Four out of five women in India aspire to become entrepreneurs, according to a recent Facebook study. Based on the results, the company created SheLeadsTech, an initiative that provides access to a host of services including mentorship and resources to overcome barriers to building a technology business.
According to the study, bringing more women into the entrepreneurial fold in India has the potential to create as many as 16 million businesses and 64 million jobs by the end of 2021. Facebook visited 18 cities in six states, and through its travels trained more than 4,500 female entrepreneurs. The study was conducted with the help of YouGov, a market research company in London, and the Development Economics Group of Wageningen, Netherlands, which conducts research to help advance developing countries.
The results showed that the most common reason women do not pursue entrepreneurship is because they have family responsibilities and commitments. Other key issues are a lack of access to funding, concerns about personal financial security, and having an idea but not knowing how to get started.
ANOTHER DOOR OPENS
IEEE Senior Member Nita Patel, founder and chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (IEEE WIE ILC), says she isn’t surprised by the findings. Many women in India would like to pursue entrepreneurship, Patel says, but in Asian countries most household chores still fall to women, even when both spouses are employed.
That said, Patel adds that she sees a growing trend in startup activity by female engineers in India. More doors are opening for them, she says, as Facebook and other companies provide support and resources. SheLeadsTech, for one, assists companies founded by women by giving them access to peers, tools, mentorship, and other resources.
“We hope that by the end of 2017, we’ll have inspired more women across the country to take the leap and help close the gap on that untapped opportunity” to become entrepreneurs, Ankhi Das, director of public policy for Facebook India, South and Central Asia, said in a news release. “More women [launching businesses] in turn ensures our economy remains strong and thrives.”
The signs are promising. Many women in India are creating Facebook pages, for example, to promote their business—a number that has grown sevenfold since 2012.
About 1,300 attendees from across the globe are expected to attend this year’s IEEE WIE ILC, to be held 22 and 23 May in San Jose, Calif. In addition to technical presentations and workshops, there will be an emphasis on entrepreneurship in eight of the sessions and a startup pitch competition at which attendees can home in on their ideas and sell them to investors.
IEEE Women in Engineering is also partnering with IEEE N3XT, which aims to help engineers launch and grow their businesses, to produce a series of seminars and events for women. WIE has hosted a series of leadership forums and summits—including in India, Patel says—modeled after its flagship leadership conference. They encourage women to pursue leadership roles and entrepreneurship. The group also is providing technical workshops to women in rural India, equipping them with basic computer and finance skills to support them in their entrepreneurial pursuits.