Women in India and their attitude towards life and their careers(if any) have to be understood against the backdrop of a social set up which has evolved over a period of no less than a few thousand years, carrying traces of older customs while adapting as per the political and economic demands of the time.
Through this historical time, the status of women has seen phases of acute decline with alternating phases of limited empowerment. The prevalence or not, of a possible environment which could provide a scope for creating value even during those few phases of limited empowerment is where the discussion ought to start from.
So, did Indian women have the surroundings and experiences which are essential to nurture the psyche of an entrepreneur? Did they get the support required from their families and the State? How has their journey towards an entrepreneurial role been? These are a few of the questions we will be mulling over while attempting to understand “women entrepreneurship” in India.
Historically speaking, it would be wrong to say that women were “always” denied education or scope for learning value creating skills in India. Since the ancient times, women scholars and their wisdom have been recorded in texts and they were known to participate in the labour force as agricultural labourer, artisans, etc.
They did add value to production, whether measured or not .The point that needs to be taken up in this context is the novelty with which they used their skills for value creation.
In India, it has been widely noted that women have been “socially” regarded as beings with “inferior intellect “, the ones who are more “emotional” and hence suited mostly for care giving roles either at home or outside. Besides this debilitating stereotype, women are also brought up within the confines of gender roles with lack of adequate exposure to develop an aptitude for entrepreneurial ventures.
The social setup, to add to this, tends to discourage the attempt by women to work on their ideas independently by often engineering multiple constraints( legal, financial and familial). After all, if you do not trust a woman’s intellect in the first place, how much capital would you possibly invest while betting on her idea?
Dr. B. R Ambedhkar, the father of the Indian Constitution was all for “equality of status and opportunity”. Legally thus, at this point there is a definite twist in the story. So, did the society go hand in hand with the new age legal provisions? In the 70 years since independence, how far have women been able to grab opportunities to create wealth and value as entrepreneurs? Let us take a look.
India has been ranked amongst the worst performing countries in the area of women entrepreneurship in gender-focused global entrepreneurship survey which was released by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute in July 2013.Out of the 17 countries, India ranks 16th where countries like Turkey, Morocco and Egypt have outperformed India.
At present, most of the entrepreneurial roles of women have been observed to be concentrated in the large scale industries and technology based businesses. This sector with women entrepreneurs form a mere fraction in terms of the potential women workforce that can be tapped as a whole.
Women participation in small scale industries has been woefully low. The policy makers have realized this inequality in distribution of women entrepreneurs and are thus working on promoting women entrepreneurship in small scale industries at present. Much work has to be done to make the small scale industries conducive to the needs of these entrepreneurs. As per the third all- India Census of Small Scale Industries, only 10.11% of micro and small enterprises are owned by women while only 9.46% of them are managed by women.
In order to better understand the different areas where women entrepreneurs feature in the socio-economic dynamics of the country, the next step in the study will be to categorize them under four broad pillars to begin with.
Under these pillars we could further categorize women in three basic categories. This division can be based on the following parameters:
Despite differences in geographical locations, education, financial positions and sectors of the economy where women play the role of entrepreneurs, there are a few common challenges that women face that have been noted as per research over time . These are as follows :
In India, since independence, it has been noted that policy initiatives towards women have been more welfare oriented than development oriented. This was the case till around the 70s. It was only since the 1970s that a definite shift was observed in this approach.
The 70s saw more emphasis being given on the process of development for a change. Consequently the 80s saw a multi-disciplinary approach with special focus on health, education and employment. Women’s development was made a priority in all sectors, particularly in the Small Scale industries. The government and non governmental bodies started giving more attention to women’s economic contribution through self employment and business ventures.
The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises development organizations, State Small Industries Development Corporations, Nationalized banks and NGOs have of late been conducting various Entrepreneurship Development Programmes to help women who do not have sufficient educational qualifications and skills for entrepreneurial ventures.
The Office of DC ( Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) has opened a Women’s Cell to facilitate and support women entrepreneurs facing specific problems. With the aim of inclusive development, decentralized state specific schemes are being provided to ensure training plus income generating opportunities for needy women who lack the means to a support system for their own enterprises and ventures. Small Industries Development bank of India ( SIDBI) has also been implementing special schemes for women entrepreneurs. MSMEs provide special incentives and concessions to women entrepreneurs.
At present, the Government of India has over 27 schemes to help women find the necessary environment to develop the psyche towards entrepreneurship . A few of them are as follows :
These schemes are recent developments where the government has started on the path to securing the environment required for women to help them to start dreaming of entrepreneurship as a career. There is a long way to go though, for measurable results to show.
A few recommendations regarding approach to the issue at hand, emerges out of the above discussion. The recommendations are meant to be broad guidelines that can be kept in mind while framing future policies. These should help re-shape the entire narrative of prospects for women entrepreneurship in the country and accelerate the growth process with added scope for employment generation as well.