In Nepal, there is a great deal of inequality between male and female entrepreneurs. However, entrepreneurship is about ideas, innovation, and passion to make things happen. It has no gender. We aspire for the day when people will stop stereotyping founders based on their gender, and start focusing on the business, and the impact they are creating in the society.
In order to understand stereotypes faced by many female-entrepreneurs of Nepal, Blincventures.com’s team interviewed 8 progressive social-entrepreneurs and here is what we discovered:
1. Marriage and children should be women’s top priority in life.
This cliche of stereotypes linked is commonly held against even the most successful women in patriarchal societies. But being a good mother or a wife has nothing to do with being successful in career or enterprise. Marriage and children are an option and so is the choice to remain single. Neither should be an obligation or priority to be fulfilled as a woman. Everyone has the right to choose their priorities.
When we asked women entrepreneurs how they overcame this stereotype growing up and paved their own path, their individual responses were very similar to each other. Rasana Shrestha, co-founder of Nuga: shared that “being a girl, my parents never made me feel that I was different from my brother. They used to say – if your brother does it, you can do it – you are equal, not only for the share of facilities but also for a share of hard work”. All of them were brought up in a household where both sons and daughters were treated equally. They had a strong female figure like mothers or grandmothers or had support from their feminist fathers.
However, the founder of Sochai, Bonita Sharma, shared how society is still not ready for empowered women entrepreneurs. “Because of the (societal) structure that we have, and the mindset of people, it is very challenging for women to process all the barriers and come out of their shell and do what she really wants.”
2. Some positions or fields are reserved for men, just as others are only for women.
We do not have to conform to the notion that men have to work in construction or finance while cosmetics or the beauty industry are reserved for women. Unfortunately, sometimes with social conditioning, we end up limiting ourselves. We should all contemplate on what Jesselina Rana, co-founder of Pad2Go has to say, “At times we limit ourselves to certain stereotypes; it’s not just society, it’s not just men rather it is society, men and each of us who somehow pigeonhole ourselves in certain categories of how we should act, or what we should do”.
But our gender does not define what professional field we should choose. As an example, you can see the SAFA Tempo business, that started back in 1995 by women entrepreneurs. They were women entrepreneurs and drivers who were running an industry that was quite new and not believed to be “for women”. In the wake of their challenges, Aeloi, a fin-tech company founded by Sonika Manandhar and Tiffany Tong, started with the aim of supporting these women drivers and entrepreneurs. This is an example of women rocking it in the field deemed to be “unorthodox for women”.
3. Women running a business are not entrepreneurs but are doing social work.
Social entrepreneurs most of the time are considered social workers and not as entrepreneurs. While this is a challenge for every social entrepreneur, the challenge is bigger when it is a woman who owns a social business.
Firstly, women are not taken seriously as businesspeople. All the women entrepreneurs that we interviewed shared unpleasant experiences such as when they put forward their opinions, these are rejected by their counterparts, suppliers, or other stakeholders. They would rather communicate with the male founders.
Sonika and Tiffany took three hours to convince the lawyer that they had hired to accept the fact that their enterprise had a business model. Fortunately, he ended up acknowledging that it was not a business idea, but a great business idea.
4. Women entrepreneurs are too emotional.
All humans have emotions. But our society punishes men who show their emotions as being weak and vulnerable, while women are expected to be more emotional in day to day lives. Bhawana Shrestha, the co-founder of My Emotions Matter, suggests that we should “use emotions as data instead of directions. It’s not about feeling emotional as male or as a female, it’s about using emotions as your data to guide you”.
Besides, being passionate and attached to your idea should not be seen as a weakness. As rightfully said by Lorina Sthapit, co-founder of Aji’s, “there is nothing wrong with being emotional, sensitive and attached, in fact those are factors that will enable you to stand out as an entrepreneur and creative positive impact”.
5. Women are expected to be caregivers.
Women are expected to be primary caregivers and this often hinders them to reach their true potential. As women entrepreneurs, we need to take advantage of the nurturing and caring traits that we naturally have and put it to use wisely in nurturing teams and managing relationships with external stakeholders.
As Bhawana says, “This generation is raising the kind of women who are both nurturing, caring, but also bold and assertive. If we have a blend of all these qualities, women can do wonders so I expect to have many successful women entrepreneurs in years to come”.
What are the stereotypes that have challenged you and how did you beat them? We are keen to hear your story and share it with the world. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org