Expectations & Reactions From India’s Leading Women Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders On Women’s Day
This Women’s Day, we asked India’s leading women entrepreneurs about their views towards entrepreneurship and business outlook in India. We asked them what are their plans related with expansion, their thoughts about how Indian women are breaking stereotypes and venturing into the existing world of business and technology.
Here are the highlights:
Arpana Mehra, Chief Human Resources Officer Engineering Centers, Altran, part of Capgemini.
“An ideal work environment is diverse, recognizes talent without bias and actively promotes gender equity. Opportunities for women in leadership roles used to be a handful when I started my career in technology more than two decades ago. Over the years, I have witnessed a steady growth in the representation of women in engineering as well as other professional spheres. While Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown has, in some ways brought an impact, I am confident that it will gather momentum in the near future. At Altran, part of Capgemini, we have made substantial progress in fulfilling the individual career needs of our employees by aligning gender parity with business strategy. We are committed to play our role in accelerating women’s progress at the workplace. My advice to young women is to find the right mentor, trust the guidance, gain knowledge and share their learnings. It is important to keep a positive attitude, remain focused and turn every challenging situation into an opportunity.”
Ankita Sheth, Co-Founder Vista Rooms
” We are witnessing the growth in travel and tourism space, especially just after the lockdown is magical. There are umpteen instances where women have left their lucrative corporate jobs and dedicated to full-time travel. In the last couple of months, there has seen a massive influx of independent workers choosing to work from remote locations, which has proved to be a cost-effective and absolutely stress-free environment. Also, a considerable number of new-age travelers are preferring unplanned short trips to multiple trips contributing largely to remote working culture. Another significant development that has come with this is the upliftment of the local community, especially the semi-urban and rural areas. This is due to the experiential travels, that leading them to self-discovery and creating lasting memories. “
EmpMonitor- Deepa Gosh, CEO
“Only a woman can almost die and give birth at the same time. Thus, on this women’s day, I want all the women to lead the way for a better world, with the goal of empowering women in all environments, so that they can live fulfilling lives, following their individual and family dreams. Also, I would suggest women to push themselves, be confident, and keep their mindset strong. Be proud to be a woman. Happy Women’s Day!”
Branch International- Sucheta Mahapatra, MD India
“We are delighted to celebrate the social, economic, and cultural strides women have made from all walks of life but especially in business. We at Branch is committed to women’s equality at work. In addition to having two of our largest countries being headed by women, Branch is also proud to announce that we have 46% women workforce in India with some of the key teams solely run by women.”
Rizzle- Vidya, CEO
“Women have careers that are rife with glass ceilings, stereotypical binds, and familial orthodoxy. To add to that, with a country and culture that naturally puts domestic responsibilities on women, subliminal biases that automatically assume that women have less time to work, and a pandemic that disproportionately hit women, questions such as can we really achieve equality come to mind.
Despite all of that, female leaders are now more tenacious than ever. Women have been actively championing technology that will not only enable other women but also empower them. And that makes all the difference. Take our app example- majority of our creators are women! That’s because we are working towards creating a safe and positive community for everyone, especially females, and empowering them with a platform to be vocal.”
Robogenius- Dr. Shabnam Sharma , Director
“I am happy to see a significant progress made during the last decades to achieve gender equality, but there is still much work to do. In particular, the gender gap is pronounced in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at all levels of education. In those areas, the women participation remains low, although there are differences from country to country.
As per the UNESCO stats , Women make up almost half of researchers in Asia. We as RoboGenius are working towards encouraging women and girls to learn and teach STEM and I wish to see success for women in the education sector in the times to come.”
Megan Ackerson, Chief People Officer, Brillio
“2020 and the Pandemic has presented the world with challenging times at so many levels – and out of it has also come some learnings and opportunities that may finally help level the playing field for women. The sudden and massive shift to work-from-home and remote schooling gave corporate organizations, colleagues and working men a new lens on empathy and appreciation for the juggles of family and home that societally have still bared a heavy demand on women.
