In 2018, a young entrepreneur from Jaipur registered a company selling beeswax candles. She worked with indigenous artisans from marginalized village communities across India to create safe, sustainable products. In just a few years she has grown her business many times over and helped create livelihoods for over 800 women.
Meanwhile, another Maharashtra entrepreneur was trying to make a name for herself. Coming from a community where women did not work, she convinced her husband to let her be part of their family business. Today she is at the helm and her statue making business has grown internationally. This move changed her role in her own family and empowered other women in the community to strive for financial independence.
Women entrepreneurs are a catalyst for change in Indian communities – they become role models, create opportunities and strengthen the societies in which they operate.
More than an economic growth story
Undoubtedly, women entrepreneurs are an integral part of India’s growth. According to a report by Google and Bain & Company, there are 13.5-15.7 million women-owned businesses in India, accounting for 20% of all Indian businesses. The World Economic Forum sees empowering women as a key to economic recovery. But companies run by women contribute more than just GDP. The unique role of women in the community, family structure and child-rearing makes them key agents of change. They make a significant contribution to economic development and poverty reduction, as well as to empowering the people and communities around them by changing social mindsets, breaking down prejudice and creating a more collaborative and less discriminatory work culture.
Today, women entrepreneurs in India are shaping and transforming the future of communities by:
- Improving the standard of living – Female entrepreneurs contribute to the income flowing into their households. They are also more likely to improve the economic prosperity of the area in which they live. By employing people from the community, they improve the social and economic parameters of their place.
- Promote inclusion and break down prejudices – Female entrepreneurs are more likely to promote more meaningful social and cultural changes in gender norms than their male counterparts. They lower restrictive barriers for others entering the field, form more collaborative and trusting partnerships, and inspire longer-lasting change to make their industries more accessible and inclusive. Our data shows that 75% of employees in the women-owned companies we support are women.
- Empower future generations – Encouraging entrepreneurship gives women the means to pay for their children’s education and feeding. A study has shown that 65% of women entrepreneurs spend most of their income on food and 53% on children’s education, helping to lay the foundation for better educated and healthier generations. A good example is in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where women farmers who built watersheds to create nutrient gardens ended up improving their families’ diets with fresh, homegrown vegetables.
- Paving a way for other women – Contributing to family finances gives women more autonomy in decision-making, mobility, financial independence, a stronger voice in the home and more autonomy in relation to their reproductive health. Additionally, by stepping out of the constraints of their community, female entrepreneurs become role models for other women to take similar steps and achieve financial freedom.
Investing in the future of India
Despite their potential to boost economic and social growth, women entrepreneurs in India are fighting an uphill battle. They struggle with social constructs, prejudice, and an ecosystem skewed heavily in favor of their male counterparts. There is an urgent need to invest in creating supportive ecosystems and to bring together allies who together can advance women’s entrepreneurship in India.
The views expressed above are the author’s own.
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