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Budget 2019: What should the government do to help women led businesses grow?

Budget 2019: What should the government do to help women-led businesses grow?

Budget 2019: What should the government do to help women-led businesses grow?
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By Neha Bagaria  Jan 29, 2019 4:37:37 PM IST (Updated)

A major shift in mindsets is needed to create suitable conditions to facilitate and encourage women entrepreneurs.

According to the Sixth Economic Census released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, women constitute a meagre 14 percent of the total entrepreneurs in India i.e. 8.05 million out of 58.5 million entrepreneurs. This indicates the dearth of women entrepreneurs which could be due to many reasons like lack of role models and resources, the many ecosystem biases and women’s own mindsets.

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A major shift in mindsets is needed to create suitable conditions to facilitate and encourage women entrepreneurs. The government needs to create greater accessibility to financial services and nurture supportive entrepreneurial conditions for women.
How can the government help with recruiting/retaining women at the top? (considering there are only few at the top level and mid-level)
In India, women make up 42 percent of new graduates, but only 24 percent of entry-level professionals. Of these, approx 10 percent reach senior-level management roles and only 1 percent reach the CEO level.
Data from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs shows that nearly 21 percent of publicly listed companies have not complied with the provision of appointing a woman director to their boards.  So, clearly, there is a dearth of top-level women managers due to lack of policies that aid in widening the talent pool and measures to retain and promote women at the higher level.
At JobsForHer, we are asking companies to set aspirational goals to increase the percentage of women in leadership roles, focus on unconscious bias training, initiate mentoring programmes, call for internal reviews-all with the intention of strengthening the pipeline of women leaders. So, we are seeing a change in attitudes and mindsets, although slow. For real change, we need government intervention to mandate a wide variety of measures like compulsory annual diversity reports, leadership training for women, diversity training programs for corporates, mentor networks and programs and reconstruction of internal hiring operations, etc.
What should we expect in this category from the government in this Budget for women empowerment?
A scheme to enable women entrepreneurship and employment, called STEP or Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women, saw a stark reduction in allocation from Rs 40 crore in the previous Budget to Rs 5 crore in 2018(2). We hope to see a revival of this scheme in order to enable more women to enter the workforce.
Budget 2018 also saw a Rs 60 crore allocation made towards promoting safe and convenient accommodation for working women. But there needs to be more accountability on the implementation level. The government needs to ensure more safety measures for all working women.
The National Creche Scheme, saw a reduction in allocation from Rs 200 crore to Rs 128 crore last year. It is crucial that we see more allocation of funds towards this scheme as we conducted an online survey for women restarters and 38 percent cited childcare as one of the biggest challenges to restarting their careers. With the Indian government’s Rs 400 crore proposal this year to reimburse employers for 7 of the 26 weeks of extended maternity leave, we hope to see an increase in female participation in the workforce.
Outdated skill sets is yet another reason women are keeping out of the workforce. 34 percent of the women on our survey mentioned reskilling as a necessity for their career restart, progression and job role changes. We hope to see Budget 2019 focus on skills development programs for women, a focus on reducing or eliminating hiring biases, family leave policies that include both parents, diversity and inclusion initiatives, equal pay policies to close the gender pay gap, recruiting more senior women leaders and Board members and compulsory anti-harassment training to ensure safer working environments for all women.
The only benefit Budget 2018 did to promote women’s employment was a change in the rate of EPF from 12 percent to 8 percent, which increased their effective take-home. But is this enough of an incentive for women leaving the workplace by the millions? We need to see a stronger focus on getting and retaining more women in the workforce. We need impactful women specific employment policies that can absorb and support women in the Indian workplace.
Neha Bagaria is founder and CEO of JobsForHer.
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