October 29, 2023

WISER 2023 finds that startups can lead the way on accelerating women’s workforce participation in India

Startups in India have the potential to create 2 million new jobs for women by 2030, suggests the Women in India’s Startup Ecosystem Report ( WISER ), adding that the ecosystem is uniquely positioned to attract female talent. The report finds that women made up 35 percent of the startup workforce in 2022 (the corresponding figure for the corporate sector was 19 percent) and indicates that, with careful introspection within the startup community which enables timely and targeted action, that number can rise to 50 percent by 2030.

WISER shows that startups offer women a highly conducive growth environment, by way of faster career progression and higher autonomy, which enables female employees to meet their career goals at different stages. Women-led startups in particular are observed to perform even better on gender equality, with startups that have at least one female founder seen to have 2.5x women in senior roles as compared to male-founded startups.

The report notes that startups are currently faring better than traditional enterprises, with 32 percent women in managerial positions vis a vis 21 percent in corporates. This gap widens further at the CXO level where corporates have only 5 percent of women in leadership positions against 18 percent in startups. However, while the overall figures are promising, significant work lies ahead – 10 years into their careers, 8 out of 10 men in startups occupy Director-level positions or higher, compared to only 5 in 10 women.

It is poignant to note that contrary to popular perception, women’s motivations to join startups are no different from men, with both preferring accelerated learning & advancement, fast pace of work and innovation as key drivers.

Led by ACT For Women in collaboration with The Udaiti Foundation, the Women in India’s Startup Ecosystem Report (WISER) is India’s first and largest collaborative report on women in startups. With participation from 200+ startups, including the likes of Urban Company, Meesho and Zomato, the 2023 edition focuses on understanding the drivers for gender diversity across employment levels and spotlighting best practices that have helped improve women’s participation. The study, which had McKinsey & Company as the Knowledge Partner and LEAD at Krea University as the Research Partner, adopted a mixed methodology approach with participation from 111 founders, 117 CHROs, and almost 800 startup employees.

Read the full report here.

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