Participants in the Breaking the Glass Ceiling project pose with certificates they received from the University of Texas at Austin’s Global Innovation Lab. [Source: The US Consulate General Kolkata's Facebook page]

University of Texas at Austin Works to Empower Indian Businesswomen


The University of Texas at Austin’s Global Innovation Lab, in collaboration with the US Consulate General in Kolkata, is hosting a monthly series of webinars to educate and empower businesswomen in India. The ongoing series is designed to help female entrepreneurs connect with industry experts, receive business training, learn best practices, and grow their companies.

When the series began in April, its focus quickly shifted to helping businesswomen adapt to the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the webinar’s original programming, the remote events conducted over Facebook Live have discussed unique challenges faced by female entrepreneurs during the pandemic, strategies for keeping businesses viable during lockdowns, and potential plans for investment as the global economy gradually recovers.

While hosting the webinar series, the Global Innovation Lab and Consulate General have also launched a bootcamp for thirty female business owners called “Breaking the Glass Ceiling.” Women participating in the program attend supplemental training sessions from the Global Innovation Lab, practice pitching to investors, and develop networking skills. After the webinar series ends, each of the thirty women in the cohort will also receive one-on-one mentorship from an expert in her industry.

The US Consulate General in Kolkata launched the program to reduce the underrepresentation of women in business across India. In 2019, only 12% of funded startups in India had at least one female founder. Indian women’s forays into business face unique challenges compared to their male counterparts. A lack of familial support, difficulties securing funding, and the scarcity of professional networks focused upon female entrepreneurs adversely affect businesswomen. Connecting Indian women with opportunities to launch and lead businesses, paired with institutional support from the Global Innovation Lab and US Consulate General, is intended to promote economic growth and gender equality throughout India.

The Global Innovation Lab’s involvement with the program underscores the strong economic ties between India and Texas. Since 2003, Indian companies have invested $1,334,000,000 into greenfield investments throughout Texas. Another $4,669,884,653 worth of goods were exported from Texas to India between 2003 and 2018. As female entrepreneurship increases in both Texas and India, both regions are poised to benefit from these collaborative programs.

Estrella Hernandez is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a rising second-year at the University of Chicago pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies.