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Empowering Women Entrepreneurs
in the Covid Pandemic

A large number of reports support the fact that Covid-19 has had a heavier health impact on women as compared to men, and that the economic impact of the same has been endured to a larger extent by women, especially women entrepreneurs.

What needs to be highlighted is the fact that women across the globe have suffered effects of the pandemic in an irregular manner, reversing the progress made in recent years with respect to gender equality. Businesses led by women are noted by being negatively impacted on a greater scale in the economy, especially in sectors like food service, retail, hospitality, domestic work, etc.

Women-owned enterprises are, as per statistics, more likely to work within the sectors that suffered a greater adverse effect because of the pandemic. More than 50% of women entrepreneurs work in sectors like trade and wholesale, for example, which suffered a direct fall in demand due to the shutdowns caused by the pandemic. Quarantine measures then further made things like in-shopping either impossible or relatively difficult, thus hampering the possibilities of making good sales. Additionally, the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic created a likelihood of potential customers having much less disposable income available to spend. Since pay-cuts and job losses were prevalent, customers were even forced to reconsider their financial priorities.

Considering the type of sectors that are exclusive to women entrepreneurs, there’s a much bigger chance that these women centric businesses would be the ones that are forced to be closed for extended periods due to the pandemic. In these sectors, business models tend to directly offer products for sale to the consumers (unlike other types of businesses) and they face heavy amounts. of competition with respect to securing customers too. These elements tend to make any business excessively vulnerable even under the most ideal conditions. And this is exactly why the businesses and enterprises owned by women entrepreneurs are more likely to face inherent difficulty during this pandemic crisis.

Women entrepreneurs have been accustomed to facing societal and structural judgements from the beginning, for example, expectations with respect to them taking a major responsibility in household chores and other domestic duties even if they have a job. As a result, they’re under greater pressure to be more inventive and creative in order to succeed and move ahead in their respective fields of business. But in essence, this also the reason as to why women entrepreneurs have gathered tools to learn, grow and pull through in their respective jobs and fields.

However, looking on the brighter side, while the pandemic did bring into question the jobs and responsibilities of a lot of one entrepreneurs, it also gave numerous women the opportunities to move ahead and make their mark in their respective fields. Women entrepreneurs and business owners have also started tapping into new potential business avenues and have started readjusting their business models with respect to the suitability and requirements of the current consumer based local and global want.

As per the MasterCard Index, more than 42% of business owned by women have now shifted to a general digital based business model, more than 35% are currently exploring potential areas of business to enhance global and local wants, and around 34% have now recognised new potential business opportunities since the beginning of the pandemic. New opportunities for women entrepreneurs and business owners have majorly come up in the fields of online shopping, data and trading, technology and digital avenues etc. Coming to the kind of initiatives generally suggested to make the overall situation better for women entrepreneurs not just in our country but on a global level as well, there are 4-5 major initiatives suggested:

1. Supporting women workers: This ideally includes establishing gender-response based protection systems so as to support the basic income security for all women. In order to bridge the wage gap between men and women, as well as other gender minorities, laws and policies that ensure equal pay and equal respect for all need to be imposed so that work done by women and gender minorities doesn’t go unrecognized and unvalued.

2. Supporting businesses owned by women: The women-owned business and enterprises, if given specific grants and adequate funding, backup loans etc., could potentially erase or tone down things like tax burdens. Additionally, social security benefits, economic reliefs, provision of food and security should be aimed more at sectors dominated by women and women entrepreneurs so as to provide support to the same.

3. Direct Income Support to Women & Women Entrepreneurs: Under this, potential economic support packages, including direct cash-transfers, expanded unemployment benefits, tax breaks, and expanded family and child benefits could be introduced for vulnerable women and their families. These measures could help aid women in huge terms right now.

4. Reconciliation of work: Under this, we can provide basic but important things like paid leave and convenient working arrangements to women and women entrepreneurs. Moreover, greater efforts are required so as to engage crowds of both citizens as well as workers in the participation of campaigns that stand for equal distribution of domestic work between men and women and other gender minorities.

Essentially, looking at the broader scenario and considering women entrepreneurs from both local and urban areas, this group has had no choice but to readjust and adapt to the newly formed business models presented during the course of the pandemic. For women entrepreneurs in India, things like innovation and skill development have become of inherent importance in order to survive as well as thrive. In order to help women entrepreneurs successfully move past the negative impact of the pandemic, all stakeholders need to come together and boost the inclusivity in the digital economy of the country via better models, increase in opportunities across different sectors, specific interventions etc. The impacts of covid-19 pandemic have now for sure revealed that in order for women entrepreneurs to succeed and thrive, active support persistent across all sectors of the ecosystem is essential

By Anisha Kaul

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