Nirmala Sitharaman created history in 2019 when she was appointed India's first full-time female finance minister and gave the Union Budget speech. When she delivered her first budget, she emphasised the importance of women in the economy, by referring to them as Naari tu Narayani, as is customary in our nation, implying that they play a significant part in the expansion and modernisation of India.Last year, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) was allocated ₹25,172.28 crore and the government announced strategic interventions for addressing malnutrition concerns and for the empowerment, development and protection of women and children as a part of the union budget 2022-23.On 1 Feb 2023, the Finance Minister is expected to announce the Union Budget; and women are looking forward to adequate growth opportunities and support from the government this budget. Heres what women expect from the budget 2023-2024.1. Increase in Gender BudgetThe Indian government introduced the gender budget in 2005-06 for womens empowerment. Since then, the gender budget has not seen any increase in its total expenditure and GDP. It has always been less than 5% of the total budget expenditure and less than 1% of the country's GDP. The primary and most crucial goal of gender budgeting is to ensure that all genders are covered as beneficiaries of the government, to ensure the delivery of public services from a gender perspective and to help facilitate womens access to public schemes and resources. The expectation this year is to see an increase in the percentage of total expenditure towards women-led development. Along with an increase in investments, experts have been in favour of increasing the number of schemes under the gender budget as well.2.Incentives to Draw More Women Into Gig EconomyAccording to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), the gig economy in India is anticipated to develop at a CAGR of 17 per cent and reach USD 455 billion by 2024; and women participation has increased by 34 over the past couple of years.So, the union budget is expected to bring relief to the lower and middle-income classes in regard to income tax slabs and exemptions. Modifications in provisions and policies on social security, healthcare, etc. are required for the gig workers.3. Encourage Women Participation In The Total WorkforceWomen can also expect schemes which encourage women to take up work and contribute to the economy. According to a McKinsey global report in 2016, India has the potential to add $700 billion to its GDP by improving its gender parity. This can only happen with a significant push by the government.4. Increase in Funding of Women-Led StartupsAccording to a NASSCOM report, women-led startups in India have increased from 8 per cent in 2014 to 13 per cent in 2019. The last five years have seen a steady increase. While the government has made available a number of funding options for women, such as the Udyogini Scheme, Dena Shakti Scheme, and Company Loan from the Bharatiya Mahila Bank, the funding is relatively capped and does not offer financial freedom for scalable business ideas. Experts highlight the following factors to bolster growth and development: Increasing the monetary cap for funding under the existing schemes; Include women-run businesses in the eligible list for priority sector lending; Provide tax reliefs or subsidies to women entrepreneurs to encourage the growth of women-led ventures; Introduce interest subvention schemes for women entrepreneurs; etc.5. Increase In The Percentage of Women DirectorsAccording to the EY report, women now hold around 18 per cent of board seats in India as compared to 13 per cent in 2017. The current law requires at least one female director to be appointed to the boards of public companies. The law is insufficient because a single female director on an otherwise male board may not make a significant difference in the structure. As per experts, the government can consider replacing it with at least one or a percentage of the Boards strength.6. Tax Incentives For Businesses/Corporates Supporting WomenThe Government can introduce tax incentives to companies that provide employment to a minimum prescribed percentage of women. This will push organisations to improve their workforce diversity and gender equality. Additionally, tax incentives can also be given to the employers implementing special skilling programmes for women employees, crche facilities, extended benefits of maternity leave etc.7. Focus on women's self-help groups (SHG)Self-help groups for Women (SHG) have the potential to create millions of jobs in rural areas, which are growing very slowly. If the government can support and provide guidance on the marketing and sales of the products made by these womens self-help groups, it will help increase the rural income manifold. Women will be able to earn ₹ 10,000-15,000 per month, and help boost the rural economy.