Gender disparities in India’s startup economy - Challenges and opportunities - Hindustan Times

Gender disparities in India’s startup economy - Challenges and opportunities for equality

ByHindustan Times
Oct 31, 2023 11:49 AM IST

This article is authored by Kajal Malik, co-founder and CBO, PickMyWork.

India, boasting the title of the third-largest startup ecosystem globally, is marred by a glaring issue of the stark gender disparities within its entrepreneurial landscape. This lamentable state of affairs reflects deeply entrenched societal norms that have persisted for generations. Gender bias within the industry persists in various forms, from unequal pay to fewer opportunities for leadership roles. Insufficient representation in decision-making roles remains a prominent challenge, hindering inclusivity. The absence of female founders not only hampers diversity but also deprives the startup ecosystem of fresh perspectives and innovative ideas.

Gender equality(Getty Images/iStockphoto) PREMIUM
Gender equality(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To address the gender disparities in India’s startup economy, it’s crucial to identify and confront the underlying challenges:

  • Access to funding: Women entrepreneurs frequently encounter challenges in obtaining capital, primarily due to gender biases prevalent in the investment sector. Research from Tracxn reveals that startups led by female founders constitute just 18 % of all funded ventures in India. Fostering a greater presence of female investors and venture capitalists can play a vital role in narrowing this funding disparity.
  • Networking and mentorship: Building a strong network and mentorship relationships are critical in the startup world. Women often encounter challenges in accessing such networks, hindering their growth prospects.
  • Work-life balance: Balancing the demands of entrepreneurship with family responsibilities can be especially challenging for women. Supportive policies and flexible work arrangements can alleviate this burden.
  • Cultural stereotypes: Societal expectations and stereotypes about women’s roles can discourage them from pursuing entrepreneurship. Promoting positive role models and challenging these stereotypes is essential.

Promoting gender equality in the startup ecosystem goes beyond a moral obligation; it presents a strong business rationale. Extensive research by McKinsey & Company discloses that companies that prioritise gender diversity are 28 % more likely to achieve financial success compared to their competitors. These findings underscore that gender diversity isn’t solely a social aspiration but also a strategic edge for startups.

To foster a more inclusive and equitable startup ecosystem, several key opportunities stand out:

  • Promoting women in leadership: Encouraging more women to take up leadership roles within startups and venture capital firms can lead to more inclusive decision-making processes.
  • Gender-neutral policies: Startups should adopt gender-neutral policies, including equal pay and opportunities, to create a more inclusive work environment.
  • Investor diversity: Encouraging more women to become angel investors and venture capitalists can help close the funding gap for women-led startups.
  • Educational initiatives: Implementing programmes that provide women with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in the startup world can be transformative.
  • Supportive ecosystem: Developing a supportive ecosystem that includes mentorship programmes, networking events, and forums specifically tailored to women entrepreneurs can foster their growth.

The gender disparity in India’s startup economy is not just a matter of concern for women; it is an impediment for the entire nation. This is because achieving gender equality in entrepreneurship is not only a societal debt but also an economic one. Supported by research from the McKinsey Global Institute, this concept gains further credibility, indicating that enhancing equal opportunities could potentially contribute a substantial $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025. Consequently, it becomes imperative for policymakers, international development organisations, investors, private companies, and civil society groups to unite their efforts, mobilise resources, and enact policies that empower women in establishing their enterprises. Crucial resources such as business management training, financial support via loan programmes, and technical assistance are urgently required to fortify the expansion of businesses led by women.

This article is authored by Kajal Malik, co-founder and CBO, PickMyWork.

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