almost any type of entrepreneurial endeavor, a key contributor to success is access to connections and equity with people who can help them to get through the door. Without mincing words, women need to build an equity with influencers and game changers.
#3. Access to funding: Women face greater obstacles than men when starting businesses, especially when it comes to receiving angel and venture capital. Though it might be unintentional, men fund people who look and sound just like them. My piece of advice to women here is, “Don't do it alone! Seek advice from a variety of sources, including co-founders, professional advisers such as accountants and lawyers, peer advisory groups, mastermind groups, board of advisers, and family members.”
#4. Delegation: This stems from the earlier challenge of building a support system. Women often fear failure. Women need to understand that they need to work on their business, not in it. It is a must to delegate relentlessly, and inspire people to want to do a job that you want. Own the business and the scale, so you are understood as owners and not cogs in the larger machinery. They are to be the driving force and not the driver!
#5. Low Risk-Bearing Ability: Women in India lead a protected life. They are less educated and not always economically self-dependent. All these factors reduce their ability to bear risk involved in running an enterprise. Risk-bearing is an essential requisite of a successful entrepreneur irrespective of gender. The sooner women internalize this and move on with great strides, the better. And once that is accomplished, women should stop waiting for permission or recognition from others in order to feel entitled to your success.
#6.Balancing work and family life: The ranking of this point at the bottom end in the list is not by chance but a deliberate idea. There has been sufficient chatter around this, both merited and unmerited. It has become a gender neutral goal. Work-life balance is a goal of many entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, but mothers who start businesses experience greater pressure of expectations as their role is multifaceted not only in their professional sphere but their personal life as well. And in this area, traditional gender expectations often still prevail.
Unequal distribution of household labor is still very much a part of reality. However, women have come a long way in managing expectations, it is time that the world understands gender equality in more ways than one.
Women do not have to prove so much today. The sooner they prove their mettle in balancing all, there will be a newer set of expectation and challenges. It is important to never lose sight of objectives, do your best, and chance will settle the rest.