Start-ups in India have the potential to create two million new jobs for women by 2030, with the ecosystem being uniquely positioned to attract female talent, according to Women in India’s Start-up Ecosystem Report (WISER). 

The report, led by ACT For Women in collaboration with The Udaiti Foundation, finds that women made up 35 percent of the start-up workforce in 2022, in contrast to 19 per cent in the corporate sector. This indicates that with careful introspection within the start-up community which enables timely and targeted action, that number can rise to 50 percent by 2030, said the report. 

WISER shows that start-ups 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 start-ups in particular are observed to perform even better on gender equality, with start-ups that have at least one female founder seen to have 2.5 times women in senior roles as compared to male-founded start-ups.

Aakanksha Gulati, Director, ACT said, “We launched WISER in January 2023 with the foundational belief that, given their appetite for innovation and bias for action, Indian start-ups are uniquely positioned to lead the way in changing the game for women at the workplace. The fact that over 200 start-ups stepped forward to share their vulnerabilities and contribute to this report gives us immense hope that the start-up community is committed to tangibly igniting meaningful change for India’s women.”

The report notes that start-ups 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 start-ups. However, while the overall figures are promising, significant work lies ahead — 10 years into their careers, 8 out of 10 men in start-ups occupy Director-level positions or higher, compared to only 5 in 10 women.

Gulati added, “WISER has found that stand-alone programs or DEI initiatives are just not enough. Start-ups that have been most successful in advancing gender equity, are also ones that understand that an inclusive workplace culture alongside enabling practices, policies and people, together, are key to purposefully hiring, retaining and advancing women. We acknowledge that there is much that needs to be done but are also optimistic about this ecosystem’s potential to build a case for why employers must prioritise gender equity at work.”