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Opinion

Trading across borders: Women can take India to greater heights

09/03/2022 5 Min Read

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Trade has the potential to expand women’s role in the economy, decrease inequality, enhance consumer choice and increase their bargaining power in society. This was highlighted in ‘Women and Trade: The role of trade in promoting gender equality’, a joint study by the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, in 2020.

However, for women to empower society at large, we need strong pillars of support. The introduction of favorable government policies for gender sensitivity in the field of cross-border trade and making available an array of opportunities for women are some steps in the right direction.

Family is another crucial social aspect that plays an essential role in motivating women to take up the reign of running a business. This was affirmed by a woman at the stature of a CxO/CFO, as we were discussing ways in which the long-standing issue of rapidly increasing the role of women in male-dominated sector of trade. The support by men too is vital, as exemplified by this rice exporter’s father, her biggest motivator to join the family business who at the time was the sole woman in the company. Thereafter, she encouraged her sister-in-law to take part in business affairs and even recently hired the organization’s first female employee.

Women have come a long way in the cross-border trade side of sales or marketing, but there needs to be more development. While it is smooth sailing for them to deal with people from developed economies, it is an entirely different ball game trading with conservative individuals who take time to develop trust in women. Such people are mostly seen in particular markets, especially in Gulf countries. It is equally challenging for a lot of women to manage the local side of the business wherein they have to coordinate with various stakeholders like distributors, logistics personnel, etc., who have difficulty taking orders from women. It is not like these ladies lack the necessary qualifications or don't have the capabilities to run an empire; in general in this industry, people find it hard to take a woman in a higher post seriously. It is this mindset that needs to change.

Take, for example, the journey of another CxO/ CFO at an import and export food products company, with whom I had the pleasure of conversing on the bottle necks arising out of gender inequality existing in the trade workplace. After having cleared her chartered accountant (CA) exams at the first attempt, along with completing an industrial training course during her Articleship, the finance wiz was more than qualified to head her father’s business. And yet she had to prove her worth to the staff. She was never interested in practicing CA. The family business was at the top of her interest. Being the kin or perhaps the fact that she looked rather young to run a company, she faced challenges when it came to being acknowledged as a leader of the family business. She quickly learned to dress for the part, developed communication skills, went on factory tours wherein some process lapses were noticed too. Gradually, big and bold decisions were in the works which perhaps a man would not have to face in the same situation.

It has also been observed by women in the industry that there is a scarcity of females representing India at international trade-related conferences and events. However, this is not the case with other export geographies like Vietnam, Singapore, etc. While this gender disparity is undoubtedly a cause of concern, fortunately, the nation’s sales and marketing domain tell a different picture.

During my conversation with another senior leader from an export house provided a unique perspective on passion being a major career factor that pushes one to achieve the impossible. Speaking to different people across the globe, understanding their cultures, comprehending their needs, and then acting upon decides the elimination of missing out on opportunities. The woman apprised that since the company deals with organic products, the goods directly go from the factory to the port and into the customer’s hands. The sales game here is challenging as maintaining great relations with clients and continuing to build trust is imperative. She started at the executive level, and is now taking on managerial tasks. This was all because of the management’s efforts, personal genuine interest in the field, and passion for the job that collectively helped deal with all sorts of challenges.

Conclusion

While there are only a handful of women in cross-border trade, no profession is without its share of challenges/hazards. Fortunately, with evolving sectors like fintech, the traditional landscape of trade is changing, thereby opening doors to newer career paths. With immense opportunities coming their way, there is no reason why the industry in India should be regarded as a male-dominated field.

The article was first published on economictimes.indiatimes.com

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Pushkar Mukewar

CEO/Co-Founder at Drip Capital

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