As women seek equality it is important to pause and learn from each other and celebrate what we have so far achieved.
Celebrated every year on March 8, the International Women’s Day (IWD) commemorates the movement for women’s rights. It was adopted formally by the United Nations in 1975 and has over the years become a day that organisations, institutions, and countries use to highlight and showcase the achievement of women.
While the fight for equality, right to be safe in public places, equal pay for equal work, and calling out sexual abuse and harassment continue to be on top of the list, a day like today also allows women to look at how far we have come, assess what more needs to be done to change the status quo, and applaud and reflect. On Women’s Day, we have the eyes of the world on us, and it is important to draw attention to what we want to say. We want women to not hold back, but speak up and support each other, and the world to cheer, support, and not judge.
Though we share the stories of women all-year-round, today we reached out to women across the board – leaders, entrepreneurs, changemakers, role models – to ask them how they embrace failure, advice they would like to give to their younger selves, and a message for their peers and young girls who dream to take on a world full of challenges.
Women who have worked in multiple organisations and gathered years of experience share how they have embraced failure. Rashmi Daga, Founder of food-tech startup FreshMenu, says, “Failure adds a lot to the experience and we learn to avoid some usual pitfalls which would occur as a normal course of the startup journey. It teaches you patience and perseverance because we rarely get something right in one go.”
Harsha Kumar, Principal, Lightspeed India Partners Advisors, shares, “No one is flawless; some things just aren’t in your control, and success is more fun after having failed before!”
As we grow and move forward we make decisions and choices, and sometimes it is good to look back and reflect to understand what we can learn from our own journey.
Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson, Mpower, an organisation that works towards tackling mental health issues among the youth, says, “On one hand, I’ve had a satisfying journey through life. So many things I can take for granted now seemed almost impossible to achieve at one point, given the circumstances and the obstacles. So, I’ve done well for myself in that respect. But experience has also taught me there are things I could’ve done differently. I could’ve been more authentic to myself on several counts when I was younger and realized that I can make people happy only when ‘I’m happy’. Some aspirations I needn’t have procrastinated with. The idea for Mpower was in my mind for some years. I could’ve initiated action on the idea much earlier. On the personal front, I love the outdoors and activities like trekking and skiing. I started skiing only two years ago. Now, I keep wondering why I waited so long and lost out on time that could’ve been spent enjoying the sport.”
Venus Barak has worked and lived in over 40 countries around the world for more than a decade and a half. She is the CEO of FranGlobal which provides a comprehensive range of franchise consulting and master franchise opportunities, says, “Past experiences have made me who I am today. I have learnt through my journey to be patient and positive because I have realized that eventually, things do work out. People have unique capabilities, which once they realize, can help them attain their goals. The mantra is ‘Believe in yourself even with all the chaos around you’. Optimism and positivity are the catalysts that enable a person to achieve their aspirations.”
Samara Mahindra, Creator and Founder of the CARER Program for holistic cancer recovery and rehabilitation, concurs, “As women, we often undervalue our capabilities and don’t realise the strength, power, and perseverance that calmly lies within. We have strong intuitive senses that never fail. The day we tap into that, we realise that nothing is beyond our creation and control. Stand tall and be the woman you are made of.”
Just as important as empowering yourself is ensuring that you pass on the ideas of standing up for yourself to the next generation. Renu Satti, MD & CEO, Paytm Payments Bank, shares, “My mother has played an important role in preparing me for life. She taught me never to limit my expectations, and persist. I believe it’s crucial we breach this wall of inhibition in our attitude towards education and the way we treat women in the workplace.”
What does it take to chase your dream, not give up, and see through the promises you have made to yourself? Some of the successful women we talked to shared their own lessons.
Yuki He, CEO, Liveme, and Senior Vice President at Cheetah Mobile, said, “This year, women across the globe came together to fight for a cause and stood with each other in the testing times of the #MeToo campaign. All of us marching from different walks of life should fuel the movement and come together keeping our ethnicity, culture, and colour aside. Break the societal rules and walk towards one aim, the progress of women. The world will try to cripple your growth, but you must always look up and love yourself. A woman has the most extraordinary powers to change the world. Be aware of the power you have and use it to make the world a better place for everyone around you.”
“To all the girls and women out there, believe in yourself, trust your instincts, never stop learning, seek help if you need it, surround yourself with people who support and inspire you, and be bold to achieve your dreams. Good luck,” says Elsa Marie D’Silva, Founder and CEO of Safecity.
Transgender activist Gauri Sawant, the mother who won a million hearts with her story in the Vicks campaign, says, “This Women’s Day, celebrate being a woman. Compassion and warmth are the greatest strengths of womanhood. Though I was not born with a uterus, I had motherly instincts. This was what drove me to adopt my daughter Gayatri. And now, watching how a little bit of warmth changed her life, I want to reach out and provide the same to girl children of other sex workers as well. Together, we can give a better life to the women of tomorrow.”
Illustrator Alicia Souza’s advice to women? Listen to yourselves. “I think people have good instincts when it comes to decisions and knowing what’s right. I believe listening to those instincts to make sure things work out for you will make you a happier person.”
Co-founder and CTO of LogiNext Manisha Raisinghani sums it up best, “Focus on your intellect, ambition, talent, and achievements, and rise beyond all stereotypes associated with women and entrepreneurship. Success comes to those who chase it with passion, irrespective of gender. Don’t let society define your limitations – set your own benchmarks and raise them whenever you get the chance.”
It’s a long road ahead and there is much to do, but as we move forward to change things for the better and work towards equality, it is important to remember that change will begin with you. As you pledge to change things for yourself and others, remember every step – big or small – matters.