There is a prevalent gap that is often addressed by industry experts: lack of female representation in the entrepreneurial landscape. Within this landscape, there is alarmingly low representation of women of colour. Therefore, it is important to understand the challenges that limit WOC entrepreneurs in their quest for being recognized. Given that diversity is extremely important, its individualistic aspects are often neglected to propagate a westernized idea of diversity.
Recently, PopSugar published an article featuring “17 Badass South Asian Female Entrepreneurs” which made everyone at Meraki HQ extremely excited. We were thrilled to discover an article that celebrates female entrepreneurs hailing from South Asia. Since women are already underrepresented in entrepreneurial literature, this article was a beaming ray of hope for us.
The present day consumer gravitates towards products and services that not only satiate their needs but also reflect a part of their identity. Simply put, consumers love to see entrepreneurs who look like them and understand their struggles. As we read through the article, we were filled with immense pride to witness women thriving and building empires from nothing. However, there were also means to be disappointed as we realized that the article lacked inclusion. Every single woman that was featured in this article was of Indian descent, neglecting an array of female entrepreneurs from the rest of the countries that comprise South Asia. Although the title claims to celebrate South Asian women, the author failed to acknowledge women from countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. A false pretense of diversity which is often advocated by prominent Western media was evidenced in this article. PopSugar allegedly promoted diversity albeit their content showcased lack of inclusion.
False representation and lack of inclusion continues to intensify the challenges that hinder female entrepreneurs with diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, South Asian business leaders have been dissuaded due to lack of support and encouragement, resulting in emotional anxiety. Female entrepreneurs are not granted space – they must occupy space. The concern is not limited to this factor only. From economic disadvantages to not being able to embrace the individualistic facets of their ethnicity, these women are being excluded from the narrative because they do not belong from a pronounced South Asian country in the case of Pop Sugar.
Female entrepreneurs from underrepresented South Asian countries feel pressured to work harder, in an attempt to provide evidence for their dedication and competence. They need to actively take a public stand for their identity so that they are not grouped into one cultural category. As a female-led organization, Meraki feels a strong sense of responsibility to start a difficult conversation with its audience. Our efforts, however peripheral, could be the beginning of a seismic shift that prompts the world to recognize how unique South Asia is, comprising many countries and its people. With a collective representation of our respective identities, we can create a strong sense of solidarity, fostering empathy that will help us thrive as South Asian women take over the world!