It is why Brillio chose to continue forward to increase flexible work –despite it being a pandemic year— and introduce a Back-to-Work program intended to create a pathway for professional women to rejoin the workforce following an extended leave. Integrating back into the corporate world can be difficult – and Brillio’s Back-to-Work program is designed to allow women to work part time with the ability to flex up or down the hours to better integrate work with home and family needs. This flexible set up coupled with access to education programs helps talented, capable women who want to rejoin the workforce cut through the barriers of being able to transition with ease back into a career.
Empathy and appreciation is all well and good but what I believe really makes the difference is how we as individuals, as corporations, and leaders back up that rhetoric with action.”
Mrs Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower
“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women from all walks of life! The modern Indian woman is a powerhouse – fighting for her rights and proudly flaunting the many other facets of her personality. She is making her mark in business, science & technology, politics, sports, the arts, and in society as a whole. In this age of globalization, India has seen the rise and triumph of women leaders who have pushed the boundaries and helped to strengthen the workforce by creating inclusive environments. It is heartening to see that this growth is not just limited to women in metros. Even rural and semi-urban entrepreneurs are taking giant leaps for womankind, and encouraging their peers to follow their footsteps.
Over the last year in particular, there’s no denying that the pandemic has been difficult for many, and the pressures have been compounded for women. It is apparent that socio-economic vulnerability combined with the control of their sexuality, societal pressure, harassment or violence etc. gravely impact both their mental and physical health. On our 1 on 1 helpline we have received calls from women across India struggling with relationship issues, anxiety, depression due to loneliness and self-esteem issues. As a nation, until we come together to create awareness and address the issues women face, only then will we able to create an environment where women can thrive. The change needs to begin with each one of us. We need to respect ourselves and not be apologetic about who we are and what we want. While we have come a long way in these last few years, we still have an even longer way to go. This journey has only begun.”
Neha Bahri, Founder Director Bconnect Communications
A women is not born out of a day. She is a special creature, made up of will, courage & power. Her journey is immeasurable among any one in the society. Women are special! Irrespective of which financial, social, economical background they come from. They still illuminate to be beautiful, powerful, and independent in whatever they do. It’s the will of the women that is shaping the society. This will has seen a tremendous shift from a male domination society to the female dependent world. A woman needs to talk to themselves, self motivate and consistently keep encouraging herself and discover herself in every sphere of life.
One needs to be fearless, to step up & stand for themself. Times are changing. Now it’s an era of a man behind a women success & support. Infact women can self support themselves and we live in a generation when women support their men and lead their families. As a woman entrepreneur myself I see that more women will start impacting the world and will the greatest source of influence in the days to come.”
Marie-Helene Mansard, Business Development Director, Axis Communications, Asia Pacific
“Being a woman in security and technology, I have witnessed progress regarding women’s representation across different industry verticals. I have realised we must live in the moment and act now to break the preconceived gender stereotypes. I believe that it’s critical for organizational success to have a healthy diversity quotient. There should be a culture of learning and development and sensitizing the workforce.
We are at a juncture of limitless tech possibilities and as more women helm challenging roles; I want to encourage young professionals to seize every opportunity and think one step further. Do not let gender be a deterrent and as a woman, support another woman so that you are visible and heard at the workplace.”
Garima Singh, Founder and Chief Elanista at LittleMissElan
“There are women who lead the way across various walks of life, and there are things that none but they do the best, proudly so. Everything that forms a part of our daily lifestyle is something that most women are built up with. While women are not just about makeup, or kitchen chores, many do it out of love and not just to fit in the definition what society wishes for them. With LME, the sole aim is to repurpose what we are conditioned to do, and do it for passion instead.”
Jyotsna Uttamchandani, Executive Director, Syska Group
“During the pandemic, the world witnessed that countries which had women in the leadership positions were in a much better shape than the rest. Women have time and again proven that they are focused on continuously finding solutions for challenging situations. The world wants change and this could definitely be a century where equality can be established in every field. A big example that showcased a country breaking the etch was when Kamala Harris became the first woman Vice President of the United States. It is key that in this post pandemic world, we not only identify but accept the problems of patriarchy. We need a more humane and rational approach. Most importantly women always believe in working in a sort of comradeship. Be it healthcare, hospitality, politicians, innovators, women have been front liners. It is time we must discard the gender stereotypes, empower and let women take the lead towards this unrivaled gridlock. As Michelle Obama says, “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” Wishing All Women a Happy Women’s Day. May you all continue to be strong, and keep your heels and head high!”
