The instinct to focus on the broader goal and broader impact — a female machismo — that said I don’t need any special consideration, got me through it all.
I co-founded IndoUS ventures (subsequently re-branded Kalaari) in 2006 and moved my family to India. I had never worked in India and was curious to see how gender roles play out here. After all these years, I now wonder if the root cause of gender disparity in pay has to do with women’s inherent choice to be silent and resilient.
If so, should women be more adaptive to the system or should the system be more adaptive to the women’s need?
So what can one woman do? I have a schooled reluctance to be drawn into this debate. I tell myself I am not cut out to be an activist. I like to make the best out of what the system offers. I believe that you have to create your own opportunities.
A recent email from my daughter forced me to confront what I have tried to avoid — my own self-imposed unwritten code on avoiding confrontation. “I felt a bit like Don Quixote?” antiquated and even disillusioned in my expectations — expecting sensitivity, intellectual honesty and moral strength as hallmarks of leadership.
Writing this was really to open myself to reflection, to think of my daughters, and a Martin Niemöller dilemma:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
My daughters, other young women, indeed other young people might have to choose silence above consequences. So, when should they speak up and ask for the credit due to them and demand acceptable code of conduct?
I know I should have spoken up more. I should have asked the system to accept changes for me. I should have promoted more debates to foster mutual learning.
I hope I can make up for years of silence by opening the dialogue for change. I know there are no immediate and easy answers, but perhaps it is important to start somewhere. I am happy to take a small step forward, starting a conversation on what is needed to create more women in leadership through successful startups.
This article earlier appeared on Medium.
(Disclaimer: Kalaari Capital is an investor in YourStory.)