Despite rapid economic growth, gender disparities have remained deep and persistent in India and other South Asian countries. The UN Gender Inequality Index has ranked India below several Sub-Saharan African countries. Gender disparities are even more pronounced in economic participation and women’s business conditions in India. Using data from the 2011 Global Gender Gap report, Figure 1 shows that while India scores around the mean gender gap index overall (horizontal axis), its score for women’s economic participation and opportunity is below the 5th percentile of the distribution (vertical axis).
What explains these huge gender disparities in women’s economic participation in India? Is it poor infrastructure, limited education, and gender composition of the labor force and industries? Or is it deficiencies in social and business networks and a low share of incumbent female entrepreneurs?In a recent paper we examine gender disparities in women’s business conditions in India. We use detailed micro-data on the unorganized manufacturing and services sectors to explore the drivers of female entrepreneurship across districts and industries.