- It has been exactly a week since International Women's Day when we were spammed with ads related to struggles women go through every day.
- However, we have all forgotten about their contributions and struggles a week later, and moved on.
- Anushka Iyer, Founder and CEO, Wiggles.in writes a few challenges that women founders face in our country.
'Be a man,’ is the most common advice women entrepreneurs receive. And it is this very gender stereotype that needs to be shattered. The business world is no longer a ‘man's world.’ There has been a spurt of women entrepreneurs in recent years but not without facing their more than fair share of challenges while building their start-ups.
As gender stereotypes, lack of support from mentors, unequal pay, lack of financial backing and many other issues continue to exist, here are a few elementary challenges that women founders face daily in spite of the changing times.
Getting A Seat At The Table
According to the sixth economic census, by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), women comprise as much as 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs in India. One of the uncomfortable realities of being a female leader is walking into a meeting and realizing that you’re one of the few women in the room among your male counterparts. The pressure of being the only one is undoubtedly overwhelming. The odd one out is often treated differently and subjected to discrimination. With such challenges, women find it hard to speak up and voice their opinion. Women need to support each other in their journey to the top. More women leaders need to turn role models and flow against the tide. Instead of sitting back, it is imperative to step forward and make a lasting impression by being both seen and heard.
Policies that don’t help
Financial and HR policies don't make it any easier for women. Most financial institutions favour men over women when it comes to providing loans. Even the HR policies, although they are now being altered, make it difficult for women to take an extended maternity leave and ultimately, she may not be considered for an upcoming promotion although she is deserving of it. Financial institutions and banks do not consider unmarried women, working women or young women as ‘proper applicants’ for loans since it is the general belief that her business plan is going to be short lived.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling
For some of us, the ceiling is considered a mere illusion, but for the rest, it is still very real and exists despite many women shattering it time and time again. Opinionated and passionate are seen as ‘crazy’ and shut down when they voice their opinions. Their ideas are seen as ‘impractical’ or ‘unrealistic’ and often confused with the women being too emotional. The struggle to shatter the glass ceiling is another hurdle that is stopping women from becoming leaders. But, things are changing gradually. As mentioned in a study by Google and Bain & company, today, India has 13.5–15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20% of all enterprises. This definitely becomes a talking point for future generations.
The market, especially for entrepreneurs, is male-dominated. Women still struggle to find their place in a man’s world. There is already a lot of competition in the market when it comes to operations, marketing, organizing and setting up your business, add to that a patriarchal society where a woman is discouraged every step of the way, it gets harder for women to pursue their dreams.
Women entrepreneurs have to rely on their own savings or family and friends to get the seed money to start their own business. As for women who do start their business, finding investors and convincing them to believe in her is a whole other challenge, as her abilities are often doubted. Less than 3% of all capital in the world is invested into female founders. All in a time when 93% of daily purchases are made by women. This massive surge in female led funds does prove that people are investing in female founders, so there is indeed a shift happening.
A lot of us ask ourselves, ‘Can we really have it all?’ In reality, men and women in leadership positions are challenged with balancing their career and personal life, it is a given. However, women are expected to play a larger role when it comes to juggling responsibilities as compared to their male partners. Working mothers, single mothers have the responsibility of taking care of their children, the family and their business. Trying to create a balance between the two, leaves a person feeling exhausted and unable to perform their best.
There’s a lot of skepticism around women entrepreneurs ‘making it.’ They are not taken seriously enough, her business is seen as a hobby and nothing more. When faced with such issues, it becomes a challenge for most women to convince investors, her family, the society that she means business.
In the workplace, much like everywhere else, women continue to face unfair gender biases and discriminations. However, a different perspective, can show these obstacles and challenges as stepping stones to make one stronger and resilient to face any obstacles. The way in which a difficult journey unfolds will always bring in a positive impact and inspire everyone to handle difficult situations with finesse.
Post-COVID, the world has changed. It has made us realize that we are just a tiny minuscule part of this universe and the saying, “To live and let live” holds true. If it's going to be the survival of the fittest, women are definitely all armed to take the world by storm now. Come to think of it, bring on the challenges, a woman’s going to find her way through it all.