I recently attended an event marking Women Entrepreneurship Day. The event was inaugurated by a Minister from the Government of Karnataka, who very succinctly shared everything the Government is doing to support women entrepreneurs. His audience being primarily women, he began his address by talking about his mother – a woman with no formal education, who sacrificed her everything to ensure her children got everything that she could not. Clearly, he held his mother in high esteem and respected her nobility and sacrifice. The emotion was so genuine, he was able to instantly connect with the audience of educated, urban women entrepreneurs.
As I reflected on the event a few days later, I thought to myself how, in an event for Women Entrepreneurs, the image of an ideal woman that came to him was someone sacrificial, nurturing, who gave her all for her family. While this is a state every mother would aspire to reach, these are not necessarily the best attributes for an entrepreneur!
During the session, one young entrepreneur who works in the construction industry got up and spoke about the challenges she faces in working with very fixed mindsets on what women can and cannot do. One of her challenges was that she simply was not taken as a serious contender in business.
Could it be that the difficulties that young entrepreneur was facing comes from the established image of the ideal woman as a nurturer and giver, rather than someone competitive, out to grow her business?
There are, likely, many men in power for whom the “woman as nurturer” is an ideal. Being an entrepreneur, man or women, requires you to put aside your nurturing self and take tough business decisions. And this is one disconnect that women entrepreneurs will face everyday.