According to the International Monetary Fund (2018), India’s GDP can increase by 27% if more women participate in the labour force. In our own work, we have seen that around 75% of all employees of women-led businesses are women. This makes the case for entrepreneurship being an enabler for women to gain financial independence, support livelihoods, and contribute to India’s economic and societal growth.
As institutions working in the domains of gender equality, entrepreneurship and women’s rights, our communication around women entrepreneurship has the power to change mindsets – around the way others perceive women’s role in the society and the economy, as well as the way women perceive their own role.
Since 2019, Project Her&Now has been running its media and communications campaign, which aims to facilitate mindset change by showcasing women entrepreneurs as relatable role models. The campaign has reached over 550,000 people so far. As part of the campaign, the project has created several media products, like a graphic novel, short films, podcast, videos, etc., which we are now making accessible to the ecosystem stakeholders through the #HERtimeisNOW Media Pack.
We have curated some of our learnings from the media campaign in the form of guiding principles, to communicate around women entrepreneurship in a more gender-transformative manner:
• Leave no one behind – Design communications for an inclusive target group comprising of women, their families, their society, including men. Acknowledging that they can all be enablers as well as beneficiaries of women entrepreneurship is a milestone in understanding inclusivity.
• Offline is good – There is a 40% gender gap in the internet usage in India. According to the International Telecommunication Union (2021), only 15% women in India access the internet, as opposed to 25% of men. Therefore, the communications campaign targeted towards women needs to go beyond purely digital media.
• It’s about her – Create an entrepreneur-centric communications strategy, that includes women’s voices, experiences, challenges, and realities. Acknowledge her challenges and celebrate her achievements without a patronising or patriarchal attitude, care needs to be taken to avoid gender-stereotyping.
• Contextualise – Be truthful to the reality of being a “woman” and an “entrepreneur”, and everything in between. Be rooted in data when highlighting systemic and societal challenges that impact the entrepreneurial journeys of women. It is just as important to communicate how she started out, as it is to communicate where she is at right now.
• Advocate for behaviour change – Use your communications platforms to tell stories of women (and men) breaking barriers, changing narratives, challenging stereotypes, and empowering women.
• Acknowledge diverse realities – Create campaigns that show the uniqueness in the journeys of women entrepreneurs across age, regions, sectors, religion, sexuality, class, and caste groups – their specific challenges and achievements.
• Inform and inspire – Through communication campaigns, inform the existing entrepreneurs about schemes, funding opportunities, etc.; inspire the aspiring entrepreneurs to take up entrepreneurship by celebrating relatable role models.
• Mind your language! – Language does not just reflect the way we think, it also shapes our thinking. It is important to use gender-sensitive language in all communications around women entrepreneurship. If it is not relevant that she is a woman entrepreneur, simply speak of entrepreneur.
The list below gives some examples of gender-biased nouns, and how they could be changed to communicate in a bias-free manner.
While these are just some of the guiding principles, they can help integrate a gender-lens in the overall communications strategy. If you would like to engage with this topic further, please read:
Sukriti Somvanshi is a social impact communications specialist, with over seven years of experience working at the intersection of gender, PR and entrepreneurship. She previously managed Communications at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Villgro, and currently leads Communications at Project Her&Now.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, and a Masters in Public Relations from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.