Schumpeter, who was probably the first scholar to theorize entrepreneurship, is said to define “women entrepreneurs are those women who innovate, initiate or adopt a business activity” (Business Management Ideas 2023.) Basically, meaning that all the women who own or control an enterprise are entrepreneurs.
It is challenging to understand why women are not equally represented as entrepreneurs or do not equally engage in entrepreneurial activities. Women make roughly half of the world’s population, so it would make sense to have more women entrepreneurs as there are currently. Women entrepreneurship still needs promotion and more supportive ecosystems.
Women entrepreneurs face multiple challenges
Women entrepreneurship has gained support and encouragement in both India and Finland over the years. The pace of growth and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in these countries differ, but there are some common challenges women face while pursuing entrepreneurship.
In India, women entrepreneurship has seen a significant rise in recent years, and there are various schemes launched by the government to support women entrepreneurs. India has one of the lowest numbers of women entrepreneurs in the world at 14 %, even though close to half of the population is female (48.95 %) (National Commission of Women 2020). Women remain an untapped resource for India (Salam 2018).
Women face a number of challenges in India, such as social-economic barriers, limited access to networks and markets. Women need support for new work opportunities alongside continued bargaining power in the labour market. An increasing number of educated, aspiring career women are entering the workplace, however, large sections of women are still in the low paid informal sector (Government of India Ministry of Women and Child Development 2016).
Comparatively women entrepreneurs in Finland have a much more supportive ecosystem. According to the report of Female Nordic innovation by Menon Finland (Leo Grünfeld, Sigrid M. Hernes & Erika Karttinen 2020) has the highest share of female entrepreneurs, almost 34 %. The rise in female entrepreneurs is seen in tech startups and other high-growth sectors. There is also growth in female entrepreneurs from immigrant background in Finland. A lot is still required to support female entrepreneurs.
Opportunities for solutions
In 2022, RDI Director Hannu Vahtera and myself were invited to participate in the Global week organized by Chitkara University in Chandigarh, India. The visit gave us an opportunity to interact with students and faculty to understand the various initiatives targeted towards entrepreneurship. Since India is one of the focus countries for collaboration for Finland and for Haaga-Helia, it is essential to explore common initiatives and align our shared goals.
Part of the European Union’s work is to advocate for gender equality in Europe, as well across the world. One of the opportunities EU offers is research and development funding to raise awareness and work towards acknowledged problems in societies. With a global network, Haaga-Helia actively engages in such opportunities for EU funding.
The Erasmus+ programme allows international co-operation, where project partners can research and develop solutions for difficult problems. India and Finland are already collaborating in many aspects such as business and education and talent attraction. Thus, shared projects would be a logical continuation for further collaboration. Haaga-Helia has a focus on entrepreneurship, and it involves research and development projects.
Opportunities offered by Erasmus+ projects for capacity building and knowledge transfer could mean indulging into the best practices of fostering women entrepreneurship. While the societies where Indian and Finnish women operate are different in many ways, and perfect ecosystems for gender equal entrepreneurship do not yet exist, there is plenty of work to do.
Grünfeld, L., Hernes, S. M. & Karttinen, E. 2020. Female Entrepreneurship in the Nordics 2020 – A comparative study. Menon Economics.
National Commission of Women. 2020. Encouraging Women Entrepreneurship – Current Policies and Programmes.
National Policy for Women 2016 Articulating a Vision for Empowerment of Women. 2016. Government of India Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Salam, A. 2018. Role of Women Entrepreneurs in Digital Economy: Skills and Capabilities.
Urmila, K. 2023. Women Entrepreneurs. Business Management Ideas.