Roy Gilbert

The many ways in which female entrepreneurs are changing patriarchal India

Women’s days. In India, the proportion of women in paid work is among the lowest in the world, at just over 23% —a figure which contrasts sharply with the corresponding rate of over 78% for men. Opportunities for women to enter employment in the country are limited by a range of factors. These include a dominant tradition of female domestic responsibility, and a prevailing social patriarchy . Deeply entrenched cultural expectations mean that women are more likely to stay at home. And when they do work, it is mainly on an informal basis, without the luxury of secured wages and contracts . Against this backdrop, the idea of female entrepreneurship in India faces major challenges. Setting up a business can require significant efforts outside of normal work times, and can lead to women being perceived as irresponsible if they dedicate time to entrepreneurial activities. But it seems as if things may be changing. My research on women entrepreneurs in India reveals they are contesting social, cultural and family pressures to challenge the status quo in Indian society. They are also empowering other women while providing innovative solutions to major social problems. Some of the women I spoke to greatly inspired me with their stories. One manufacturing business founder, Pinky Maheshwari, was challenged by her son to make environmentally friendly paper. She went on to create handmade paper made out of cotton that is embedded with seeds. These can then be planted and grown into trees when the paper has […]

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