A power packed conversation with CashKaro and EarnKaro’s Swati Bhargava, JobsForHer’s Neha Bagaria, and Mamaearth’s Ghazal Alagh broke down the many reasons why India’s economy is lacking female participation. Despite the socio-economic challenges and gender-bias associated with the reason why half of India’s population only occupies 20-25% of the Indian workforce, the three fearless and empowered leaders of their own companies are confident we can look forward towards a brighter future if women lift up and empower each other.
“Our largest reservoir of talent pool is completely untapped in our country. It has a lot to do with the kind of societal norms we have in our country. It’s almost taken as a privilege and a luxury for women of the house to not be having paid employment. I can guarantee you that every woman is working. It’s about whether she’s getting paid for that work or not,” said Neha Bagaria, CEO and Founder of JobsForHer, at the TechSparks 2020 roundtable on Women Building Up Women.
Ghazal Alagh, Co-Founder of Mamaearth, noted that the representation of women in blue-collar jobs, which largely makes up the Indian workforce, is severely lacking. However, throwing a positive light, she stated that women in leadership positions have increased and there has been more recognition over the last decade for women entrepreneurs. While there is still a long way to go, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Does the effort to build women leaders extend beyond the working environment?
The social norms that have stood as obstacles for women entering or sustaining themselves in the workforce have largely been the two ‘M’s’- marriage and motherhood. Noting that the definitions of parenthood and motherhood differ greatly between men and women, Swati Bhargava, the Co-Founder of CashKaro and EarnKaro, said that support at home plays a huge role in empowering a female leader.
“What is the narrative you are driving when you are at home all day? Women have an incredible amount of power in terms of what they say. [Don’t encourage] any kind of back-biting or negative conversations because that will somehow find its way back to the woman who is working. [She] won’t be the same the next day,” said Swati.
Ghazal Alagh spoke up about how privilege plays a huge role in building leaders and that not everyone has the privilege to receive support at home.
“It’s only when women will start appreciating what other women are doing, celebrating their success, and realize they’re equal in terms of being breadwinners for the house, the respect [for each other] increases to the next level,” adds Ghazal.
Female Solidarity in the Workplace
Women are often under the assumption, due to a systemic patriarchal set-up in the workplace, that the space for them to survive and coexist with each other is incredibly small, which has led to a fight to occupy this space instead of the creation of more.
“As a woman, I should think about how people are competition, men and women alike. But, as a woman, I should not act thinking that ‘I’m okay if this guy gets the job, but this girl should not get it.’ This shouldn’t happen,” Swati said.
“Sometimes women tend to bring each other down a little bit at work and don’t provide that space because they think that while they’ve got it sorted, another woman is the competition,” she adds.
Neha Bagaria brought up a relevant point of how several workplace policies, ideologies, and events like networking, were built to support men and their work. Interestingly, it is these very events like networking, talks on the golf-course, and heading out for drinks with colleagues which help with progression in one’s career. And this has existed as a ‘boys club’ which has excluded women for the longest time, Neha notes.
“If we have to change the average person [in the workforce] from male to female, we are going to have to change the rules of the game,” said Neha.
Building solidarity between women also often comes down to having mentors and existing leaders striving to ensure that the next generation is even better in their leadership skills in order to break the systemic oppression and bias that have existed around female leaders.
“If we create better leaders than ourselves, it’s a huge success for us. It literally shows that the leadership coaching and directions you gave out were correct. You should be very proud of yourself if you see someone who has worked under you, taken mentorship from you, become an entrepreneur and a person who is even better than you,” said Ghazal.
Let’s do better
Comparing female participation in the workforce to countries like China and the United States of America, India is lagging behind by a very large degree. And this untapped energy is one of the reasons why the country hasn’t been able to catch up to the two economic superpowers, according to Neha.
“Women, if you are going through anything, please talk about it. That is the first step. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Bias sets in from the minute we are born and does not leave us. You have to stop looking at the pink and the blue [segregation]. This bias becomes society’s expectation from you,” Swati adds.
Breaking these barriers and stamping away the systemic bias that have existed towards women in the Indian workforce has become imperative, now more than ever. Amidst other solutions, what better way to ensure this than to help, cheer, and celebrate each other's successes and keep that momentum going? What better way than to strive to impart knowledge and build solidarity between the women leaders of tomorrow?
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)
Watch more videos of MAKERS India roundtables at TechSparks 2020 here.
MAKERS India also launched it’s first report titled State of Women in Tech Entrepreneurship in India. The report offers first-of-its kind insights and trends that track the rise, opportunities and challenges for women entrepreneurs in India’s start-up ecosystem. Read and download the report from here.