The start-up culture in India gained the prominence and buzz it has in the last 10 years.
Moreover, a web series like TVF Pitchers brought it to the forefront and gave every aspiring entrepreneur that instinctive push with the dialogue “Tu Beer Hai BC! Tera kaam hai behna!”
The web series lay bare the nuances and behind the scenes hassles of building a start-up and various side-experiences as well. One of them was in the episode called ‘The Jury Room’ where Naveen locked himself in the women’s washroom and two women entrepreneurs who wished to go to the washroom complained about the sexism saying, “Weren’t they expecting any women entrepreneurs? The men’s washroom is open but the women’s washroom is locked.” Although this instance was all supposedly on a lighter note but it elicited an important point.
The state of women entrepreneurs in India!
STIGMATISED VIEW TOWARDS WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
No brownie points for you to point out that there are lesser women entrepreneurs than men.
Firstly, the stigma around the subject is enough for you to give the fish-hook-in-the-eye expression. The start-up culture is associated with risk, leadership, failures, 24×7 work and burning the midnight oil. And none of these traits are associated with women in India.
WHAT REINFORCES THE DISTORTED PERCEPTION?
The argument a lot of people give is that ‘If more women wanted to be entrepreneurs, then there would be more women entrepreneurs’. Let me inform you that this is a horribly misplaced misogynistic argument. We live in a society that is uncomfortable with the idea of female intelligence and authority and only accepts males to be in positions of academic superiority.
Homework for the readers: Try and draw a correlation between intelligence/academic ability and gender! Let me save you some time and tell you that there is none!
Keeping the stigma aside (or rather breaking it) some women have dared to venture into this territory AND HOW!
THE ONES WHO DARED!
I will highlight three totally different start-ups in India started by women.
They are rural; urban; and an amalgamation of the two, respectively.
Basta is a start-up which employs rural women who create economical bags and accessories using waste products and indigenous material. The best part about this project is that it makes rural women employable and students from Lady Shri Ram College for Women help them make those products economically viable and mainstream.
This is totally away from the image or perception of a start-up we hold in our mind. Indeed, a start-up is not simply suited-booted people running around to get fundings from Angel Investors.
Deeper into the grassroots of this country, a newspaper named Khabar Lahariya has been doing ground-breaking work in the Bundelkhand area of Uttar Pradesh. It is a newspaper entirely run and maintained by women. It covers various districts like Banda, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, etc., and carries a special section on women and their empowerment too. Sometimes the reporters of Khabar Lahariya have gotten into trouble because they covered corruption scandals or spoke against the local MLAs or MPs of the area.
These are not very popular names and there are not great chances that you might have heard of them. There needs to be a space where more such ideas come together and are well executed to become tangible realities. That’s what we are here for buddy!
Another reputed women-oriented startup called SheThePeople has been covering stories of women from all over the country – leaders, game-changers, board members, executives and entrepreneurs, sportswomen and politicians and every woman engaging in her goals and bringing about a change.
SheThePeople.TV attempts to bring conversations about such women to the mainstream by putting up their stories online. They believe that ‘the future is female’ and wish to be a positive part of that change.
I got a chance to see Shaili Chopra, the owner of She The People, in person when she was one of the speakers in a Panel Discussion about “Assessing the role and influence of media in Indian Women’s Movement” in an event in my college. Other panelists included many other well-known journalists.
It was when I saw her speaking about women entrepreneurs and the stigma around the very idea of it, that I realized the gravity of the situation.
It is indeed easy for people to take this on a lighter note or shove the idea of ‘women entrepreneurship’ under the carpet as a non-issue or ‘not a big deal’.
What happened in that Panel Discussion was a mini-representation of what happens in the big bad world outside. In the end, I was left wondering that if this is the condition in an intellectual space, there still remain a lot of shackles in the society that desperately need to be broken.
It is high time that they do.
One major dent was made in the minds of the audience that day, I’m sure! Thanks to Shaili Chopra.
THE OVERHYPED ‘BALANCE’
Women who have ventured into this space have often been asked or rather ridiculed for choosing a demanding career over ‘household’. If not that, they are asked as to how do they ‘maintain a balance between work and home’.
Let me say it out loud once and for all, THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!!
Men, for centuries, have been into demanding jobs and not once have they been asked as to how do they maintain this ‘balance’. Why? Because of the P-word, PATRIARCHY!
It is only women who are expected to strike this balance.
And if questions don’t work, they are accused of…. (wait for it!)… ABANDONING THEIR CHILDREN!
Have we not had enough of this already?
It is indeed high time that women entrepreneurship gets the space it deserves and not the misplaced glances, judgments, or the unnecessary venom spewed over women. We need to keep the ‘Indian culture’ aside that keeps the culture of women entrepreneurship at bay!
Image credits: Google, Entrepreneur.com
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