Paula Mariwala, Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs India, Director, Hinditron Group &
Radhika Shah, Advisor, Sustainable Development Goals Philanthropy Platform, CoPresident Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs
The number of women entrepreneurs around the world are growing and a transformation is underway – expect this way of doing business as unusual to soon be the norm.
We believe that empowering and employing women, especially empowering entrepreneurial women to build innovative businesses in this digital age can lead to not just bridging the gender gap but also to non-linear GDP growth as well as the creation of public goods that have a very positive impact on society. Indeed there is a strong business case to be made for gender equality and creating women leaders.
At the cost of generalising and sounding sexist, we posit that women leaders often exhibit qualities that can help succeed in today’s complex world such as empathy and collaborative leadership as well as resilience and win-win thinking leading to a partnership approach. Women are deeply connected to the community and more aware of negative and positive externalities of their organisation on the community and world at large. These are qualities that could be more relevant today than the traditionally lauded leadership traits such as the lone Alpha leader operating in a top-down style in a hierarchical organisation.
The below traits that could help women leaders succeed in building a profitable organisation with societal impact and create collaborative economies of scale across organisations.
- Collaborative leadership teams: Women often like collaborating with peers even at the top leadership levels and this brings in a diversity of thought which leads to better outcomes.
- Empathy motivates and connects employees and ecosystem: Ability to think from another’s perspective can lead to a deeper understanding of individual motivations enabling women leaders to inspire employees on the inside and partners on the outside.
- Responsible business models: Thinking of sustainable impact on the community and the planet is second nature to many women. As a result, they often come up with business models/approaches that have a positive impact and end up creating public goods for the community – often double or triple bottom line models and even when not there is deeper awareness and mindfulness of impact on others in the ecosystem.
- A partnership based ethos leads to win-win thinking: As a result of wanting to collaborate women may more often partner with others in the industry leading to win-win joint initiatives that could jointly tackle some of the largest challenges of our times while increasing GDP non-linearly by creating new revenue streams that did not exist.
We share below a few examples of Indian women trailblasers who are disrupting industries with very creative digital models – building revenue-generating organizations while bringing positive transformations and systems change in societies – in some cases across a country in others across the world.
1. Laila Janah CEO of Samasource has a global impact. Samasource brings digital microwork from places such as Silicon Valley to South Asia, Africa and more to empower/bring dignity to rural women. The organisation scales via partnering with local organisations in each country who have local context and can train the women to create quality work. Samasource changes the social status of a rural woman overnight who at times from being a non-earner goes to being the highest earner in the family.
2. Richa Singh CEO of YourDost leverages anonymity offered by the internet to tackle emotional wellbeing issues – connecting mental health professionals with people needing help online in India by providing the emotional and medical support they need. Ensuring they protect their identities and enabling the caregiver and patient to form a relationship – a disruptive model that addresses the social taboos associated with mental health issues.
3. Ritu Narayan CEO of Zum provides safe and reliable rides that enable vulnerable segments of society such as children and elderly to get to places with trusted, known and screened drivers. The drivers take good care of them and provide safe pick up/drop services.
4. Ajaita Shah, Founder of Frontier Markets provides last mile access to rural households for clean energy products. In the process, she has set up a distribution network of rural women “Solar Sahelis”, thereby creating employment. The company has built a network of 3000 rural entrepreneurs, of which, one-third are women, helping 380,000 households access solutions to address their challenges with electricity.
These inspiring women leaders set a great example for ‘Responsible and Inclusive Leadership’. Not only are they intentional about the impact on society as leaders, they have designed novel approaches that deeply integrate profitability and helping society in the basic business model. These models leveraging tech innovation to disrupt current approaches and have the potential to scale and impact large numbers of people. The number of such women entrepreneurs around the world are growing and a transformation is underway – we expect this way of doing business as unusual to soon be the norm.
We conclude with this insightful and apt quote from Mahatma Gandhi that is all the more relevant in today’s digital age. “To call a woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then a woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, a man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with a woman.”