It was a sunny Saturday morning. I had my Nike’s on, airpods buzzing with my playlist, and I was ready for that 5 mile run. After a hectic week, I was looking forward to this one. But… my body was saying no and my mind was saying yes. I pushed myself and off I ran, taking a bit longer than expected to warm up, but I kept my pace.
Pushing boundaries and going for that stretch is somewhere within us all – the key is finding it and nurturing it!
I was humbled to chair the “Women Changemakers” roundtable at Indiaspora Leadership Forum 2018. Initially, when I was brainstorming the idea with the core team, what struck me was that often times we talk about the fantastic accomplishments that women have made, yet rarely do we provide them a platform to voice the broader impact that they have been able to make in our society. What is it about our society, economy, culture, and the world that we live in that pushes women to prove that they have to be much stronger than their male counterparts to succeed in the same role? Whether it’s a woman in a refugee situation, a stay-at-home mom, a factory worker or a woman handling a multi-billion dollar business, there is a common thread amongst us all: it is our ability to be a driving force and catalyst for change.
During the roundtable, we attempted to build a pyramid of what it takes a strong woman to be a changemaker. The women speakers were from a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds and shared their stories and experiences:
- At the bottom of the pyramid, we laid out education as a fundamental facet to success. The first panelist set the stage by sharing the cultural bias that exists today along with other bias against women. We also learned about fields as unexpected as agriculture, and how it is paving the way for women in STEM. With 50 percent of women in agriculture also in STEM, this space is pushing more and more women to enter STEM.
- Along with a strong education, one needs a mentor to guide their path. One of the panelists then shared the importance of mentoring and the importance of having a coach in their life and career. Malala, who broke down barriers that are preventing more than 130 million girls worldwide from going to school, says that the core of a successful education journey of a girl is mentoring.
- “Health is Wealth!” One of the panelists who founded a health nonprofit shared with us how women are looked upon as caregivers who head households, but it is absolutely important for women to have balanced physical and mental health as well.
- One of the well-known woman leaders in the venture capitalist landscape in India shared how the lack of a pipeline into the industry continues to be an issue that prevents more women from entering her field. Related to that, a speaker from Silicon Valley shared that although there is a huge push in Silicon Valley to fund more women-led businesses, the reality is far from the goal.
- Another speaker shared with us how she wanted to pursue a profession in medicine, but landed in a multi-million dollar corporate sector where she has observed that a woman needs to have her own set of principles (and impeccable ones at that!) to succeed in a hyper-competitive field.
- A speaker who is a veteran in social protection and labor mobility issues shared with us what she aptly described as a “symbiotic relationship” in labor markets, and how crucial it is to monetize skills for roles that women may often be overlooked.
- Last but not least, an accomplished attorney who has done outstanding work as part of the South Asian Bar Association shared how the lack of a pipeline continues to be the core issue in the legal field as well.
What moved me about these women’s untiring efforts to affect positive change is that they are standing tall in their respective fields and continue to make strides and set an example for the next generations.
I am a big believer in disruptive innovation, for innovation to succeed, we have got to put money behind women and minorities. We have to be bold enough to take that stand and say “yes” to what has been pushed aside, and we have to continue these conversations about women as catalysts for change. And we absolutely have to carve the way for our daughters and young girls for generations to come.
So, here are top 3 action items we took away from our conversation:
- It takes 2 to Tango! Partner, collaborate and pull other emerging women leaders up. Give opportunities to the ones who are deserving and embrace a culture of failure.
- You are your own brand – own it! Be authentic, and be you!
- Always, always pay it forward! Once you go up, be sure to send the elevator down.
After all, I did manage to finish my 5k run – thanks in part to the music booming in my ear. At the end of the day, it is about aligning mind with heart and passion. I will leave you with my favorite line from one of my favorite motivational series by Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico: “The bolder you can be, the better off you will be!”
Here’s to more boldness, courage and breaking barriers. Whether it’s the good, the bad, or ugly, let’s make it all ours!
Thank you to all the speakers for the roundtable:
- Shaloo Garg, Global Head of Customer Connects, Oracle [Chair]
- Priya Natarajan, Professor, Departments of Astronomy & Physics, Director Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, Yale University
- Deepa Prahalad, author, business strategist and consultant
- Vani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital
- Priya Rajan, Director, Early Stage Practice, Silicon Valley Bank
- Nalini Saligram, CEO and founder, Arogya World
- Vauhini Telikapalli, Independent Management Consultant
- Shefali Mehta, Executive Director, Soil Health Partnership; CEO, Ceres Wave and Founder and Consultant, Open Rivers Consulting Associates
- Manju Luthria, Senior Economist, World Bank
- Emilie Ninan, Partner, Ballard Spahr, LLP
Shaloo Garg is an Oracle veteran with experience in various spectrums of technology and business units. She is currently the Global Head of Customer Connects practice of connecting the startups to large Enterprise clients for revenue growth and expansion. Shaloo is an advisor to UN Women Technology & Innovation, Champion of Innovation, United Nations and President, Silicon Valley, UN Women. She has recently been nominated for TechWomen, a prestigious initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, founded by Hillary Clinton and comprising of 100 women in STEM across the globe. She is also a member of GATES Foundation, currently focusing on investments for women-led businesses in under developed and developing countries. She holds an MBA and completed an Innovation and Design Thinking course from Stanford d.School.