As we celebrate women this month, a few of them speak up on issues faced by them as entrepreneurs and professionals in a post-covid scenario
Much has been discussed about employment and entrepreneurship in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, which led to nation and statewide lockdowns starting in March 2020.
The lockdowns left an approximate 17 million to 19.3 million women unemployed in the immediate aftermath, between March and April 2020. It is noteworthy that the highly impacted sectors such as trading and services are dominated by women. Personal and non-professional services, comprising operators of small-scale enterprises such as tailors, dressmakers, small shopkeepers, barbers and beauty-parlor owners, as well as domestic helps and part-time workers witnessed relatively high volatility compared to other sectors. The effect of the lockdown was clearly evident as male employment fell by 30% of its pre-lockdown level, while female employment fell by 43%!
Self-employment may have served as a ‘cushion’ for those who lost jobs both in the formal and informal sector. Of those who had formal or informal jobs before the pandemic, about 20% shifted to self-employment. As a result of this unprecedented pattern of employment transitions, the overall composition of employment in India shifted noticeably.
Notwithstanding this optimism, and even as the economy recovers and enterprises get back on track, women entrepreneurs are facing several challenges. Women’s domestic workload has increased, thereby increasing their share of unpaid work.
Moreover, several support services for entrepreneurs have shifted online, cutting access to those entrepreneurs who are not financially and digitally literate, skills that are found to be wanting among women.
In Goa, the scenario is a more positive one with many women entering the business scene and most of them setting up their business at home. We spoke to a few women entrepreneurs and professionals who weighed in on the challenges faced by women in a post-covid scenario.
“Working capital challenges were severely felt in the pandemic”
Whilst the pandemic had its adverse effects almost on all businesses and self employed, it has made the never ending problem of getting access to finance, for women entrepreneurs, even bigger. Shrinking of capital markets during the pandemic has reduced availability of working capital. There has been a challenge of establishing and growing enterprises but here’s to those strong and successful women who can build a firm foundation with the bricks that life has thrown at her.
“Women entrepreneurs have been saddled with additional responsibilities”
Considering the impact of the pandemic through the eyes of women entrepreneurs, it shows that we have been hit the hardest.
More specifically, women-owned business sectors have been through a lot of downswings such as retails, restaurants, boutiques and domestic services.
We are generally more likely to be found in service industries rather than manufacturing or technology. These sectors faced the initial disruption from the pandemic and I must say a real bad one.
Women entrepreneurs regardless of their socio-economic status were typically disadvantaged by additional child-care, additional home-schooling, household burdens and even money could not buy the ‘additional’ support that was needed. Post covid, now when things are on the verge of normalcy, but the span taken in coming to terms with the new normal will definitely take a while for us to come back. Though with the educational institutions and work organisations getting started, it marks a positivity to release us from the pressure as well as gives us the time to rethink and rework on projects and new prospects of our business needs and requirements.
The pandemic has made us tougher
Post pandemic, times have been both tough and trying for us all and for sure it has taught us to toughen up and bring to light our creativity and our ability to survive. Covid-19 has presented some unprecedented changes, such as an acceptance of remote working models; acceleration in the use of digital channels on both the demand and the supply side; and a shift towards digital versus physical interactions, all of which have the potential to level the playing field, especially for women. The challenge is to get through and, at the same time, design interventions that will enable us women to take advantage of these transformative changes. Despite near-term shrinkage, I as a woman entrepreneur am optimistic about the bounce back. Covid is not yet in the past, so let’s all be optimistic and put into practice what this pandemic has taught us.
Re-building businesses is a struggle
Working in this field I can see that covid has made an impact on women entrepreneurs in both ways.
Some women-led businesses have been affected during the pandemic and rebuilding them is a struggle.After speaking to a few women entrepreneurs, especially those who are mothers said that they got responses such as, ‘business has failed, now you can spend more time with your family and kids’ so it demotivates them to start their business again.
While for some multi-tasking is something they are used to with managing home and work so the whole ‘work from home’ helped them in a big way and personally I saw a lot of women-run businesses flourish during the pandemic be it baking, jewellery, painting, creating wedding hampers etc. the ‘Vocal for Local’ took a big turn especially post pandemic I can see many women in particular put up more stalls for these pop-up bazars that happen, or create new Instagram pages where they sell their items and a few of them have even opened up their own café or restaurants with the little that they have learnt during the lockdown
Time is ripe to pivot business models
Women have always faced challenges and covid was no exception. I have a few pointers on how we as women should operate in a post-covid world.
Women should pivot their businesses to post covid consumer era. Consumption and purchase decision has moved online – so a baker would have to find ways to market online or perhaps teach online. This would require learning technology or being tech savvy or moving out of your comfort zone which has been challenging for women entrepreneurs. Competition has increased in the post-covid era. Many who lost their jobs moved into entrepreneurship or used the covid period to transition into entrepreneurship. This is a good challenge to have as competition drives quality up and inspires risk taking. I see more women willing to take risks and venture into unknown territories. Policies empowering women are on the rise in the Startup ecosystem. Many first time entrepreneurs lack knowledge and experience in investor relations, raising equity or valuation.
Women entrepreneurs need to now step up and increase their knowledge base in these domains to ensure they don’t undervalue their business, give too much equity away and get taken for a ride by investors.