Aditi Agarwal, Founder and Managing Director of PinkAprons
“Women are the caregivers and nurturers, and keeping in mind that they always know the best, PinkAprons started off to celebrate women. It is to promote the idea that right from career to care, she is always there. Today, as we celebrate them, it is equally important to identify all the hardwork that they put in, at home and the workplace as well.”
Juhi Mishra, Manager, HR Business Partner-India, Randstad RiseSmart
For long women have been major contributors in corporate success stories, more often than not, while working behind the scenes. In a COVID-19 world where almost everything that we know and accepted as normal, has changed, there is a heightened need for this to be reflected in the boardroom as well. The unfortunate reality is that in India, we have only about 17% representation among women in board positions. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day – ChooseToChallenge, is a call to action to recognise and celebrate women for their resilience and achievements. It is also a reminder to women that they have the power to choose to challenge social norms and shape a more equal future.
Within organisations, women have already cemented their position as thinkers, doers, and as forces to reckon with. Now, the time has come to take this to next level; for organisations to create an even playing field, and give women professionals an environment which they can thrive in. Randstad RiseSmart is a firm believer in creating an inclusive and diverse culture where our employees enjoy equal opportunities, and can thrive to reach and exceed their goals. Organizations need to take a proactive stance to create an inclusive and respectful workplace. The effort has to be two pronged – allow ease of entry and provide equal opportunities for development. In the long run, such measures will create a positive environment for mutual growth. Additionally, it will also strengthen the organization’s reputation as an employer of choice, to attract and retain the right talent, and build a diverse workforce that’s future-ready.
Aditi Shrivastava, Co-founder, Pocket Aces
“Women should be celebrated every day, and their accomplishments and contributions should be recognized throughout the year. Corporate organisations both in India and globally should take the necessary steps to ensure that they groom and motivate women to take up leadership positions to help create the right balance in the workforce today. This will encourage young girls to pursue their dreams and look up to these women leaders as role models. Encouraging women at entry levels will give them the confidence to face all the challenges they might encounter, in their quest towards building successful careers in varied sectors – corporates, sports politics, media, and more. We are increasingly seeing brands rushing to push out Women’s Day content once every year, however messages such as women emancipation and empowerment should be an ongoing activity. As an organisation, we strive to create content that showcases real women and their stories, while also taking steps within the enterprise to ensure workplace diversity where each employee is valued and provided an opportunity to grow irrespective of their gender. This way, we as a society will be able to build a more just and equitable society for future generations.”
Pooja Bhatia, Head of Products at IamHere
“Women are always leading the path towards change, and while they are expected to don a lot of hats, they still have to take the road less traveled. However, it is with absolute efficiency and hard work that we women manage to traverse paths that we have always wanted to, and that is what I have been doing after all. We at IAmHere thrive in an extremely friendly and safe environment, and much like women create safe homes, we are enabling safe and interactive neighborhoods through the work we do here. Anyone who handles home and work does not have it easy, but it is through consistent efforts and support that the journey truly becomes easy.”
Anushka Iyer, Founder and CEO, Wiggles.in
“Gender stereotypes and beliefs are extremely powerful in shaping us, our behaviour, our culture, the business world and the way we react and adapt to things in our daily lives.
When people think of a woman in business, a female leader, they often draw on the image that society holds of women. Terms like bitch, slut, princess, bossy are all used to describe gender stereotypical roles society holds for women. The problem is that most of the labels used to describe women are gendered and they represent the narrow views of our women and women leaders. Here are some more: controlling, nurturing, bitchy, soft, timid, communicative, sweet, nice, intelligent, weak, sensitive, unassertive.
A leader is supposed to be strong, authoritative, should know their stuff, hold their ground and speak their mind. Why is it that in the case of a woman she is also supposed to come off as sweet, kind, gentle, supportive, nice? As a woman who is a part of the business world, operating in a very niche male dominated sector it is impossible to do both simultaneously.If a female leader is understanding and kind, she is seen as a poor leader and weak. If they are bossy, they are seen as competent but unlikable .
On Women’s Day today, what we need to do is to create a culture where we acknowledge more women into leadership positions to bring in the change!”
