Women and entrepreneurial roles

Shilpa R Kulkarni
Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Here are a few reflections on what drives women to break the glass ceiling and start their own ventures

Does women entrepreneurship mean that every woman who starts her own business, whether big or small, is an entrepreneur?

Well, the word entrepreneurship has great power. It stands for the strength within. An entrepreneur has to first believe in herself. Then, a true entrepreneur must possess risk bearing ability. She should be able to accept challenges and change strategies as per the situation. She should be one who can maintain a fine balance between work life and family and motivate her employees to fulfill the economic goals set by her.
It’s not an easy path. In fact, if you want to be an entrepreneur, be ready to get tested more than you can ever imagine in your life. You are tossed, challenged — financially, emotionally, technically, physically — in all possible directions. Patience is the key to sustain yourself. The one who survives all odds and has an unwavering determination and enthusiasm, will taste the fruits of success.

Today, women are boldly plunging into entrepreneurship or working in corporate fields or paid occupations. They have long back passed the infantry level of our orthodox culture and have become more independent. They are able to accept challenges and have learnt the art of walking on the tight rope of life, balancing personal and professional fronts boldly and confidently. A few entrepreneurs who have managed to remain at the top, surviving heavy competition are, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder and Managing Director of Biocon Ltd, Vandana Luthra of VLCC, Ekta Kapoor, the woman who gave a new dimension to television in India, Richa Kar, founder of Zivame and Ajaita Shah, founder and CEO of Frontier Markets that manufactures energy products for rural parts. And there are plenty of women entrepreneurs who have won laurels for their commendable achievements and leadership qualities and these include even unsung heroes likes the owners of Wada Pav stalls, tea stalls, tiffin service providers and so on.

There could be plenty of motivational factors that kindle the entrepreneurial spirit in a woman. To jot down just a few of them — a woman may see her role as an entrepreneur as creation of a business, she may find entrepreneurship an opportunity to be on ground floor of a new exciting business, she may take it up to gain more respect for her skills and talents, to make more money than she could while working for someone else, to gain better life, to build a team with same goals and so on. 
Today’s women do not require any titles to prove their leadership qualities. They are already playing vital and leading roles in their families, in public domains, in workplaces, thereby acting as catalysts of social change and democratic development. 

However, despite the fact that women’s capabilities, as mentioned above, have been recognised, the positions at the top level are still very rigid. Only 7.7 per cent women climb the hierarchy and reach the board levels and just 2.2 per cent are in board chairs. It has been observed that our culture poses many barriers for a woman to reach the top. It is extremely necessary for her to have a strong support system if she wishes to reach the top as it demands a high level of commitment in terms of time, work, money, punctuality and responsibility.

It is necessary to mention that a large number of female population belongs to agricultural sector. Realising their roles in agricultural production, they fundamentally function as wives, mothers, and helpers in the running of the households, facing a lot of encumbrance. Even when we are talking about modernisation, there are many rural women who are landless and are working as labourers in other’s farms, with no financial security, no support from in-laws in the eventuality of the death of the breadwinner of the house or divorce. These are the stark realities of the career side of a rural woman as against her urban counterpart.

Of course, there is an improvement in government and non-government institutions for supporting entrepreneurial activities. The Women and Child Development department has launched several income-generating schemes wherein assistance is provided in setting up the training cum income generating activities for the needy women entrepreneurs.

Therefore, the entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship/ leadership commitment has to go beyond traditional outlook and boundaries where both men and women play a key role in fulfilling an organisation’s economic goals thereby proving that “Leadership is action and not position.” 

(The writer is the Founder Secretary, The Matrix Educational Foundation)

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