The statistics are well known. We know that there are not enough women leaders at the top, whether in India or even in America.
There is only one self-made woman billionaire in the 2016 Forbes India richest 100 list. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the chairman and managing director of the biopharmaceutical company, Biocon. There are only three other women billionaires on the list. In the 2014 Global Forbes Billionaires list, the percentage of women was only 10 percent, according to Bloomberg.
Why is it important for these numbers to go up? Because only by seeing can you believe. When Hillary Clinton broke the ultimate glass ceiling and became the Democratic Party’s nominee for U.S President she said that finally little girls watching the event at home can let themselves dream and say out loud: One day I can be President.
Countless research studies show that when it comes to setting high goals, women just do not dream as big, and often underestimate themselves. For example, a study conducted by a professor at Carnegie Melon University found that men are four times more likely to negotiate for salary hikes, and when women do negotiate, they ask for thirty percent less than men, reported the Atlantic.
So in India, where we constantly battling between old and new, modern and traditional, in which paradigm do women build their dream castles? Men don’t grapple with how grand to build their dreams. They are taught to aim high, and work the business system that is also used to dealing with only men.
If I’m a male doctor, I will dream of becoming the best in my field. I will not say that I must choose a field or hours that will cater to my equally demanding, possible future role in the family. Gender roles and duties at home- that’s another topic! But I will not make choices based on what my future role might be in the family.
India is ranked at number 130 out of 189 in ease of doing business and that adds another difficult layer for women entrepreneurs to overcome.
Here’s where mentorship becomes important. Building awareness of the nuances of the unique problems women entrepreneurs could face, codifying techniques and formulating a discourse on how to overcome challenges and build confidence may provide a good framework for female leaders to build their skills.
At Barnard, where I went to college, there were leadership programs specifically designed for women. Discussions revolved around thinking out of the box, how to build confidence, and work-life balance. More programs like these in India would do us good.
But there are two India’s. While self made male billionaires, or multi millionaires can come from either one of them-luck and spark work hand in hand, social constraints dictate that the self made women will probably come from the India that this reader is a part of i.e the India to whom Mc Donald’s, Coke, and PVR market so aggressively to.
In the other India, women’s rights campaigns, the few mentorship programs that are concentrated in cities, the work from home and freelance job opportunities, can’t penetrate the firewalls of traditional hierarchies, and limited internet access. They find it hard to do so even in the homes of the very rich, who want to protect their fortunes and cannot take risks on a woman who doesn’t seem very convinced possibly because her family did not encourage her to build conviction in the first place.
In the India with access, I think the first step is to dream big. Maybe when the guy next to you in college vociferously claims that he will be CEO one day, don’t be afraid to say ‘me too.’