Natural Prejudice Seems to be Biggest Barrier for Women in Entrepreneurship

Women in Entrepreneurship! Even after 73 summers of independence, this phrase pleasantly raises a few eyebrows. And the 'pleasantly' that I added before the raise doesn't sound as pleasant as it should be. Rather, it is a matter of concern for our country. According to a census, women make only around 14% of the business leadership class in India. No matter how many women's days we celebrate, the reality lies in the fact that we haven't been that successful in having better participation of women. Recently, India secured the 108th position out of 149 countries in the gender gap index by the World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report 2018.
We wanted to know the questions before we get the answers and that is why we asked the first person who can answer these better than anyone else. we asked the women themselves and here is everything we got to know. So here is what 10 women founders think about the contribution of women in the startup ecosystem and why it is lagging behind, despite so many efforts? We got them to answer.

Ar. Arushi Bansal, Interior Design Director at AND Studio
If we take into consideration the level of dedication and the amount of stress involved in starting a high-growth company, many women choose not to pursue this industry due to lifestyle choices and other priorities. Also, the natural prejudice that continues to exist in the startup community can be a pitfall for women, especially while networking and obtaining funding. Considering the small percentage of women in venture capitalism, these drawbacks sometimes create more of an obstacle for female entrepreneurs. Another reason that could hamper the involvement of women in this domain is that there are not enough role models for inspiration. Women who have boldly defied the norms are missing from the limelight and lack exposure.

Madhura Moulik, Co-Founder, Skilfinity
Gender diversity in various industries in India is quite low leading to a massive dearth of women leaders who can eventually become part of the startup community. I think the change can happen when parents and even the education system encourage more girl-child to make their own career choices based on their aptitude.
In the current condition, various start-up incubators and government bodies can provide a platform for women entrepreneurs and thus build role-models to inspire the next generation.

Ms Yogita Tulsiani, CEO at iXceed Solutions(HR Tech Startup)
Acceptance of women entrepreneurs

  • Female entrepreneurs are judged to be less competent than their male peers.
  • Perceived bias within the venture finance community is a concern.
  • Women typically have higher risk-awareness than men and are more cautious about starting or scaling a business,
  • Women are less likely to believe they possess entrepreneurial skills:
  • Women are less likely than men to know other entrepreneurs or to have access to sponsors, mentors or professional support networks

Himani Khanna, Co-Founder & Director at Continua Kids
Its more about a taboo which is not allowing women entrepreneur to mushroom but I look forward to inspirational people like Indra Nooyi who have crafted their path against all odds. The real breakthrough in human flight didn’t come from crafting better wings or using more feathers by which I mean even if the numbers are less but we simply cannot be ignored of our contributions in the society. I always look forward to women like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who are leading a few of the powerful organizations and leaving a huge imprint on society.

Dr. Pooja Chhabra, Co-Founder at Nuskay Skincare
It’s changing now, however slow & steady but the change is evident. The new India has more people taking risks, irrespective of the gender. Women-owned firms are less as of now, But it is growing against all the odds and challenges.
However, it is still a difficult road.  Society is not fully supportive towards women’s entrepreneurship, even now. People still believe women lack entrepreneurship skills and being taken seriously is itself a task. Women entrepreneurs have to stand tall against gender bias, difficult access to funds and male-dominated market.

Ms. Avni Kaul, Nutritionist, Wellness Coach & Certified Diabetes Educator, Founder at NutriActivania
In my opinion, it is not correct to generalize that women’s contribution is too less. There are actually many factors that in my view could be some of the reasons as far as women’s role in the Indian start-up community is concerned. Starting a business or a venture needs plenty of thinking and support too. I think even if someone wants to go for start-up several thoughts like finance, planning, support, and other factors are considered. Still, starting something new is never easy owing to various factors. But if you look around there are women who are actually quite successful in start-ups. And there are various companies across different dimensions of India where you can find many successful women who are playing a key role in start-ups. I don’t know how you look at it but if you look at some of the brands they were established even before the start-up era like Amul and Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad and they are some of the classic examples where women were the chief role players. So, this is enough to justify that women have a role.

