Findings indicate that providing business training to women in the presence of friends can stimulate female entrepreneurship and business growth

Do lack of a support network and role models contribute to the observed gender gap in microenterprises? And are these cultural constraints more strongly felt by women facing more restrictive social norms on their mobility? Working with 636 customers of India's largest women's bank, the authors offered a random sample two days of business counseling and assistance in identifying a medium-term financial goal. A random subsample were invited with a friend. The intervention had a significant immediate impact on participants' business activity, but only if they were trained in the presence of a friend. These clients were more likely to take out new business loans; then, four months later, they reported increased business activity and higher household income, and were less likely to report their occupation as housewife. The positive impacts of training with a friend are stronger among women from religious or caste groups with social norms that restrict female mobility.