Michelangelo the world acclaimed sculptor had the gumption to say once ‘sculptor is not a woman’s work.’ Hundreds of years later a gutsy lady called Jasu Shilpi from ahmedabad, took up the challenge of defying the great sculptor and proving her own talent in the field nationally and internationally. She now makes larger than life statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rana Pratap etc. A Naval officer’s wife and home maker Meena Bindra, after her children grew up and life became slightly boring, started as a hobby a humble salwar-kameez business from home. Encouraged with the response from her customers, she scaled it up to Rs 300 crore worth business with outlets all over the country and became a national brand by the name BIBA. As a college girl she made utilitarian bags of canvas and sold it to college girls in Mumbai to make her own pocket money. As the demand grew among the girls and women Nina Lekhi created the national retail brand called “Baggit” worth Rs 34 crores and proudly placed her brand along with other high- end brands on the shelves of shopping malls!
When Jasu Shilpi can do it why not I? When Meena Bindra and Nina Lekhi can do it why can’t I? These are the stories of ordinary women who tell their tale to inspire each woman to script her own little drama and play it out to the best of their ability. Women entrepreneurs in India are going places and writing their own biographies with their unique talents.
The figures are still dismal and tell a different a different story. Women entrepreneurs remain a rarity and that is a sad reality. Women entrepreneurs comprise only 9.7 % in India. (to compare 29% of enterprises in Canada and USA are women owned). Global Entrepreneur and Development Index (GEDI) Gender Index for 2014 is that India ranks in the bottom 5 of the 30 countries surveyed for conditions that foster “high potential” women entrepreneurship. Among top 5 are USA, Australia, Sweden, France and Germany. Among the last 5 is India at 26th position, at 27th and 28th position is Uganda and Egypt, Bangladesh at 29th and Pakistan at 30th position.
As women we all have experienced the obstacles since centuries– social programming that women cannot do business, it’s a man’s job, women’s place in the home etc. Social stereotypes of the roles of the sexes, family responsibilities, systematic biases within the society that get reflected everywhere- in banks and industries too. It is well known that most women put in their own money to start their business. A 2015 study revealed that 92% of investment teams in the top global Venture Capital firms are men and another study suggests that only 4.2% of VC funds go to women-founded businesses.
All these societal barriers lead to psychological conditioning of the mind of women. Girls naturally develop low confidence, poor self esteem, inhibitions, fear of failure, lack of assertiveness, decision making can be impacted. Ms. Anu Aga the graceful ex Director of Thermax gives an important message- ‘teach your girls less affiliation and more achievement’. This powerful statement is loaded with psychological truth. Girls are socialised in such a way to care and serve with love people at home -children and elders. This creates and fuels the need for affiliation- to relate, to seek affiliation with other and to create bonds. So relationships become a vital part of women’s work. The boys on the other hand are taught to achieve and excel in work, make money and generate wealth. Ms. Aga’s advise of teaching girls and women more achievement in comparison to affiliation is a truth and needs to be understood in depth, accepted whole-heartedly and implemented. Mothers need to change their strategy in their nurturing of their girls from birth. The entire family needs to be re-educated so as to enable them to understand the career needs of women and to act as support pillars and not as hurdles in their path of progress.
We talk of entrepreneurship not only as an economic activity but also as a psychological and spiritual enhancement and need. There is no difference between men and women- women are equally intelligent, talented and competent human beings. They are unique with tremendous potential and it their moral duty to actualise that hidden and latent potential. On this day as we celebrate International Women’s Day we would like to remember all those thousands of brave women who have unshackled themselves from the societal barriers and corporate glass ceilings to become successful entrepreneurs, leaders, innovators, creators, and icons of the 21 st century who have blazed a trail to inspire us to reach our hidden potential. They have actualised themselves in the true sense and made us proud.
The best tribute to them would be to imitate them, follow them and make them proud!