Banish The Gender Barrier, Says India’s Richest Woman Entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

By Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A on Women and Entrepreneurship with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, India’s richest woman.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

After she completed her Bachelor’s course in Biology and Zoology, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw went to Australia to learn fermentation science on the advice of her father, who was a brew master at United Breweries.

But the lady could not be hired as a Brewmaster as “it was a man’s work”.

Not to be put down, she began to look abroad where she was offered a similar position in Scotland. But before she could move to Scotland, she met Leslie Auchincloss of Biocon Biochemicals Ltd Cork who offered her the job of setting up the Indian subsidiary.

Kiran agreed to do so on condition that, if after six months she did not wish to continue, she would be offered a similar position in UK.

Today, she is India’s richest woman and has won many accolades such as the Othmer Gold Medal, Times magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and more. She shares her views on women entrepreneurs with Namita Shibad.

Question: How is being a woman entrepreneur different?

A: Actually, there is no difference. The difference is in perception and not in reality. Women perceive a gender difference, while they have all the competencies that it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. It’s about mind over matter — if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman entrepreneur.

Question: What are the challenges that a woman has to face?

A: I think the challenges are basically two — perception and credibility. These are societal gender biases that a female entrepreneur may or may not subscribe to.

Question: What can be done to deal with such perceptions and credibility issues?

A: Like any entrepreneur, it is all in the mind. One needs to have courage of conviction and the strength of mind, which in other words, is about self belief and self confidence.

Question: What is needed to bring more women into the entrepreneurial fold?

A: There are plenty of role models in all spheres. Whether it is business leaders, political leaders, sports stars or film stars. Women need to gain confidence from all these successful women be it be Geeta Phogat, Sania Mirza, Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitaraman, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Chanda Kochhar or myself, we all came from humble backgrounds and succeeded against all odds.

Question: Is there a difference (vis a vis a male) a woman can bring to business?

A: Women are more sensitive and collaborative in general and hence have good people management skills which is important for any business. Women also pay more attention to detail and are meticulous in their work which drives a culture of discipline and quality.

Question: What are the strengths and weaknesses of women entrepreneurs?

A: Women tend to be diffident and risk averse. They also feel that any adverse factor is gender related. Their strength is to endure.

Question: What is your advice to such women?

A: Believe in yourself and banish the gender barrier. The glass ceiling is a mirage that disappears if you have a spirit of challenge and a sense of purpose.

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