It was nearly 2 years ago, I had an invitation to attend an entrepreneurial networking meet-up on one of the Saturdays post-work. Upon asking a friend of mine who was aspiring to venture into a business to join me for the event, she replied, “After working hard at home and work throughout the week, I get one Sunday for myself, I have no energy to attend a gathering on a Saturday evening”. It then struck me that for women who are ambiverts, have responsibility for a family and a full-fledged career to manage, it is nothing less than a struggle!
As a businesswoman, I have mostly noticed the ratio of men v/s women is 70:30; I am sure many can relate to this observation. On one hand, it makes me feel proud to be one of those 30 women attending the event with confidence, yet it also breaks my heart to live in the bubble, because the reality is unsettling. The ratio is an indicator that the number of women entrepreneurs can be counted on hands, and the roadblocks faced by women who have defied the norms and embraced entrepreneurship are still plenty. Sadly, male counterparts can’t even relate to them, maybe due to differences in social conditioning.
Entrepreneurship itself is not an easy road, from self-development to family development to managing work and family, to running a business, it requires courage, grit, perseverance and loads of support from the people around you. No wonder it is not for the faint-hearted, regardless of the gender. I have been very fortunate to have been nourished by some excellent, experienced and courageous mentors who not only paved the way for me but also enabled me to be able to make those tough decisions in my career with strength. My mother, a retired principal, being my first and strongest mentor gave me ‘just in time’ training since childhood.
Later in life, I became friends with a woman entrepreneur who was close to my mother’s age. Vijaya is both an elder I respect and feel great warmth from, but also a total badass with incredible business experience and acumen. She said, “Society is scared of women in command, hence remember as you go up the ladder, there would be more respect than friendships, more fear than faithfulness”. To understand and experience her observation fully, I have a few years more of learning ahead of me. But the truth is, I too, lost some friends, was judged often and found it difficult to express myself due to the difference in thought process, acceptance, and society’s expectations from women!
And that’s why today, I too would like to reiterate that “My fellow aspiring and roaring women leaders and entrepreneurs, let us accept that it is difficult being alone but like you lose naivety with wisdom yet you choose wisdom, similarly you need to be clear and understand what your losing in the bargain when working towards your career dreams”. As stated in a report by Google and Bain & Company in February 2020: “Despite improvements in social parameters, India’s growth does not translate into the economic inclusion and development of women”.
In further writing, I would like to focus on how to gain equal opportunity, ownership and growth for women entrepreneurs in society. As a woman running my venture from the last 5 years in corporate training, mentoring and coaching, I often think about how women can network outside the traditional framework of networking. After long hours of discussion, attending seminars, training women, I concluded that group networking is the way forward because I believe in the saying that you can’t be what you can’t see! Scott Dinsmore said, “The fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done is to hang around people already doing them”.