Roy Gilbert

How women entrepreneurs are changing Indian society

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Caption: In India, the proportion of women in paid work is among the lowest in the world 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 served its purpose. Her award-winning ideas have won appreciation and support from the highest levels of Indian government. She […]

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