Here is a rosy picture. In India, women are at the head of the queue that seeks entrepreneurial opportunities. New LinkedIn data backs this conclusion. The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, which is based on this LinkedIn data, presents a situation that is as heartening as it is surprising. In the period between 2016 and 2021, the number of women founding companies grew by 2.68 x. During this period, the number of male founders grew only by 1.79 x.
An impressive set of statistics indeed, but here is the rub. The report also notes that India has a disproportionately low representation of women in the workforce (18%). And the suggestion cannot be missed: Women might be taking the entrepreneurial plunge due to a lack of opportunities for growth as employees.
The report offers an additional piece of information that buttresses this argument: “the growth rate of female entrepreneurship was at its highest in 2020 and 2021”. It was the time the pandemic was at its peak and the corporate world was noticeably out of kilter. “Our new data is indicative of one thing: working women in India are being held back by more barriers in the workplace when compared to men. But despite the adversity, many women remain undeterred and continue to chart their own path by pivoting to entrepreneurship and building careers that allow them to work on their own terms with greater flexibility. We saw this especially in the years of the pandemic (2020 and 2021), when women sheltered from a shrinking job market by starting their own businesses that also created opportunities for other women,” says Ruchee Anand, senior director, India Talent & Learning Solutions, LinkedIn, while interpreting the numbers.
Apart from being under represented in leadership roles, the data also reveals that women are not being promoted internally to leadership in companies at the same rate as men, with men being 42% more likely to be promoted into leadership positions than women.
The LinkedIn research mentions that this could be a reason why women in leadership roles also increasingly lag behind their male counterparts in the senior stages of their careers, with the proportion of women in the workforce decreasing along the corporate ladder. In India, the representation of female leaders drops from 29% at the senior level to a staggering 18% at the managerial level, the report says.
Despite the various hurdles women face, the data also reports some progress — certainly not at the desired rate – in terms of women being hired into leadership roles, with the number registering an 1.36 x increase since 2015. Despite that increase, women in leadership roles are still way behind the required percentage.