Akriti Khatri, Founder at Venus Detective Agency
Women start up is less in the community, as in today era parents are sending their both male and females children to school, But as the time comes to accomplish the dream male are supported whereas females are suppressed with the excuse that they have to be married and take care of their family so what’s the need of job. Even today there are very less women who are allowed to breath outside & follow their dreams. These all are the factors due to which women are still less contributing in startup as they can’t built confidence in them.

Kriti Jindal, Owner and Designer at Kari by Kriti
I think it is the fear and to a certain extent reality that women are treated differently. It’s changing now, but that disparity is definitely a contributor that pulls women down. According to an article that I recently read on Demium, there are fewer women leading startups because of these four reasons:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Financial insecurities
  3. Sterotypes and
  4. Work life balance
    I think these four reasons hold true for women in any geography, not just in India.

Meha Bhargava, Founder at Styl.Inc
According to research by Columbia Business School and London Business School, businesses led by women are 63 percent less likely to obtain venture capital (VC) funding than those led by men.
While women don’t have the same glass ceiling issue they face in the corporate sector, in the startup community there is still a skewed mix of male founders and male lead successful startups.
Some of the reasons I feel are:

  • The psychology and mindset of investors may need more time to change
  • The diversity mix in business schools is still skewed towards males which can be an indicator of people moving towards entrepreneurship as a career.

Imaan Javan, Director at Suntuity Renewable Energy India
The kind of encouragement and boost the Indian start-up community needs is largely expected from the government. A variety of organizations and government bodies need to come together to play their respective roles in increasing the contribution of women to the start-ups of today’s India. Most importantly, a positive attitude about women entrepreneurship needs to be promoted on a large scale through role models and ambassadors, which will help in building the required confidence among women and give them the necessary push to come forward. Also, failure should not be looked down upon but considered a crucial learning step when it comes to start-ups. I also believe that India would benefit immensely from structured training and mentoring on honing one’s entrepreneurial skills, and I feel that this should start as early as possible right from early college years. Networking is highly essential in the start-up scenario and building linkages can expedite the establishment of a business or market penetration. Promoting a healthy work-life balance can also help women entrepreneurs as it will take a lot of load off them and allow them to focus on their dreams and ambitions. Women protection is also an extremely high level of concern in India that many a times deters people from coming forward and impedes them from reaching their maximum potential. I also strongly believe that there is tremendous potential in Rural India, which is untapped especially for women entrepreneurs. I feel a lot needs to be done in this direction to bring out the best in our country.

Swati Chugh, Director at 7th Heaven
In our country we have taught women to be good caretakers and to be good followers but not confident leaders. Hence you will see a lot of women being good home makers or excellent employees, but they will not be comfortable to start their own company. Starting a business requires certain personality traits and in our country, till now, we have not really worked on building the personality of the girl child so that she becomes more risk taking, takes effective decisions, solves her own problems, acquires the correct knowledge and becomes technologically advanced. We did not expect her to be a leader, and hence she was never influenced to become one.These trends are rapidly changing and these days more and more families and women are realising the need to raise a girl child as an individual who can fulfil her own potential as compared toan individual who is supposed to only fulfil certain pre-defined roles.

Dr. Patricia Connolly, CEO at SMC Squared
Humbly, I’ll try to answer this question. When my company sponsored an Anita B breakfast in Bangalore, we welcomed many Indian women leaders, new college grads all the way up to C-level, accomplished women to the event. Several had started new ventures in addition to going to college, raising a family, and working in corporate firms. It was inspiring to listen to their stories, challenges and openness. I was in awe of the intelligence, perseverance, and passion they brought forward and shared that day!
During that morning and at other conversations, I do sense a stressfulness, perhaps a deficiency, with women’s involvement in the in the Indian start-up community. I don’t see a simple answer to this question. What I do sense is that the seeds of greatness are there. Women of all generations should take their place, drive their ideas, and keep building. You can do this!

