The grand finale of ReThink Tank series on “Women Entrepreneurship through the Lens of Higher Education” took place live on Facebook on Saturday 13th June 2020 with thousands of viewers joining in from diverse locations including India, Middle East, Singapore, Europe, and the U.S. The panel consisted of eight young female students from across the country and the chief guest on the panel was the Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani. This series was hosted by UK-based Quacquarelli Symonds subsidiary in India, QS IGAUGE in Bangalore.
In her introductory remark, Smt. Smriti Irani had put forth a few of the challenges that women face when it comes to entrepreneurship in India. She highlighted the lack of nourishment both in terms of inculcating ambitious virtues as well as in imparting technical skills like management and negotiations due to which lots of opportunities are missed when women come of age and are not armed with these skills.
When posed with a question from Vyshnavi Kandikatla from KL University regarding the role of educational institutions in normalising the leadership and entrepreneurial roles of women, Smt. Irani replied that excellence isn’t determined by gender. She added that a woman at all times must keep her eye on the goal despite such challenges by being resilient and finding a solution rather than letting the bitterness build-up which can hamper her growth. She also did not hesitate to mention that it isn’t true that men do not face their own set of challenges.
When posed with another question from Syeda Ajla Tahniya from Sri Venkateshwara College of Engineering, whether a woman must dive into the entrepreneurial world risking foregoing a safe job, Smt. Irani threw an inspirational line which reads as “legends are not made by ifs and buts and when your mind shackles you”. She further said that the responsibility of whatever one chooses lies with them given the plethora of information available to one whether it is the frustration of a well-paid safe job or the failure of a start-up.
Responding to another question concerning policy recommendations for the issue by Renita Castelino from JSS Academy of Higher Education & Research, Smt. Irani stated that she doesn’t agree with a recommendation that “only a women officer can provide adequately to female entrepreneurs” and said it is “gender-biased position”. She cited the example of Prime Minister Modi’s work for women including the building of toilets, opening up of bank accounts, providing LPG etc which she said didn’t happen when India had a woman Prime Minister. When asked for advice for young women she said the best advice is “to stop taking advice and start listening to yourself”.
Concerned with another question regarding gender neutrality by Vandita Rajeev from RV College of Engineering, Smt. Irani said that we must ensure gender neutrality on education, financial, IT and entrepreneurial sector however commercialisation of technology especially in terms of investment and financing has unconscious gender biases and thus must be balanced accordingly.
On a question concerning stereotypes associated with women that deter women from becoming active in their entrepreneurial pursuits by Vaishnavi Deepak from Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, she advised that young women must evolve their own thought processes and must not rely on imageries to determine their capacities and goals.
Shubhi Khanna from Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women asked how college students can contribute to ensuring education for young girls across the country to which Smt. Irani suggested that methods such as technology transfer and best practise in various fields along with mentorship and after-school help for additional education support. Specific intervention and help in subjects like math, science, and language particularly in poor families are where college students can contribute especially when these students are in grade IX and X, said Smt. Irani.
Venkata Manjusha Chennuboina, a scholar from Guntur’s Acharya Nagarjuna University made a couple of policy suggestions concerning encouraging women as entrepreneurs ranging from making entrepreneurship as a mandatory subject in educational institutions where the pedagogy would range from theory to application having activities such as field trips to both enhance the knowledge of students as well as to spread awareness. Smt. Irani considered her suggestions to be of immense value and personally invited her to Delhi to meet up with the Vice President and concerned ministers to improve upon the existing policies.
Lastly, she by citing the examples of figures like Rani Lakshmibai and texts such as the Arthashastra responded Stephie Shabu Mathew from NITTE University and emphasised the importance of being aware of the true history of the country and its culture claiming that it isn’t truly a patriarchal society we live in.
Watch the full proceedings at