While many Indian women and women all over the world have entrepreneurial ambitions, it is often more difficult for them to succeed. India is in a group of countries where women business owners, as well as women leaders and professionals, struggle with less favourable conditions, cultural biases, and a lack of business resources such as finances, capital, training and development. In which women cannot realize their full potential, society loses out on the significant potential for innovation, economic growth, and job creation.
Despite this all, it is empowering to see the plethora of successful women entrepreneurs that are taking over the world and establishing their place in the economy. Their struggle and sacrifice are commendable. It gives hope to future generations as women empowerment is emerging and leading way for a revolution.
THE NOTION OF EMPOWERMENT
Empowerment has different definitions for different people and often elicit a mix of reactions. Especially when the word empowerment is tagged with a woman, a look of amusement, surprise, hopelessness and stress appears on people’s faces. This is because men grow up in a patriarchal society and come to view the idea of equality as a challenge to their position of power. This manifests in the form of resistance to the idea of uplifting women as equals. This is because to empower women, power must be given to them. Empower essentially means ‘to give power or authority to’. That’s it. That’s the issue. To give. To society, this is unacceptable because of the mindset that has been prevalent for many generations and it is gruelling to change. Women empowerment is when women have the freedom and choice to make their own decisions. They have the right to decide what’s right and wrong for them. Is that too much to ask for? Isn’t that what essentially comes with being alive and being a human being? Being able to make your own choices without judgement and with rights to equal treatment of all genders. Women have suffered through the decades because they didn’t have any rights. They have been treated as non-existent for decades. They have suffered at the hands of their male counterparts. But now it’s time for that to change.
WOMEN: AN ENTREPRENEUR OR A MOTHER?
A norm has been established by society that dictates women to take care of the household and children. Typical societal expectations demand that a woman’s typical day be to take care of the kids and work in the kitchen all day to serve a meal to their husband when they return from work. It is frowned upon when a woman wants to become an entrepreneur or follow her dreams. She is deemed as an unfit mother and an unsuitable wife. This raises the question as to why is a woman an unfit mother when all she is trying to do is earn for her family and at the same time follow her passion. Why women why not men?
Some studies depict that most employed mothers juggle the heavy burden of employment and unpaid housework and childcare because of the traditional gender role expectations that persist around the world. They are a mother, a wife, a daughter, head of the household and a worker at the same time, and they still manage to juggle it all. However, they do not get appreciated and recognized. Women have to work twice as hard to earn half the respect as their male counterparts.
Now, times are changing. Women are fighting ruthlessly for what they deserve. There are numerous successful women entrepreneurs in India and in the world. Women’s entrepreneurship and leadership skills are being recognized widely. This is because the concept of gender equality is being highlighted all over the world. Women are being made aware of their rights and are learning to be self-independent in all aspects of their lives. They are being taught how to create an environment for themselves where they can grow and become the people they want to be. This is an era where women are demanding their rights, rightfully so, and leading a revolution for the better, so that future generations don’t have to endure the pain and shame that they experienced.
As Ishita Yashvi, a woman entrepreneur, said,” know what makes you happy, it could be your career, it could be your home, it could be anything. Have the ability to take all the risks to chase it. Go for it with all your heart. It may work out, it may not work out, but that’s okay. Just be a risk-taker to chase your happiness.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WORKING WOMAN: THE CHALLENGES
Gender discrimination in the workplace is extremely prevalent. Gender discrimination refers to a differential or unfair treatment based on someone’s gender or sex. More often than not, women are the ones who are subjected to unjust treatment at their workplace just because of their gender. Unequal treatment cannot be justified because women can do just as much work as men. According to a study conducted, it was concluded that more than 72 per cent of the women in India feel that gender discrimination is prevalent in the workplace.
Women all over the world face this issue. Why? What can men do that women cannot? Why are women not hired and passed over for promotions because of their gender? Men often consider themselves superior and don’t want to see women in leadership positions. They loathe the idea of having to take orders from women. The paradoxical situation is that women are considered goddesses for being able to give birth but this is often used against them in the workplace. Employers argue that they will not be able to manage their time and not be able to work since they have to take care of a child.
There are innumerable forms of discrimination in the workplace. Some examples include not being hired, lower pay, being evaluated more harshly, being denied a promotion even when you have the qualifications, being written up for doing something that the other gender never gets punished for, being insulted or being given fewer assignments because of pregnancy.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is disgusting. Women expect their work to be a safe space and it is disappointing to see when they are harassed by their co-workers. Instead of their co-worker being a person they can trust or rely on, that person becomes someone they fear. Their spark and confidence are diminished. They don’t feel like they can speak up because of fear of losing their job and income.