Neha Bagaria, Founder & CEO at JobsForHer
Only a quarter of India’s workforce is female. According to the India Skills Report 2018, the economic participation of women in the workforce has fallen from 32% in 2016 to 23% in 2018. The 2019 JobsForHer Benchmarking Report shows that a gender gap exists at all levels of the pipeline for women, 56% of the companies surveyed mentioned that they have greater than 30% women at entry level but widens as they move towards senior management/CEO levels and 56% of the companies mentioned that they have less than 10% women.
Only, 48% of the companies (large, SMEs and Startups) surveyed are actively recruiting more women returnees. This indicates the tremendous efforts that still needs to be done to pave the way for women's inclusion.

Chinu Kala, Founder at Rubans Accessories
I strongly feel that times are changing ….and changing fast.
It has taken many years for women to start thinking of doing something for themselves and the society. Imagine a time when all women start working - the Indian workforce will just double up. This is one of the key reasons that other countries have been able to grow rapidly. But as I said earlier - times are changing - and we are already seeing a shift in the next generation. With more women pursuing careers, India’s growth will be compounded in the next decade as we will have more participation from women in the country’s growth story.

Nirupama Subramanian, CoFounder at GLOW and My Daughter is Precious
At GLOW, we mentor and support women entrepreneurs and have heard first hand about some of the barriers, external and internal that women face. The biggest barrier  is cultural and personal factors that inhibit women from taking the plunge and taking risks. There is not much support from the family, There is a fear that being an entrepreneur will lead to personal sacrifices. Many women don't have the self confidence to power through. One of the things we hear about is limited access to funding- Women may not own property in their own name, women face the Maternal Wall bias if they have children. Women are not seen as natural born leaders. This comes in the way of active support  for women. There are many incubators for women entrepreneurs and we hope things will improve in the startup community.

Mansi Gupta, Founder Tjori
There are certain factors like unconscious gender bias, confidence in business skills, women safety in workplace and majorly access to finance.

Vishakha Chawla, founder at Vishakha Chawla Interiors
In India women can’t decide their fate on own, they need lot of approval from near and dear ones. There is also a misconception that women can’t be leaders, they can’t manage a team, they can’t be the face of the brand. Also I feel there is no support for women on ground level. People are always in doubt of women’s decisions. With internet outspread in the country, I believe things will change. And I am hoping to see many women come out as an entrepreneur and lead their vision on their own terms.

Ms. Moqierish Tak, Co-Founder, India Assist Insights
There are many factors that contribute to the lack of women contribution in the Indian Start-up community ranging from lack of institutional support system for first timers, no risk covering possibility financially, lack of professional mentorship and recognition. Additionally, when it comes to funding, collaborations or running our business, women are scrutinized about how they would manage their but also personal lives in parallel, which is not a filter men are put through.

Sumita Tulsiani, Co-founder & Director at TravelDilSe
The major reason I personally feel why women contribution is still less in the Indian Startup community is lack of social support.  A women is responsible to bear and also largely raise the child and handle the home.  If on this count, women doesn’t receive the required support to balance her personal vs professional life, somewhere the professional life tend to take a back seat over personal life.  Hence if our ecosystems,  creates a strong backup or support system for every aspiring women wanting to come out and do something of her own, then am sure the dynamics of Indian economy on global front will change drastically.

Ankita Sheth, Co-Founder at Vista Rooms
Due to bias towards women entrepreneurs that they might take breaks in their career in order to adhere to their responsibilities at home. Hence, because of the same reason, they are not given enough opportunities to be able to exploit them. However, we see that the trend is slowing changing and more women are coming forward and running businesses.

Pavithra Rao, Cofounder and VP at Growth and Revenue, WaterScience
The same reason there are fewer women in senior management- expectations from society and being primary caregivers for children which does not allow them to take up entrepreneurship wholeheartedly. That said, there are a lot of women who run small businesses that do not come under the definition of startups, as in the VC funded ones. As society evolves, we will definitely see more women embracing entrepreneurship in the future.

Kavya Dommeti, CEO, iB Hubs
Just in the last generation, we have seen a rise in the number of women stepping up to work. Entrepreneurship, on the other hand involves lots of uncertainty and needs persistent efforts even in the face of failure. This needs a lot of courage and support from the community.
iB Hubs is the platform that provides this support that young entrepreneurs need. Right from developing the mindset in the youth, we provide end-to-end assistance assistance to startups where they just need to focus on their core idea and we take care of the rest.
We’re changing the face of entrepreneurship culture in the country in a holistic way.

