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Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs Should Thrive on Work-Life Blend Successful women entrepreneurs are confident of not only their ventures but also themselves thus allowing a larger risk appetite

By Archanna Das

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Women entrepreneurship has been recognized as an important catalyst of economic growth. From a professional standpoint, while they contribute to employment generation, they are also able to render unique business solutions that help in the evolution of society. On the social front, women entrepreneurs not only play a pivotal role in the well-being of their families and communities, they also are a critical element in contributing to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thus, Governments across the world are actively encouraging women entrepreneurs through various schemes, incentives and promotional measures.

However, a recent economic survey shares a few alarming statistics. Though the rise in women entrepreneurship, leadership and talent is an established fact, the numbers at the top are not changing. In India, women make up 42% of new graduates, but only 24% of entry-level professionals. Of these, about 19% reach senior-level management roles. Women hold only 7.7% of board seats and just 2.7% of board chairs. Businesses across sectors have only a fraction of women leaders.

To further encourage women entrepreneurship at the grass root level, it is imperative that women adopt a "lean-in" style of methodology. Easier said than done as the concept of work-life blend for women has not evolved enough for all women to confidently hone both soft and professional skill sets which deters them from balancing their personal and professional lives enough to rise to leadership roles.

Understanding the patterns of women leaders:

Based on frequent interactions and observations with several women entrepreneurs, some of the patterns that are consistent in women in leadership positions are:

  • Non-traditional leadership style: The new age women leader is no longer confined to the traditional, done and dusted approach to running her enterprise. Women today are ready to explore newer management decisions/styles and explore paths that haven't been explored.

  • Large risk appetite: Successful women entrepreneurs are confident of not only their ventures but also themselves thus allowing a larger risk appetite. This openness to taking risks can have some great impact to the way one would look to the growth of a company.

  • Encourage participation: Women entrepreneurs encourage healthy discussions amongst teams which results in boosting morale and confidence of other team members.

  • Are assertive: Gone are the days when women would be considered as mild counterparts. A woman at the helm of her company, today, is as assertive as any other team member within an organization.

  • Bringing in the emotional quotient: Women leaders, by nature tend to be better at emotional empathy than men, in general, which allows the building of team rapport and chemistry.

Truth be told, women entrepreneurs still represent a minority. A critical reason for this is the dearth of role models, communities, mentors or professionals networks available that can help guide them during their entrepreneurial journey. This is even more apparent for women entrepreneurs especially in under-served communities or in less formal business. For this aspect to be addressed, some very critical areas that need to be further encouraged and developed are:

  1. Leadership development: More women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to take on leadership roles. Women need to overcome their inhibitions of "what-ifs" and be assured that they do hold the potential to lead teams and run a business. Providing leadership coaching programs and creating peer support groups, can help boost confidence that will allow better business decisions.

  2. Understand the work-life blend concept: Women struggle to balance their lives. They tend to believe that their work life is different from their social life. Instead, women need to focus on consciously blending the two aspects which will help ease the struggle of the juggling act.

  3. Interact and network with other women: Interacting with like-minded women can be one of the easiest ways for women to address their challenges as women entrepreneurs. Meeting other women leaders can inspire creativity, build knowledge and make future business goals seem attainable. For this, women leaders not only need to be open to learning but also sharing from like-minded entrepreneurs.

  4. Celebrate critiques as well as accolades: An observing pattern amongst women entrepreneurs is that while careful attention is paid to the critiques, women leaders often tend to brush their victories as they are more steadfast in their focus towards improvement. While focus is imperative, women leaders must appreciate their victories as well.

  5. Build a support system: Women entrepreneurs need encouragement and support to start a business with ideas that resonate with their abilities, interests and skills. Peer-to-peer learning platforms and associations serve as the best way for women to interact with like-minded leaders who over a period of time evolved as a strong support system.

Building a support system for women entrepreneurs to thrive and grow

Peer-to-peer platforms play a unique role in the development of an entrepreneur. One aspect of the peer-to-peer platform would, of course, be to allow entrepreneurs to interact and learn from one another. The other aspect, which is lesser known, is that peer-to-peer platforms allow entrepreneurs to forge bonds of trust and friendship that go much beyond colleagues and acquaintances at a professional level.

Peer to peer platforms help women entrepreneurs realize the potential they harbor within themselves. Based on discussions, feedback and observations from women entrepreneurs, they draw confidence of the capability and ability that they possess.

These platforms also serve as an excellent platform to draw clarity of thought as members from the peer-to-peer platform push entrepreneurs to understand the intent and purpose of establishing her business. Instant feedback from other industry veterans' help entrepreneurs make quick and informed decisions thus opening new avenues of knowledge and information. Peer-to-peer platforms also bring out the natural ability of women to network. At peer-to-peer platforms, entrepreneurs are not restricted to mere "business-oriented" benefits, but also are able to expand the horizons of personal knowledge and growth.

These learning and benefits cannot be pinned down by a number that quantifies the ROI. Though the benefits of these support systems can only be measured by the increase in the emotional, physical and mental satisfaction levels at both the personal and professional arenas of life.

Archanna Das

Associate Director, ASCENT Foundation

Archanna is a sustainability, brand and communication management professional who has played a number of roles in her career of over 11 years spanning IT, ITES and financial services. 
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