Mrs. Rupali Sharma, Chairperson & Co-founder, Okinawa Autotech “While it is great to celebrate women and womanhood on a particular day, we believe that women must be celebrated as much as men on any given day. It is heartening to see the outlook towards women gradually transforming. Today, more and more women are being valued and acknowledged for their contributions across the world. We are celebrating ‘Marvellous March’ so that people continue to care for and do something special for their loved ones. We are looking forward to the participation of people from pan india.”
Manisha Raisinghani, Co-founder and CTO, LogiNext
2021 brought in good news with a woman led tech company going IPO. This success story was celebrated and ushers in a new age in the post covid world where we are all rooting for more women in leadership roles across the board. Less than 10% of the S&P 500 companies have a woman CEO but that number should grow rapidly in the coming times. And this will happen by changing mindsets at a cultural level by encouraging more young women to pursue their dreams. Technology and the internet is a great leveller because it gives access to a sea of knowledge and anyone can start a business from anywhere! At LogiNext, we have a special push to achieve a 50:50 gender ratio by the end of 2021 and we already have several women in leadership roles across the organisation. LogiNext is probably one of the most diverse high growth start up globally and we’d like to encourage more and more companies to take this route.
Priyanka Jain, AVP Communications and Campaign outreach- Bolo Indya
“New age companies” and startup ecosystem today are helping women breaking stereotypes by narrowing down the gender gap at leadership positions.
Certainly, women have started to expand their positions in board rooms and continue to progress with their agility, assertiveness and knowledge. With the current generation, paving the foundation and the next set of millenials having the most educated and dynamic group of women around, it shall not be surprising that 1 out of every 3 organizations will have women at leadership positions by 2025.
Today is just a start of narrowing down the gap. What shall be witnessed in the years to come is an upprecendented change in the way leadership was ever seen with strong Women leaders in action. As torch barriers, we stay committed to groom the young lot and redefine the narrative of women leadership for them to learn, adapt and execute in a way that shape new India’s future.
Kavitha Subramanian, Co-Founder, Upstox
At Upstox, we have witnessed a nearly 4X jump in accounts opened by women since last year. Of these, more than 75% are first-time women investors, about 60% are millennial women, and more than 35% are housewives. This is a reflection of the fact that women are inherently good at planning and managing finances for themselves and their family. Even so, the total share of women’s accounts remains at 13%.
While women today are more financially independent, many are yet to familiarise themselves with the world of finance. We are confident this number will continue to grow as financial awareness and education reach more women across India, including Tier 2 & 3 cities. I am a firm believer in taking small steps and planning your finances for achieving life goals. These are skills a woman already possesses, and she can be very good at managing investments.”
Srishti Dhir Serial Entrepreneur, President, Alchemist ARC; Founder , Hub and Oak Coworking; Founder, Better Burger
On international woman’s day, I would like to take a moment and appreciate the contributions of women in leading the world into a positive direction. While we find women excelling in every sphere there is still many glass ceilings for them to crack considering most professions are still male dominated.
Women are a creative force and it is time we encourage them at home and in the office. I believe in the philosophy of #womensupportwomen and that we should stand up for each other.
At Hub and Oak we try to foster a positive work environment for our colleagues and a safe work environment for all our female clients.
At Better Burger, we believe that the Dairy Cow deserves to celebrate Woman’s Day too.
Dairy cows like all mammals produce milk for their babies but in dairy farms they are artificially impregnated to begin milk production and often separated from there calves.
These ladies deserve better, so we offer absolutely DELICIOUS DAIRY FREE meals and drinks that are exciting and delicious like the impossible sloppy joe burger , tacos and the meatless meatball pasta.
Ms. Mona Singh, Co-founder, India Accelerator (Indian’s largest incubator and accelerator for startups)
The startup ecosystem has been dominated by male entrepreneurs for the longest time, it was a rare sight to have females as part of the founding team, let alone having female-led startups. However, as the ecosystem is evolving, the mindsets are changing as well. There’s a growing representation of women in every sphere, right from corporate to civil services. And startups are no exceptions. It’s refreshing to see more and more female founders who have set out to create an identity for themselves in this road less traveled. At India Accelerator, we recognise this fact and hence are now in the process of launching a women-focused vertical dedicated to helping and supporting the women entrepreneurs in India and across.
