In India, only about 11 percent women are in management positions at Small and Medium Enterprises. Of the 55 million entrepreneurs in India, very few of them are women. These figures indicate the need to address the chronic deprivation of women-led ventures. Facebook data has reported that 59 percent women-led businesses are three years’ old or younger than that. This demonstrates the recent upsurge in an area which should have been a developmental focus much earlier.
As an organization dedicated to the gender movement for over 3 decades, we have been advocating equity at workplace and within families, for all genders. It was motivating to see Facebook not only take up the issue but scale it at a global level. When a mammoth social media organization works on gender, the scale and intensity with which it brings in transformation is amazing. The one day conference on “#SheMeansBusiness – When Women Succeed, We all Win” was hosted by Facebook, compèred by Ritesh Mehta, Facebook – Head of Economic Growth Initiatives (India and South Asia) and Ankhi Das, Facebook – Public Policy Director (India, South and Central Asia). The speakers for the conference were Aruna Sundarajan, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology – Secretary, Shaily Chopra, SheThePeople.TV – Founder, Ishita Anand, BitGiving – Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Anisha Singh, MyDala – Founder and Chief Executive Officer and a budding sports entrepreneur, Ms. Bhat.
#SheMeansBusiness is a Facebook led initiative which has sought to empower women through the use of technology into the process of their livelihood generation. Launched in the year 2016, #SheMeansBusiness has already empowered 4500 Indian women entrepreneurs and there has been a 60 percent increase in creation of Facebook Pages for women-led enterprises.
At the Conference, Aruna Sundarajan mentioned that women are and can be massive change agents. However, they are not mentioned, celebrated and acknowledged. Today, women are not content with conventional life. They want creative and self-sufficient lives. Ankhi Das added that women’s professional growth is hampered by family and societal norms and the fact that workplaces are male dominated (in proportion and in numbers). Aruna Sundarajan made an insightful observation that women all over the world are formidable forces. They are prime influencers in peers and can be best supporters of each other or worst detractors. This energy and vigor needs to be channelized in a manner that it is more constructive. Sundarajan also felt that women need to stop being apologetic for having opinions, “If I may say so…”, “To the best of my understanding…”, “I stand corrected but…” are some of the indicators for the same. Women have a strong desire to please everyone, which if constructively used, can lend to unflinching support for others. However, it can also be counter-productive if it makes a woman accommodating of opinions that are not productive. Sundarajan affirmatively added that women must not only rise but also help other women up. Since access is empowerment, women need to have more enterprise-friendly opportunities and environment. This will mitigate the existing lack of finance and awareness about avenues that hold women back.
Other power speakers at the conference spoke at length about harnessing technology for enterprises. “Just Do It. Don’t overthink else you will never be able to do it. There will always be options for an enterprise to grow. Keep consumer profiling in sight and you will make right decisions” said Anisha Singh. “Adopt open source products as it cuts costs and don’t opt for fancy technological tools. Make processes simple.” said Ms. Bhat. “Apps are not imperative to digitizing your enterprise” declared Ishita Anand. She further added, “When you conceive a product, it changes forms by the time it is created. You will also experience ‘Feature-itis” which is a condition when an entrepreneur wishes to load her product with features. Therefore, please test before you invest in a technology (especially if you are not a techie).”
The Conference resonated with the conviction that mobile is the platform on which digital enterprises will be carried out in the future. Any enterprise that wishes to go online has to be mobile friendly. Being that does not mean obsessive creation of apps. It means getting creative with mobile technology.
All the speakers were inspirational not only because of their success but because in the process of living out their individual journeys, they acquired nuggets of wisdom which they generously passed on to over 500 women entrepreneurs who attended the conference.
Thank you Facebook!