Is the new-age startup ecosystem any different for women?

This women’s day let us look at how the startup ecosystem treats women--whether it is in terms of funding, representation, or even the support system. 

Startups are almost synonymous with new, open, and cool place to work at. But is the startup ecosystem really open when it comes to women employees? Is the situation and representation of women in the startup ecosystem any different from the rest of the IT industry? Before we come up with a answer, let's look at a few statistics from 2017.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

 

The Global Women Entrepreneurs Leader Report ranked India at the 29th position out of 31 countries surveyed on ease of doing business for women. India scored just 17 out of 100, mainly due to unequal inheritance rights and work limitations that reduced the inflow of funds. It was found that only 14 percent of women are actually able to start a business. India is currently the third largest startup hub in the world, but  in terms of startups with women founders the number stands at just nine percent.

“Due to the global pressure for empowering women, there is a greater move to find and support female founders now. But outlook will only be different if women's multiple roles are understood and accommodated.”

vanitha

  Vanitha Viswanath, Board member, Jagriti Sewa Sansthan; Researcher on inclusive entrepreneurship

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanita Viswanath, board member, Jagriti Sewa Sansthan, says that the representation of women in the startup ecosystem is not substantial enough. 
 
“In fact, a woman in enterprise is a work in progress because an enabling ecosystem for generating women-specific models of entrepreneurship is not there. For example, the ecosystem has been designed for startups founded by men, and women are expected to fit into those models. But women are also wives and mothers; so the ecosystem has to design its offerings to enable wives and mothers to be successful entrepreneurs. So it’s a question of design, and not just of work-life balance.,” says Viswanath, who was also earlier a part of World Bank in Washington DC and was instrumental in conceptualizing and spearheading the World Bank Institute-promoted Women's Enterprise Management Training Outreach Program in Philippines, Bangladesh, and India.
 

Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO of SHEROES believes that women representation in startups is not substantial enough yet, but we're getting there. On a positive note, there are more conversations around what needs to be done, and more panels featuring the voice of women entrepreneurs. There are also more ecosystems being developed to support women entrepreneurs, including their funding needs, she says.

Rati Shetty Chief Product Officer and Co-founder, BankBazaar.com shares Chahal's view. While we do see relatively fewer women in leadership roles and a lower female-to-male ratio in the average workplace, the numbers are growing in leaps and bounds, she says. We see a number of women in leadership positions, known for their knowledge, keen business acumen, and pioneering spirit across all industry sectors. They’re paving the way and giving confidence to other equally capable women to prioritize their entrepreneurial aspirations without feeling like they have to choose one aspect of their life over the other.

Sairee Chahal adds that there needs to be a shift in the way we view value when creating a business. Traditionally, investing has been more geared towards the financial value being created, which is why tech startups and other models that promise quick scalability, receive more funding. Making money is non-negotiable, but betting on businesses that create long-term value through problem-solving, sustainability and social relevance, is as important for a better world. I see several women entrepreneurs in the health, beauty, tech and social enterprise spaces, integrating these values into their business, and that needs to be noticed.  says Chahal.

“In the early days of start-ups, most investors and entrepreneurs were men. For male investors,  startups being led by females was considered a handicap. But now the era has changed; the gender of entrepreneurs has no longer become an issue and even the number of women investors have begun to rise”

Alex-Suh

      Alex Suh, Executive vice president, TrueBalance

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Suh, a data analyst and the executive vice president of TrueBalance, says that providing more support from the government for women entrepreneur could help shorten the gap. 
 
“Compared to the past, many women have entered the ecosystem, but are still outnumbered by men. In a traditional industrial society, male-centric businesses and social structures form the norm. Even though in the case of start-ups that trend is weak, there are more startups led by men than by women. We need a more diverse government support for female entrepreneurs,” says Suh. 

Funding

According to a research done by  media firm YourStory, it was found that only 2 percent of all funding raised in 2017 in India went to startup that had at least one woman founder. The scenario is no different in the rest of the world as well. In fact a research done by Babson College also showed that, across the globe, only 3 percent of venture capital funding went to startups founded by women. Furthermore, interestingly, the situation is not improving, because in 2016, 9.2 percent of women-led startups got funded in india and in 2015 this number was 6 percent. 

Women in startup: Key Stats

Percentage of women-led startups in India

9 percent

Percentage of women-led startups funded in 2017 (India)

2 percent

Percentage of women-led startups funded in 2017 (Global)

3 percent

India’s ranking for women's ease of doing business

29th

However, those in the industry say that with global pressure this is slowly changing.

There are imminent biases that come into the picture when the founder is a woman, vouches Sairee Chahal, backing it with the anecdote of an investor who said he would never fund a woman entrepreneur who took six months of maternity leave. She calls this an extremely myopic way of thinking.

Women entrepreneurs must be judged on their vision, commitment and business model; not by one temporary stage of their life cycle. Luckily we do have some great ecosystems like Sonder Connect, The Cherie Blair Foundation, and Empoweress, supporting women entrepreneurs in a holistic way. I myself meet and actively mentor women entrepreneurs every Saturday to support them in their entrepreneurial journey, says  Chahal.

Viswanath says that due to the global pressure for empowering women, there is a greater move to find and support female founders now. 

“There are funders who are focusing on funding women start-ups, which also come with mentor and technical business support to grow. But outlook will only be different if women's multiple roles are understood and accommodated,” adds Viswanath, who is also a researcher on inclusive entrepreneurship.

Suh feels that traditionally the investments in women-led startups were low. However, it is changing now.

“In the early days of start-ups, most investors and entrepreneurs were men. For male investors,  startups being led by females was considered a handicap. But now the era has changed; the gender of entrepreneurs has no longer become an issue and even the number of women investors have begun to rise. Women have become an important customer as well. Within such a situation, the gender of the entrepreneurs is no longer considered a handicap but rather an advantage in taking over the emerging market. In the near future, I hope more women will challenge and settle down in new areas,” says Suh.