It is equally exciting to see the growing community of women investors by the same coin. As founders, women tend to bring in a balance in the leadership team creating avenues for diverse ideologies and a variable perspective with fresh viewpoints. As investors they bring along the EQ and gut instinct that’s extremely pertinent in the investment world… because after all the number crunching and graph creation, investment eventually, is a gut decision. So, let’s invest like a girl
Eela Dubey, Founder of EduFund (India’s first investment advisory app focussing on higher education for kids)
I am proud to be a part of a cohort of female trailblazers starting their own companies. While there is still a dearth of women founders in the start-up ecosystem, we are setting new examples everyday. The challenges are immense because gender biases still exist in the start up world. But with perseverance, and the right team, we are making our mark across all sectors. Though not Indian, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble CEO, serves as an inspiration to so many women globally: that women can and will lead high growth startups to becoming successful public companies. And that too, with compassion and empathy. Women are not the future- we are the “today.”
Ms. Shubhi Agarwal, Co-founder and COO, Locobuzz
“Gender Inequality is seen not just in India, but is witnessed globally, unless companies are trying to conscientiously promote inclusivity. However, as times have progressed, we can see women across sectors taking on leadership roles. For instance, Indra Nooyi who headed Pepsi until 2019, has consistently been ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women and it’s all because of her capability and not because of her gender. Infact, as new opportunities are opening up, women have started accepting tech roles too. At Locobuzz, most of our key positions are headed by women and we ensure that they are not only treated with as much dignity and integrity as their male counterparts but are also fairly paid. Women must always remember to believe in themselves and not be bogged down by thoughts that they ‘can’t’ achieve a goal. It is crucial that women make themselves heard and not shy away due to external forces. As it is rightly said the world is your canvas and you are free to paint your own picture!”
Akshita Gupta, Co-founder and CMO, ABL workspaces
In every field and every industry, women are not only progressing but also owning the space to make it better and richer with their creativity. Diversity at the workplace is not just required but is critical for any business to prosper, as it allows different opinions, ideas to flow for business growth. I was fortunate enough to receive a lot of support and guidance from my family, friends, and mentors when I took my first step in the direction of becoming an entrepreneur. I can say this confidently that my ability to sustain and grow myself in a male-dominated industry such as real estate has only been possible because I had great support behind me and a clear vision of making ABLWorkspaces one of the most preferred co-working spaces in the Delhi NCR region. I am learning and growing each day with the sheer talent that works out of our workspace and I am so proud of being able to provide them with a safe and enriching work environment for their business. My advice to other women who want to make a mark in the industry they work in would be to also have a clear objective followed by short-term and long-term targets for them to achieve. Being able to tick off milestones in the form of the goals will be crucial to motivate them to keep going and eventually achieving their dreams.”
Ms. Yogita Tulsiani, Director and Co-founder, iXceed Solutions (Global tech recruitment solution provider)
The government has recognized the potential in Women-led startups and has allocated a good part of the budget to accelerate their growth. Several Policies have also been introduced and amendments have been made to ensure positive outcomes in startup segments. All these are helping women entrepreneurs fuel their dreams and shape them into reality. I have seen remarkable success from ideation to fruition and expanding iXceed Solutions globally, there has been learning and unlearning.
We have seen a lot of change in gender equality and the day is not far when we will be equal. The bridge between men and women in the world of business has been built to a considerable extent and gradually we will only see more improvement. I believe entrepreneurship is an innate quality in women as they build a home and that is nothing short of being an entrepreneur. Hundreds of women-owned businesses are developing every single day, opening new job prospects and bringing a constructive influx in society.
It is believed that more the women step into the shoes of businesses, the more value influence is created in the community. In this scenario, it is essential to encourage women more often to enter the male-dominated sectors like businesses. This will not only change the mindset of the financial lenders and investors but also add to the economic value of the world. To make an economy a captivating place to do business, gender diversity is of utmost importance.
