We are shocked to learn that Bangladesh has bottom-ranked among 58 economies in the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs for 2020, meaning that women entrepreneurs here face the toughest of challenges in doing business. Bangladesh scored 36.4 out of 100 points in the index, while our neighbouring country India scored 50.99 points. The ranking is done based on an analysis of 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators spanning advancement outcomes, knowledge assets and financial access, and supporting entrepreneurial conditions, according to Mastercard, a global technology company in the payments industry. They mentioned in their report that women entrepreneurs in the economies with the lowest scores "continue to be held back by deeply rooted socio-cultural as well as economic and financial constraints such as lack of work opportunities, government support, and access to funding and capital."
While women in business are progressing globally, it is most unfortunate that Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs are still facing so many constraints in doing business. They are economically marginalised and few of them have tertiary-level education. Their access to government support and funding is also very limited. Moreover, our general social values also stand against women wanting to pursue business as a profession. Women have to overcome all these challenges in order to do business, which their male counterparts hardly face.
While women's representation in the business and economic landscape remains low compared to men across the regions, especially in terms of business leadership, the situation is particularly bad in Bangladesh. There are only a handful of business leaders in the country who are women because many women do not have access to the necessary support mechanisms to prove their potential in becoming a business leader. Access to capital is a major constraint for women entrepreneurs.
We need women-friendly business policies to change this situation. The social and economic barriers faced by our women who want to become business entrepreneurs should be removed by providing them with necessary funding and training, and also by raising awareness to change the negative attitudes towards a woman trying to set up a business. We know that the government provides loans to women trying to set up small and medium businesses. However, women face many challenges in the process of getting the loan starting from writing the application. So, the process of getting SME loans should be made easy for them. Besides, private organisations should also come forward in providing women the support they need to become entrepreneurs.