Why it is important to shed a spotlight on women entrepreneurs

Seema Kumar

Seema Kumar and Nilanjana Bhowmik for SEEMA Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award. SEEMA Magazine. SEEMA entrepreneurs. Boston TiE. SEEMA Network. SEEMA empowering Indian women leaders. SEEMA 2019

When we created the SEEMA South Asian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, we weren’t sure what to expect. 

Given the chronic underrepresentation of female entrepreneurs, the barriers they face, and the lack of champions, we expected the nominations to be low. We worked hard to spread the word, allow enough time for nominations to trickle in and make the process easy. Our patience paid off! 

We received more than 50 nominations, and selected eight semi-finalists. Our esteemed selection committee chose three finalists and the winner, which we announced last night during the TiE Boston Annual Gala at the Peabody Essex Museum. Our three finalists, Sangeeta Bhatia, Anita Goel, and Kavita Shukla, are extraordinary women transforming the landscape of their respective fields. By honoring them and announcing our winner, Anita Goel, we celebrate achievement and risk taking as well as bring to the forefront a compelling narrative of successful women entrepreneurs who inspire others.

Why is it important to spotlight women entrepreneurs? According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, research shows women make great entrepreneurs, despite facing unique barriers. Women lack mentorship, which is key to developing successful entrepreneurs. They also lack access to capital:  women, compared to men, are just one-third as likely to access equity financing or venture capital, begin companies with half the capital; and are less likely to access friends and acquaintances for funding.  When you combine these business barriers with gender bias, women might think twice about starting companies.

The good news is many women are succeeding against these odds. Women of the Indus diaspora lead and break barriers everyday—as influencers in academia, business, food, fashion, philanthropy, politics, and STEM. Their clout, whether economic, social or humanitarian, is creating a better future for the next generation locally, regionally and on the world stage.  

But too often their influence is hidden or behind the scenes. Showcasing their successes inspires women contemplating starting businesses. Greater visibility also helps combat implicit bias against women as business leaders and underestimation of their ability to be entrepreneurs. 

As part of this effort, SEEMA intends to shed the brightest spotlight possible. Already, we have featured more than 30 entrepreneurs during the last six months. We also created the SEEMA South Asian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award and are pursuing other initiatives. We believe that illuminating the successes of South Asian women not only raises awareness of how their accomplishments make a positive impact on the world, but SEEMA, in fact, can as well.