“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained.” ― Shawn Hitchcock
Studies about the impact of mentorship consistently show that mentored employees generally receive higher compensation, are more likely to be promoted and feel more committed to their careers than non-mentored employees. Thus, one of the key ways to help improve female representation in the entrepreneurial world is to unlock access to mentors for women. Having a professional mentor gives a woman the opportunity to develop professionally with the guidance of a dedicated ally; and today, I, Poonam Sinha, have the opportunity to speak with one such mentor, who has set out to offer her experience and insight to women entrepreneurs, guiding them as their careers progress. Amrit Ahuja is business and communications global executive with over 26 years of experience, who in 2019 crossed over to lead her life with a ‘Purpose’. Today Amrit consults brands in the social sector and mentors upcoming women leaders.
Quote – Entrepreneurial development has ignited the process of progress worldwide, making it one of the most significant factors contributing to the economic growth of a country. In tandem with this, I believe, women entrepreneurs can be the back bone of the Indian economy.
Ques 1. What allured you into the direction of mentoring women entrepreneurs?
I believe, women entrepreneurs can be the back bone of the Indian economy.
A McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report stated that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.
As per McKinsey, India could add up to $770 billion—more than 18%—to its GDP by 2025, simply by giving equal opportunities to women.
Currently, India has the lowest share of women’s contribution (17 percent) to GDP than the global average of 37 percent. ( Chinese women contribute 41 percent, Sub-Sahara Africa 39 percent and Latin American 33 percent).
Hence to reduce this gap, and considering that women entrepreneurs in turn can create more jobs for women, I felt it was essential to create a gender equal world. So, I decided to start with the source and mentor women entrepreneurs.
Ques 2. How Important is mentorship for women entrepreneurs in your opinion?
Women naturally do not create business networks as they rush home immediately after completing work at office, to attend to family. This is a big set-back for women. Also, we all need a bouncing board and someone who has your back at all given times. Not just women entrepreneurs, but every working professional must have a speed dial of mentors. These are people who you can reach out to when working to solve a professional or a personal problem. Again, the journey of entrepreneurship is a lonely one so, I always encourage people to find a diverse set of mentors who can be your guiding light.
Ques 3. What are the biggest challenges you face as a mentor of future women leaders?
The biggest challenge I face is the frustration that women leaders face when navigating any corporate structure. Most organisations are designed with a “man” in the head and although some are beginning to change, we still have a long way to go, before the industry begins capturing details through a ‘women first lens’ in leadership or board position. Policies are designed to grow women within the organisation but the problem starts at the hiring stage. Data shows that it takes Rs.5000 to hire a woman and Rs.2,500 to hire a man. The difference is in keeping women costs accounted for “period leaves” or a pregnancy in the first 3 years of hiring. Looking at this data many women do not get hired at the entry level. Hence the problem takes roots right at the entry level! Appropriate policy and advocacy are needed to bridge the hiring gap and then grown on from there.
It is alarming that female labour participation in India has hovered between 20 – 26% since 2006, and stands below countries like Bangladesh (35%) and Sri Lanka (31%)! This has happened despite rising education levels, increasing visibility of women in corporate jobs and progressive amendments like the Maternity Benefit Act in 2017. So, clearly data shows that we need some big changes to get more women into work and help women leaders to fulfil their roles as representatives of organisations.
Ques 4. What leadership traits or strengths should women, especially those aspiring to be entrepreneurs possess?
Resilience, Resilience, Resilience and a quest to operate in a VUCA – Volatile ,Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – environment.
Ques 5. Any words of wisdom for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
India can generate 30 million women-owned enterprises, of which more than 40% can generate jobs for others, by 2030. This can potentially generate 150–170 million jobs, which is more than 25% of the new jobs required for the entire working age population, by 2030. (source :Google-Bain report). We need women entrepreneurs to seize this opportunity and create jobs for more women and help them be part of a growing economy.
Network, meet many like you and learn their lessons of success and failures. Women take a backseat when asked to network and that is not the best use of their talent. Just be fearless, set small goals and celebrate even the smallest achievements. Indra Nooyi and Michelle Obama are just like one of us, but they set goals and went for them, while concurrently being mothers and wives all along.
Lastly, set a routine to look after your physical and mental wellness. Invest in a learning routine and remember, YOU are your biggest critic and cheer leader! So, do dare to dream impossible dreams and find ways to make them a reality!