The wage gap between men and women is something that’s still being debated around the world and India is no exception. Yet, gender investment gap is far less documented, but of great importance. It refers to the disparity between investments made in companies founded by men and those made in companies founded by women.
To understand the why’s and how’s behind this, MAKERS India hosted a virtual roundtable on ‘Narrowing the investment disparity gap’ at TechSparks 2020, YourStory’s flagship annual event, with Shilpa Kumar, Partner, Omidyar Network India; Deepthi Ravula, CEO - WE Hub; Preksha Kaparwan, Co-founder & CMO, Alphaa AI; and Geetha Manjunath, Founder & CEO, Niramai Health Analytix as the panelists.
Understanding why this disparity exists
MAKERS India’s first-ever State of Women in Tech Entrepreneurship in India report indicates that women-founded startups or women co-founded startups amount for less than 6% of the total investment infused in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, Shilpa believes it’s similar with entrepreneurs. It all starts with how girls see themselves during childhood, and what they envision their future careers to be.
“At a longitudinal level, it is the funnel that really builds up to where we are today. Are there more men vs women in schools/colleges/management technical education? At this point of time, I would like to look at the horizontal cut of the startup ecosystem,” she adds.
Deepthi, who helms the first-of-its-kind and only state-run platform for women entrepreneurs - We Hub- feels that there is a combination of factors that comes into play. “For one, it is about access to networks, and the second is the financial literacy of the woman entrepreneur herself. Most of the time, women entrepreneurs think about finances when they are ready to raise a fund. But that financial literacy has to be there from much before,” she shares.
She went on to add that “money has no gender;” when it comes to funding, it is all about the product that the entrepreneur is bringing to the table.
Low representation in VC firms
Geetha believes that a change in mindset has to start at the smaller level, instead of showing volume. “The idea is to create proof and increase the number of evidence, where women-led startups are making inroads. Creating examples is one major way,” she shares.
Agreeing with Geetha, Preksha said that she faced these challenges herself. “Initially, it was a challenge to see myself as a natural fit in the team as well as the startup ecosystem. I have realised that women have set examples. Besides, I also see a difference in the way people greet me today, something as basic as this, which was different 8 years ago. Also, leadership as a quality was not really inculcated in women a decade ago, but today it is important. Either things have begun to change in households, or it is social media.”
Building a robust ecosystem
For Shilpa, before moving on to the ecosystem, it is important for a woman to really change her mindset at the individual level. She feels that women often tend to overthink when it comes to managing professional and personal responsibilities. And at the end of the day, women always want to be “perfect as mothers, wives, daughters, and also in their careers” that adds unnecessary pressure.
“When we look at the ecosystem, it is about how we get more women in different spaces, how do we enable women into being founders themselves? I feel it has to be a funding table where women are included,” she shares.
Mentorship forms an important role in the life of entrepreneurs, and Geetha believes it is essential to have a ‘bouncing board’. “You have a thought, a problem, an idea, or a dilemma, and you can discuss with your mentor. The mentor can don both hats - the devil’s and the god’s hats - to provide both perspectives. There can also be another set of specialist mentors, who can be your go-to person for a particular domain. But it is important for a mentor to not be judgmental, and it’s fine to show your ignorance,” she adds.
The last word
Deepthi, who works towards democratising entrepreneurship through WE Hub, says that her team is trying to improve their scouting mechanism, to find the right candidates.
“We have started working with four demographics, out of which one is the age group 13-17 years, where we can provide more access to girls in STEM to normalise girls being a part of the technology field. The second thing is also to make sure we work extensively in women in workforce networking. We need more women to be a part of the decision making process. Third is women returning to the workforce,” she concluded.
(Edited by Varnika Gupta and Athira Nair)
Watch more videos of MAKERS India roundtables at TechSparks 2020 here.
MAKERS India also launched it’s first report titled State of Women in Tech Entrepreneurship in India. The report offers first-of-its kind insights and trends that track the rise, opportunities and challenges for women entrepreneurs in India’s start-up ecosystem. Read and download the report from here.