Are Indian Women Entrepreneurs Lagging behind in the startup space in India?

India has successfully marked its place as one of the largest Startup Unicorns in the world. It, however, has also witnessed a massive plunge in Women Entrepreneurial Activity Rate from 79.6% to 62.1%, with the men is to women entrepreneur ratio standing at 100:7.

Home Entrepreneurship Are Indian Women Entrepreneurs Lagging behind in the startup space in India?

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Women have fallen victim to thousands of years of patriarchy that has snatched the opportunity of standing on equal ground with men for ages. While we, the millennial women, have been able to break the shackles of inequality tieing them down, we still sadly succumb to the sexist practices that have crept their way into the systems to form an invisible, yet visible, line of discrimination.

According to Forbes (1), gender inequality, inadequate support system, and unfavorable business environment are some of the elements that serve as significant challenges for women in business. Another report issued by Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019 (2) states India’s deteriorating situation where the men to women ratio of business owners stands at a feeble 100:7. 


The Downward Trend of Women Entrepreneurship in India

The Government of India launched the Stand-Up India initiative in April 2016, aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among women and SC & ST communities, which failed to lure women entrepreneurs into joining the race to the top in the Startup India game. 

While our country is already a witness to a lower number of women in business, data from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s special Women’s Entrepreneurship Report 2019 (3) displayed a massive -21.9% plunge in Women Entrepreneurial Activity Rate (F/M) from 79.6% to 62.1% in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The reason for the declining rate is due to an increase in men’s entrepreneurial activity rate to 14% from 10.3%, which has led to a widening in the gender gap.

India was ranked at a frivolous 52, out of 57 surveyed countries, falling ahead of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh in the Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019.

However, in the positive light, the Mastercard report states,

“there has been a slight increase in women’s tendency to save to start a business, rising from 4.5% in 2016 to 7.3% in 2018. This suggests that for every 100 women who saved, 7 did so with the intention to use the savings to fund a business startup.” 


Is it about the Fear of Failure or Something More?

According to a fresh research paper published by the Online Research Foundation titled ‘Women entrepreneurs in India: What is holding them back?’ (4) living in a society where women can’t realize their full potential misses out on a significant chance for innovation, economic growth, and job generation. 

A study produced by the McKinsey Global Institute (5) estimated that by advancing women’s equality in India could help boost the country’s GDP by $0.7 trillion in 2025 or 16% in comparison to the ‘business as usual’ scenario. 

India holds an overall Fear of Failure rate of 50%, which demonstrates that more than half of the adult population in India is afraid of commencing their entrepreneurial journey, being risk-averse personalities.

The rate stands at 36% globally and 38% regionally.

Indian women trail most of their global peers as business leaders, professionals workers, entrepreneurs, and workforce participants. However, if we talk about the low entrepreneurial rate of women in India, we must also keep the overall low rate of entrepreneurial activity in India, both for men and women. 


Agents of stunted women entrepreneurship rates

The ORF study traced down the agents and elements that are mainly responsible for low female entrepreneurship rates in India. While the main challenges of starting a business couldn’t be separated, women, in particular, faced an additional barrier that contributed to hindering their success as a business leader in the modern world.


Some of the causes of stunted female entrepreneurship in India are:

  1. Unconscious Gender Bias: Giving credits to the years of sexism that has unconsciously formed judgment regarding women in our heads. We are taught to see women and men in different types of job roles. A large number of female founders have received discrimination based on gender.
  2. Doubting Business Skills: Business is portrayed as a man’s world with the belief that men can only handle financial matters. Sometimes, women themselves become doubtful of their business skills because of the in-built self-degrading mechanisms.
  3. Safety Concerns: Safety is one of the primary reasons why women lag in the race to success, in different races of their lives. Delhi is one of the largest startup hubs of the nation, which also is the largest infesting ground for criminal sexual activities. 


Overall, talking in terms of facts, Indian women are lagging behind in the race of entrepreneurship, but so is entire India. Indian women started working in the corporate sector merely two decades ago, with men having an advantage and confidence in working in the industry forever. Now, both the young men and women are marching towards building their career at an early age through internships at Internshala, and other platforms.

Given the time and space, women of India have progressed to become financially independent but are still moving at a slow pace of stepping ahead in the journey of a female entrepreneur. It, however, is not long before you’ll tell yourstory of rising as a female entrepreneur at the global-level conference.

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Saumya Uniyal
Saumya Uniyal
Saumya has completed her Diploma in Mass Communication & aims to make a mark as a writer. She's an avid learner & a tech enthusiast striving to gain knowledge in her interested areas, including the latest technological advancements.

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