Although there seems to be an encouragement and rise of women entrepreneurs in our generation compared to any of the previous generations, there are various challenges that only women are facing both, within the family and in society, as budding entrepreneurs.
1. Brainwashing and mental conditioning since childhood
For a few centuries now, especially in India, the majority of women have settled for household activities, heavily conditioned on traditional values and treated as submissive and weak. Although women's condition is improving, most girls have been conditioned to adjust, give the highest priority to family well-being, and be obedient, in the name of love and respect for elders and traditions. As children, such conditioning unconsciously develops into fear, self-doubt, hesitation and less courage. As a budding entrepreneur, I face dozens of new challenges every single day which require me to devise new solutions, step into unknown terrains. This already requires a great deal of courage, brainstorming, inquiry, time and energy. Besides, these deep levels of mental conditioning, a sense of fear instilled, a lookout for approval from parents at every step etc. drain significant energy to unlearn and decondition myself.
2. Menstrual cycles are naturally times of low energy and emotional instability.
I personally slow down during that time and perform poorly. My startup comprises only women and it is quite a challenge for each of us during our menstrual to keep up the pace of our work. I think this is a challenge not only for my startup but for any startup, especially, a majorly women-run startup. A challenge that I need to solve for myself and for other women entrepreneurs is how to manage some time-off during menstruals in an organization such that it is a win-win for both the org and its employees.
3. Pregnancy, family and dependencies.
For a budding startup with very few women employees, facilitating maternity leave, care and support seems to be a big challenge. Although I have not faced it yet, I definitely need to give it careful thought. Some women I work with are not from educated families. There are times when these women face domestic violence and abuse at home. It is dis-heartening to listen to their situation. I empathize with them and try to support them in whatever way I can, however, drastically changing their condition is not possible. There are times when I acted upon the situation and tried to help some women by talking to their parents and village heads, however, several women still face pathetic situations. It is quite difficult for them to get back to work every day when situations at home are so distressful, if not being productive. In the majority of the families, married women shoulder most of the household responsibilities and take care of their children. Women are often late to work, work half-heartedly and are physically and mentally less-productive as they come after some taxing work at home. There are times when they take a break or sick leave and never return to work after that. This poor physical, mental and emotional health of women takes a great toll on themselves and their performance at work. Men in this society usually don't face such poor physical and mental health conditions. Women are not less capable at work than men but have a variety of experiences and wounds to heal.
4. Male domination in the marketplace.
The Majority of the manufacturing, distribution, retail, wholesale industries that I work/collaborate with are dominated by men. As a young woman, there is always a slight fear for safety and security when I walk alone in these marketplaces to talk to various suppliers and agents. My parents allow me to go only during the first half of the day due to safety issues and that leaves me with only 2-3 hours to get my work done, else I have to travel all the way several times. There is no offense against men here, in fact, several times, men have helped and supported my business to grow, however, there is always a slight hesitation, doubt and fear in the minds of women and parents and women are always cautioned.
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