‘Corporate India has realized that women in leadership positions can also drive positive business results’.


New Delhi: Women across the globe are breaking gender stereotypes and outperforming their male counterparts in taking leadership roles successfully. With fierce passion and zeal, these women are making huge impact in their respective fields. Several women entrepreneurs and business leaders are rising above the persistent gender discrimination and contributing to nation-building. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress in the growth of female entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. This prediction has highlighted the need to bridge the gap and enhance women›s representation.

Padma Shri awardee Shahnaz Husain has received international acclaim for pioneering the Herbal beauty care movement and taking the Indian herbal heritage of Ayurveda worldwide. Her journey towards becoming a successful entrepreneur. She lost her husband to cardiac arrest in 1999 and their son, Sameer Husain, who was a rapper, allegedly committed suicide in Patna in 2008.

Recently, Shahnaz Husain has recently received the «World›s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur» award from Success, the U.S. based business magazine, becoming the first woman in the world in 107 years to receive the prestigious Success Award.

Shahnaz Husain told The Sunday Guardian: “When I laid the foundation of the Shahnaz Husain Group, people were not aware of herbal treatment and were habitual of using superficial beauty treatments, and tended to rely mostly on synthetic beauty products, which at times, had some serious side effects. However, at the time, the Western culture had already adopted the practice of herbal care and it gave me the motivation to forge my salon treatments and thus, I formulated my own products. It was very difficult at that time to convince people regarding the effectiveness of herbal products. I feel it was one of the biggest challenges for me at that time.”

Talking about the persisting social stigma and prejudices against women, Husain said that women can break these shackles by attaining knowledge and become financially independent–which is the key to liberation. “I firmly believe that life goes on and you always have to put your best foot forward to remain on the battleground,” she added.

A social impact clothing brand, Kalakari India was founded by Dipika Raikwar. The brand aims to find online and non-traditional marketing channels for handloom, handicraft artisans, weavers, handblock printers and painters of Indian subcontinent.

Talking about her journey, Dipika Raikwar told The Sunday Guardian: “Entrepreneurship for me is a journey and not a destination. Meeting business goals are just operational milestones, I feel it is a continuous process to re-evaluate and evolve. While every entrepreneur goes through their own set of challenges, for me the biggest one was to manage the finances of the start-up. I worked in a plush corporate job, saved and invested in my venture. I had to work jobs to keep my venture alive, it was very difficult to get any financial support from the family. It felt very frustrating that most people save for the daughter’s wedding ceremonies, but hesitate to give them that share of the kitty for funding their business. The second challenge was to make everyone in my community believe that I can run my business, while everyone silently watched in anticipation of my failure.”

Raikwar also said that women may overcome the social stigma if they care lesser about the judgment of the society and focus more on their personal improvement.

Maithili Appalwar, CEO, Avana, told The Sunday Guardian: “Women need massive support from their families, specifically their partners, to succeed at work. I was fortunate to have grown up in an environment that fostered forward and inclusive thinking. As the saying goes–no (wo)man is an island. It is of great importance to surround yourself with people for support in times of joy and distress. I am blessed to have an excessively supportive network of friends and family who I can turn to for advice and encouragement each time I encounter an obstacle.”

Tanvi Johri, founder of Carmesi, a menstrual hygiene brand, told The Sunday Guardian that people are still very used to see certain senior positions filled by men in an organization. Johri said: “The major challenge that we faced was launching Carmesi online. Women still find themselves reluctant; are not open to read about periods, exploring them, spend money, time, and effort to buy a better product because it is not display worthy. We are taught to only care more about our external beauty, how we look, how our skin feels, we are not taught to do the right things when it comes to intimate health. So, it’s challenging to create a market for a better product in the case of menstrual health.”

In the current times, there are still a lot of systematic barriers that women face while growing in the corporate world.

Neha Bagaria, Founder of JobsforHer, told The Sunday Guardian: “Corporate India has woken up to the fact that women in leadership positions not only help achieve their diversity and inclusion goals, but also drive positive business results. Adequate women-specific programmes for women to upskill and rise in the organization, diversity policies that pave the way for equal participation of women in leadership roles, and gender sensitization will create more opportunities for women at the top of the ladder. Structured mentorship, sponsorship, and networking platforms for women are important steps in this direction and a trend that will continue to grow to ensure the world has more women leaders.”