I am delighted to be the guest editor of this special issue of Outlook Money, on a topic that is close to my heart – women entrepreneurship. This year’s International Women’s day theme—‘I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights’, is very relevant, and it is high time humankind recognised this and gave women what’s theirs. Isn’t it ironical that women are revered as Goddesses in prayer and acclaimed Shakti (power) but considered weaker in real life? I believe entrepreneurship is gender-neutral. Women entrepreneurship is not just about celebrating women in leadership—it’s about all women, whether they are CEOs or entrepreneurs, or managing their homes with love and care.
Entrepreneurship by women has always been around. Just that it lacked public acknowledgment. For centuries, women have toiled in the fields, sold flowers and little things, even ran schools and shops, dealt with money, taken risks, and even braved economic cycles as deftly as men.
It is heartening to see how women today have progressed in every field -- they have set up new businesses, taken on the mantle of family businesses; they are running banks, IT companies, pharma companies, hotel chains and the list goes on.
So what does it take to become an entrepreneur? Well, I believe that one of the first steps for a woman to be able to unleash her full potential is to believe in herself – believe that she has what it takes to survive and thrive.
The next is to dream big and not let social barriers come in the way, for you will not be able to nurture wings to fly unless you aim for the sky. A seeking and curious mind and investing in yourself through education is necessary for it forms a strong foundation. Hard work and perseverance creates the flight path and learning from each experience and applying it helps you progress.
Taking risks and trying out something new, taking up a new role or challenge while building your own ecosystem of support through family, friends and mentors. And finally, building nerves of steel and a ‘never give up’ attitude will help you get there, for that will help you to overcome the challenges that you will encounter in your journey towards entrepreneurship.
The need of the hour is for the world to wake up to the rich benefits of fostering women leaders. Empowering women economically boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality, in addition to other positive development outcomes for the nation and the world.
Families, communities, societies and governments – all play a vital role in enabling women entrepreneurship. I am convinced supporting women in becoming entrepreneurs is a necessity for both economic growth and social transformation. And recognising that is the most important step. We urgently need the right policies and support structures that will ensure women are in no way at a disadvantage, just because of their gender.
Law amendments relating to maternity leave, daycare workplace harassment, more women on boards are all steps in the right direction. Building supportive infrastructure and enforcement of these policies, can happen through public-private partnerships.
Finally, does a woman become an entrepreneur out of necessity, or something else?
I feel its about living on her own terms.
MD and CEO, CRISIL