In India, women have been challenging stereotypes, increasingly taking up leadership roles, acquiring entrepreneurial positions and in the fields of entertainment, sports and politics.
India has witnessed a steady rise in the number of rural women leaders from 5 per cent in 1992 to 40 per cent in 2000.
Today, there are many brands, leaders and influencers voicing their opinions about on-going crimes and gender-based violations in the society, creating an active awareness about women empowerment in the country.
In fact, the ongoing social debates about tax exemptions for sanitary napkins or period-leave in workplaces, exemplify increasing discussions about modern feminism.
Redefining Modern Feminism in Business
And yet, while there is hope for increased modern feminism on the social and legal front, there is a long way to go in achieving the same openness in the business world.
Many leaders and entrepreneurs do not openly speak up about feminism for the fear of being misquoted, sounding harsh or being perceived as less-fun. Due to such issues, modern feminism has not only been brushed under the carpet, but it also continues to face neglect at the hands of people who hold power to change the tide.
Feminism in the business world is more of a hush-hush discussion. With as less as 14 per cent women entrepreneurs in the country and the predominant bro-code in corporate companies, lesser women take part in spearheading collaborative initiatives to mitigate the challenges faced by budding women entrepreneurs.
Driven by the aim of bringing about positive solutions to on-ground challenges, both in the rural and urban sectors, today’s feminism does not support extremist misogyny or arbitrary debates, as observed in the previous examples.
Instead, it invites leaders across genders to base their decisions on credible data, and authentically strive to identify the challenges and bring home results.
Challenges At Hand
To begin with, one of the biggest challenges is the lack of financial investments for women. Given that most women-led-businesses are small scale and over 79 per cent of them are self-financed, modern feminism in business calls for more women to guide and aid budding women leaders and bring them on level ground.
Additionally, women are the largest untapped potential, with over 75 per cent of them accounting for the entire world’s domestic and unpaid work. With increasing participation of women in entrepreneurship, such issues of gender parity can also be mitigated.
While significant steps are being taken across the globe, such as the recent incorporation of gender-equality as a strategic objective under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and formal commitment by G20 leaders in bringing as many as a 100 million women into the workforce by 2025, there is a pressing need for similar initiatives so that more women entrepreneurs can help create an exponential impact.
Thus, not only at the government policy-level but also at the business-level, we need increasing number of modern feminist leaders to co-create initiatives and increase financial investments, education and mentorship opportunities for women, especially in the rural or lesser developed regions.
Given the scenario, the only way to lay a solid foundation for a brighter future for the generations of women to come is by continued efforts and challenging dominant stereotypes.
Through the ages, we have been touched and inspired by success stories of brilliant women leaders, from Queen Elizabeth to Rani Lakshmibai, from Captain Lakshmi Sehgal to Sheryl Sandberg.
In keeping with the legacy, I am confident that business leaders in the country can inspire determination and imbibe strength to overcome financial, social and psychological hurdles faced by their female peers and budding leaders.
Enough time has been spent mulling over inequalities and discrimination. It is now time to create a future of limitless possibilities by pursuing our goals, be unshackled and unstoppable.
The time now is to shift the focus from our ‘achievements’ regardless of how much strength it took, because the time now is to continue fighting against numerous, gigantic challenges on the way, the time now, is to think wisely and act accordingly.
In this business-driven world, there are innumerable opportunities to become future change-makers. In order to attain this maximum level of sustainability, let’s begin by seeding the change for a powerful, irrefutable and a gender-barred future, by bringing every day by driving large-scale transformation through commitment and collaboration.