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Despite being the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, the sorry state of gender equality in the Indian startup ecosystem reflects the ages old discrimination and backwardness that the South Asian country has been fighting since time immemorial now. The second report of “Startup India- Momentous rise of the Indian Startup ecosystem” presented by Nasscom along with Zinnov revealed that only 9 per cent of Indian founders or co-founders are women. Adding to this is the recently conducted ‘Women Business Ownership’ index by Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, which has ranked the Indian subcontinent among the lowest in the 54 economies it evaluated globally.

India, which has the second largest population in world out of which 48.17 per cent are women, scored a lowly 41.7 points on the index, which made it occupy the 49th rank among the 54 global economies that the index took into account.

The index explained India’s poor performance by stating that the country presents much lesser opportunities to women to participate in the workforce, engage in entrepreneurial activities or even assume leadership roles in general.

Women-led Startups Face Funding Troubles

Not only is getting into the startup ecosystem a tough task for women entrepreneurs in India, but surviving through the system laden with gender inequality and discrimination is an even harder task that they have to work through every day. In India, being an entrepreneur and being a female entrepreneur are two different ball games all together. The 2015 Nasscom Startup Ecosystem Report revealed that out of the $5 billion funding received by Indian startups in the given year, the funding received by women-led startups stood at a sad $0.168 billion. This means, if there are less women in the startup founding teams, there are even lesser women investors or women venture capitalists in India.

Indian Women Entrepreneurs v/s American Women Entrepreneurs

The state of female entrepreneurs in US is no different from those in India. Yes, of course it is slightly better but they are also very behind in the race when compared to their male counterparts. According to latest statistics, in 2017, only 17% of US startups have a female founder. Further, in 2016, US startups with at least one female founder raised just 19 per cent of all seed rounds, 14 per cent of early-stage venture and 8 per cent of late-stage venture rounds.

What Is the Indian Government Doing to Bridge the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap?

Since the Indian women are clearly lacking behind their male counterparts in the entrepreneurship race, the Indian government has also thankfully realised this problem and has taken several steps in form of programs and schemes to bring them at par with each other. Some of the famous programs launched by the government include Mahila Vikas Nidhi, a fund set up by SIDBI to help women in rural area start their entrepreneurship easily; Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD) scheme for women, a scheme that provides women with proper trade related training, information and counseling along with extension activities related to trades, products, services etc to get them started with their businesses and government Yojanas like Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana and Swaran Jayanti Sekhari Rozgar Yojana that provide reservations for women and encourage them to start their own ventures.

The Indian Startup ecosystem needs to realise that if it ever wishes to climb from the third position to the numero uno position, it will have to let go of its regressive nature and acknowledge and encourage the potential that the women of the country have to offer because by ignoring almost half of the population, India can’t progress at a pace it desires to.

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