Dr. Prerna Taneja, Director at Clinic Eximus
Women contribution is too less in the Indian startup community, definitely yes!
This is because of the reason that the policies in our country are not right. It should be seriously looked into. Also, funding here is the biggest issue. We have people around who doesn't believe in funding a women startup as they feel that we can not run a business successfully and can only make loss. With this mindset of our society women are not allowed to go forward and showcase their real talent. With all these negative atmosphere sometimes women step down and leave their dream as it is because somewhere they turn negative themselves due to the surrounding they are fighting in. I would like to tell all those women who want to start their business, you need to understand that there will be a lot of reason to stop and let go your dreams but one reason to fight against all these mindset and move forward to prove them wrong. Keep believing yourself and you will definitely achieve your goal.

Avneet Makkar, Founder & CEO at CarveNiche Technologies Pvt Ltd
Women are lacking in the Startup scene as there is lack of credit protection, no financial risk covering and lack of professional mentoring. Furthermore, when it comes to funding, women are often questioned as to how would they manage family and work together, a filter men are not put through. In order to increase the number of women entrepreneurs in India, we need to improve their access to finance and networks.

Devangi Dalal, Audiologist and Speech Therapist, Co-Founder at JOSH Foundation and first Indian to win the Humanitarian Award from American Academy of Audiology
I think it’s a perception. I think it is an individual’s desire and their ability to come up. If one works hard and is confident about what they do, any individual can do it. Many women are not confident about their capability of whether they will be able to do it. They are scared of taking the responsibility and fear of failure. But failures are also a part of learning.
In many cases, women are still not giving opportunities to reach that level as they are thought to be incapable, feeble, etc. There are still many businesses that are controlled by men not because women cannot do it but simply because they are not given an opportunity to deal with patriarchal businesses and women are kept away from even trying to prove their potential. In many societies, even today, women are expected to betake care of the home and children. This mentality has to change. Our society has to change to make our women self-confident so that they can go out and achieve their dreams. I woman is trained from childhood to take care of the house, cook and be responsible. She manages to achieve this very skillfully. Just imagine if these same women are taught to be self-dependent, they would turn out be great entrepreneurs.

Aditi Dhanu, Founder at Wear Syzygy
1. Gender Bias
Even though this equation is changing rapidly, India has a long way to go to achieve “Gender Equality”
2. Social Barriers and Customs, pertaining to religion and caste (especially in Rural India)
3. Education
4. Access to Sufficient Funds

Ms.Ruchi Garg, CEO, Co-Founder, Venuelook
For centuries, most men have been thanking the women in their family to provide inspiration, motivation, and support that enabled them to achieve extraordinary feats in life. Sadly, eventually, this became the norm – our society’s perfect template! Women are raised to be multi-talented, multi-taskers; to be ladylike (polite, non-aggressive, inclusive); to be dependable; to be empathetic, caring for the family and society. And yet when some of them try to break the society’s perfect template (the glass ceiling), they enter an ugly world that starts to judge them with a bias! There are definitely more existing biases in the society and if we add gender bias to the list too, then opportunities left for women to grow professionally are constrained “Women, from time immemorial, have fought for the right of others, now it’s her time to get her rights realized and get equal participation in the society.” The day I wouldn’t need to write anything about women getting “Equal Rights” in this society, is the day this world will have moved to a dimension of unbound success.

Divya Gupta, Lawyer, Writer, Life Coach, Entrepreneur
In one of my finance events I'd held with women, I enquired why women don't invest under their own name. The response I got from them stated that a lot of women don't know much about finance and investment. Therefore, women are scared to venture into that space.
I believe not enough skill or training is being given to women to step into the startup space. Hence, there should be special programs that focus on skill development and investment training for women.