Margaret Dsouza, Head HR, Flock, Zeta and Radix
“This International Women’s Day urges us to recognize and celebrate women for their role in shaping a more democratic future and building a non-biased society. During the pandemic, working from home was not the same for men and women. Women had to balance both work and family duties simultaneously, which added to the stress and pressure affecting the mental wellness of women to a great extent. Today, women have created a space and position for themselves at organizations in every field, but we can still see that there are unconscious biases that exist in the corporate world. We are constantly working to make Flock, Zeta and Radix a great and comfortable place to work for our women employees. To create awareness about such biases, we have organized special activities and sessions to get people to become more aware of such things. Now more than ever, the focus should be on the mental health of employees, diversity, and respect for each employee, which is vital and needs to be followed by every organization at all times.”
Lakshmi Mittra, VP and Head, Clover Academy
“This year’s theme for International Women’s Day – ChooseToChallenge, is a call to action to recognize and celebrate women for their role in shaping a more democratic future, and building a gender-neutral society. Within organizations, women have already cemented their positions as innovators, thinkers and go-getters. Now, the time has come for organizations to take this contribution to the next level by introducing forward-looking policies and initiatives for women to thrive. At the same time, women need to rise above the status quo and embrace challenges. This leads to the creation of amicable work culture that not only facilitates mutual growth but also strengthens an organization’s values and reputation, further assisting in attracting and retaining the right kind of talent and forming a diverse workforce.”
Surabhi Goel, CEO – Aditya Birla World Academy, Aditya Birla Education Academy & The Aditya Birla Integrated School
#ChooseToChallengeFor me gender equality means truly being equal. Neither men or women are superior. It means that we need more men as teachers, it means raising my son to do household chores and respecting a woman who may be more successful than him in the future. I choose to challenge the belief that working women are not good mothers or good daughters. I want to challenge people who look at compassion and empathy in women as their weakness. Because they are actually their strengths. At the Aditya Birla Education Trust, we have several women in the leadership team. We hope that we can inspire other women that they too can lead
Bhoomi Mehta, AVP, Special Projects, Cygnet Infotech
“While there is a lot of chatter about increasing the number of women in IT, we need to begin at the grassroot level to bring about this change. Encouraging girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses in school and college is the first step. Over time, this will greatly increase our talent pool. Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate to have led multiple teams and projects, both technical and functional, in different roles at Cygnet Infotech. Our organization is committed to equal opportunities for all. In fact, we are currently running a campaign around ‘It’s okay to take a break” to encourage women who have taken breaks in their career to apply to our organization. The response has been very encouraging.”
Mili Panicker, Senior Manager – HR, WebEngage
“As HR leaders, we are constantly striving to make the organisation a great place to work for our employees across the globe. Focusing on diversity, inclusion and respecting individuals as a whole at every level is very important and needs to be adapted by every enterprise. That said, companies also need to curate and drive HR initiatives that empower women and assure them a safe place to work, while balancing their personal life. Today, with Women’s Day around the corner, as corporate organisations we all need to open up new opportunities and avenues for women to grow and succeed. As HR teams, we need to understand the challenges women employees face at work and believe that empathy and support are two essential things to facilitate the growth of women in the workforce.”
Manisha Banthia, Director, Analytics, Fiserv Global Services
“Women from all fields and at all levels should strive to drive innovation and business transformation across organizations. Women have broken all barriers in technology across sectors. The rising popularity of fields like data science amongst women can change the rules of the game. While some are now part of core leadership or have built their own enterprise, there is also progressive increase in participation of women in niche areas like data science and analytics, UI/UX, animation etc. To accelerate growth here, it will be essential for companies to incorporate forward-thinking policies for women and provide them an environment to be at their best.”
Jayatri Dasgupta, CMO, PayNearby
“An equitable world requires equal opportunity, requires strong women. We need everyone in the society to challenge status quo, to question pre-defined roles. The narrative needs to change from women supporting women, to men and women supporting women. Girls with ambitions today will be women with vision tomorrow. Let’s make space for our women to grow both in their personal and professional lives.”
Ms. Gunjan Malhotra, Gunjan Malhotra, Director, Komaki Electric Division
“Hard work and an unwavering commitment to your goals is the way to go. I may sound biased but I believe that women are more intuitive. Given the right direction, women entrepreneurs can change the world. The road to success is never easy, but if you have the will to persevere, success will eventually find you. We are unstoppable and visionary and there is no doubt about that.”