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How Women Entrepreneurs are Challenging Social Norms With the ever-burgeoning start-up ecosystem riddled with cut-throat competition, individuals who can perform swiftly are the need of the hour

By Alex Suh

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Whenever someone broaches the subject of how women entrepreneurs survive in a male-dominated society, the blog by Susan Fowler "Reflecting on one, very very strange year at Uber" comes to my mind. The first hand chilling account of what a woman engineer had to face in a so-called progressive country like the United States basically summed up all the challenges and hurdles women have to endure across countries and irrespective of their backgrounds and traditions. Yet despite all the unprofessional encounters Susan had to face, what struck me the most about her blog was the optimism with which she ended it, thanking Uber for the time she spent and the learning opportunities she got working in a start-up environment.

This is the same optimism that drives and inspires women entrepreneurs across the globe to continue on their paths and give a tough fight to all in their respective fields. While women encounter various issues of acceptance in the corporate world, it is worth noting that the environment they choose to work in also plays an important role on their professional experience.

MNC vs Start-up: Making the Right Choice

I have experience working at global consulting company PwC as a management consultant and am currently working at a fintech start-up providing mobile services. One of the main advantages working at a start-up is also the plethora of opportunities women get compared to the general corporate environment. Drawing a parallel from my professional journey, I feel working in a fast paced environment of a start-up has provided me with endless opportunities and many more learnings than I would have ever got in any role at a general MNC.

In case of conglomerates, it takes large sum of time to adjust to the organizational culture, to be empowered and secure good opportunities. The roles can also get a bit monotonous over time. Start-ups on the other hand, offer better gender balance due to short time frames and insufficient human resources that the venture has to face constantly. They focus more on fostering an innovative environment and ideas from both men and women as they don't want to compromise on merit.

With the ever-burgeoning start-up ecosystem riddled with cutthroat competition, individuals who can perform swiftly and in a concise manner are the need of the hour. Thus the ability of the individual becomes more important than external conditions such as social reputation, position, and gender.

Defying Social Expectations: Attitude over Aptitude

It is the common perception of the society at large that women entrepreneurs are less competitive and aggressive and don't possess strong negotiating skills as compared to their male counterparts. We also often find women entrepreneurs to be a little afraid on stating what they clearly want and demanding what is fair in business deals. Women today need to arm themselves more with a fighting spirit and self-confidence in order to explore and establish themselves in new fields.

At the same time we should also not conform ourselves to a man's idea of what a leader should look like. Woman or not any business will fail if you are not ready to defend or fight for it. Women should not worry about coming off to aggressive and should realize it is okay to find their voice in situations that demand it.

Carving Out a Niche in "Unconventional Businesses'

The most challenging path a woman entrepreneur can take is when she decides to explore an unconventional territory. But often upon these paths are where sheroes are born. Tackling an unconventional field poses a plethora of obstacles that a woman might have to overcome including insubordination by male colleagues, difficult clients and apprehensive customers to name a few.

Women no doubt have to work hard to change the perception of people but slowly and steadily this perception is changing. However, in order to propel this change in perception further, we need to build the right climate to encourage women to take the plunge and experiment in different fields.

A few steps could be incorporated in boosting women entrepreneurship in the country. There should be more Non-Profit Organizations dedicated to women. Organizations which are dedicated to improving the social and economic future of women can prove to be a tremendous resource. These groups can provide mentoring and networking opportunities, educational scholarships and funding for women to start their own businesses.

Financial help by corporate grants is another medium through which women entrepreneurs can bloom and secure financial independence. The concept of entrepreneurship should also be introduced to the girls at a young age. Programmes can be conducted to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in young girls which can help inspire a future generation of business owners

With an integrated support from both community and the government, women entrepreneurs can establish a strong foothold in any field they venture into.

Alex Suh

General Director (data analysis), True Balance

Alex Suh is the General Director of data analysis at True Balance.
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