Mrs. Dildeep Kalra, Director, Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd
I’ve had exposure to working women around me and they have been very supportive and have given me full guidance. I can prioritize my work when it is needed as well as my family. In Indian society, women are traditionally discriminated against and are excluded. However, in the last decades, the situation of women in India has greatly improved. Women in India have gradually started recognizing their true potential. Women have started questioning the rules laid down for them by society. As a result, they have started breaking barriers and earned a respectable position in the world. Today, Indian women have excelled in each and every field from social work to visiting space station. There is no arena, which remains unconquered by Indian women. Whether it is politics, sports, entertainment, literature, technology everywhere, its women power all along. The most important aspect is to change the mindset of the people that women can also make good entrepreneurs. People should be more supportive of them to start their entrepreneurial journey and should pressurize them less to start a household.

Aditi Olemann, Co-founder – Myelin Foundry
I have seen a similar scenario in STEM, where there are far fewer women than what one should expect. It is a societal issue and not a skills issue. However, I think it is changing and in 10 years’ time, we will see an equal number of women taking the entrepreneurial leap of faith.

Shobhana Sriram- Co-Founder and CTO of Quick Ride
Starting your own company, especially in a fast-moving startup world is extremely challenging for anyone as it requires initial funding and being able to breakeven.  Even the uncertainty of success sometimes makes the foray into business challenging but this problem is compounded for women, especially married women, who cannot overlook the primary responsibilities of looking after the family and home or have to deal with the lack of access to appropriate networks and safety in public places.
This is more so in the initial stages of business and tends to ease out as the business develops and grows. Women must learn to tough it out, especially in the formative years of the business.

Barkha Bhatnagar Das, Co-Founder, Greendigo
For starters, the declining sex ratio of India, the world’s second-most populous country, is itself very dismal. Furthermore, lack of the right skillsets and professional mentorship coupled with limited access to networks and finance are some of the factors responsible for women dropping off from the entrepreneurial bandwagon. Apart from this, stereotypical societal biases and discriminatory behavior adversely impact the confidence levels amongst women resulting in many of them suppressing their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Tina Garg, CEO at Pink Lemonade
To me it's a mix of access, culture and capability. Women get left behind in the responsibilities of managing a home. They drop out due to cultural reasons around matrimony, motherhood, elder care, etc. Gradually their abilities and confidence wane. Their networks begin to fade. Again due to culture and financial restrictions, access to infrastructure, opportunities, capital, mentoring, etc. take a dip. Time investments in a startup are immense. Not all women may be able to do that with a double responsibility of a home. Naturally, some dreams fade away and we see fewer women take the risks. However I do see more and more younger women take the leap and am pleased to see this.

Ghazal Aalgh, Co-founder at Mamaearth
Yes, unfortunately this is the case. While many women possess the necessary skills and talents required to run a startup, not many actually end up doing it. Socio-cultural barriers, living in a male dominated society and lack of financial support are some of the factors that hinder Indian women to take up entrepreneurship.

Dr. Prerna Taneja, Director at Clinic Eximus
Women contribution is too less in the Indian startup community, definitely yes!
This is because of the reason that the policies in our country are not right. It should be seriously looked into. Also, funding here is the biggest issue. We have people around who doesn't believe in funding a women startup as they feel that we can not run a business successfully and can only make loss. With this mindset of our society women are not allowed to go forward and showcase their real talent. With all these negative atmosphere sometimes women step down and leave their dream as it is because somewhere they turn negative themselves due to the surrounding they are fighting in. I would like to tell all those women who want to start their business, you need to understand that there will be a lot of reason to stop and let go your dreams but one reason to fight against all these mindset and move forward to prove them wrong. Keep believing yourself and you will definitely achieve your goal.

Vani Kabir - Writer | Brand Strategist | Divorce Monk
This might sound harsh, but true from my space of work. Because their families and husbands or boyfriends mostly never support them. In my career of being a divorce monk, I have seen so many women settling for teaching jobs, home tuitions, craftwork, cooking help, etc while these were not their dream jobs. Every job has its importance in our society and there is a tribe that would lovingly do it. But mostly we force-fit women in jobs and roles where they have to meet certain criteria of being in a family and giving their careers a back seat.

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About Ashwini

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