HOW TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES IN THE WORKPLACE
Have confidence. Raise your hand and say, “I’m ready for this role”. Asking for what you want can surprise you. Communicate your accomplishment and qualifications to your superiors regularly. Confidence shows that you know your value and believe in yourself. “You inspire yourself” as very wisely said by Kiren Shrivastav, a feminist and entrepreneur.
Take the time to support and mentor some younger women especially if you are in a leadership position. Create an environment where diverse individuals, including women, feel comfortable and supported in their choices.
Instead of your gender being a negative factor, show the work that is your greatest strength. Bring the power of femininity into the workplace- compassion, fun, caring, leadership and purpose. Show it can be done differently.
AN IDEAL WORLD FOR WOMEN
An ideal world for all women, girls and trans people are one where they are strong, safe, powerful and heard.
We envision a world where all women have the power and rights over their bodies and sexualities, as well as the resources they need to exercise those rights.
We envision a world where we can overcome the stigma that revolves around menstruation. Women don’t have to use words such as ‘chumming’ or ‘down to explain that they are menstruating. So that women can carry a pad or a tampon proudly without having to hide it in their purse. So that woman aren’t disgraced for entering a kitchen or a temple every time they are on their periods. We need to normalize periods because it’s a natural process that all women go through and is nothing to be ashamed of.
We envision a world where all women have a choice and voice in the work they do, where they are paid equal wages and have the opportunity to work in secure and safe workplaces.
We envision a world free of violence against women in all forms. Where their bodies aren’t violated in heinous crimes such as rape and sexual harassment. So that they can walk on the streets alone even at night without the constant fear of being hurt. So that they can travel by bus or go to a public place without the panic and terror of being gawked at inappropriately. So that little girls don’t have to go through an ordeal when they’re just discovering what the world is. Most importantly, so that faith in humanity can be restored. Because we don’t want to live in a world that desecrates women and little girls, physically and emotionally. We want to believe that it is good for everyone.
This is the world we want to create for future generations of women, and we will fight hard and fiercely to try and build it for them.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
“On my own, I will just create, and if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, I will create something else.” This quote by Oprah is not only profoundly motivating but also extremely relevant. According to recent statistics, women comprise as much as 20% of the total entrepreneurs in India. This figure indicates that the times are changing and also stress how women are coming forward to create something of their own- building empires and enterprises. The government has started allocating a good part of its budget to fund start-ups to fuel women’s dreams and shape them into reality.
They are venturing into fresh new areas to explore their talents and build their dreams. Not only have they strived tirelessly to overcome challenges and succeed in their career, but they have also scaled unprecedented heights that many of their male peers haven’t accomplished. Women are no longer operating in conventional roles and have begun to make their presence felt.
Women have also proved to be better employers than men. They tend to be more compassionate leaders and more determined. This is because they have had to fight to reach where they are and they understand the importance of seizing every opportunity that comes by. Their clarity of thought is what often helps them raise funds for their ventures and build a workforce that perpetually feels motivated.
“Be hungry and be bigger than your excuses” as said by an inspiring women entrepreneur Mansi Zaveri.
Your business idea isn’t great until someone calls it crazy. That is how all great businesses were built. If every entrepreneur gave up every time they felt discouraged, there wouldn’t be any businesses in the world. There is no use in talking about a problem until you talk about deriving a solution. It is unequivocally important to unleash the creative potential within us that hinders us from believing in our potential to innovate. “There is no great genius without some touch of madness”– Aristotle.
Women constitute almost 50 per cent of the world’s population therefore they deserve equal treatment in all walks of life. As far as their social status is concerned, even though society has progressed, they are still not absolutely free of discrimination and harassment. Now is the time to overcome all stigma’s and norms and break through the suffocating chains of society.
Now is the time to lead a movement of change, and follow in the footstep of innumerable women who have sacrificed so much to make sure we have to rights we possess today. Follow your dreams, however small or large they may be. Don’t let anyone treat you differently. Whenever someone tries to comply with gender discrimination, ask them why women why not men. Fight hard and don’t give up.
Someone wise once said the sky is not the limit, because there is no sky! Your imagination is the only thing that’s limiting you. Find your spark and bring your spark to life.