Women leaders and changemakers decode women empowerment through the Shakti initiative
The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) launched ‘Shakti’, an initiative aimed at empowering girls and women at large.
Launched by Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, and Tisca Chopra, actor, author, and film producer, it will award a 25 per cent scholarship on tuition fees to all girls applying for undergraduate and postgraduate courses starting from 2020.
With the theme ‘Accelerating the gender equality journey: Empowering women from classroom to boardroom’, the launch event brought together stalwarts from across the government, industry and academia, who have become changemakers in society.
Recognition for women
At the launch, Meenakshi Lekhi emphasised that women must be recognised for the work they do. She also spoke about the manifestation of gender gaps in workplaces.
“When you want care or someone to do the mundane jobs of pension and human resources, you will always find a lady. But when it comes to distribution of resources, like funding or finance, there’s always a man,” she said.
“Competence is not an issue,” she said, adding, “It is networking where women end up missing out.”
However, she also said that gender equality in India is in a much better state than in other countries.
Empowering women through education
A panel of eminent speakers deliberated on the importance of education in empowering women.
It included big names from the industry, including Meenakshi Gupta, Co-founder of Goonj; Talish Ray, Founding Partner at TRS Law Offices; Renu Batra, Additional Secretary of UGC; Vidhu Goyal, Founder and Partner at WONK App; Rajashree Rao, Head of Partnerships and Ecosystem (APAC) at R² Data Labs, Rolls Royce; and Vijay Kumar Singh, Dean of UPES School of Law. The discussion was moderated by Dipti Nair, Editor of YourStory.
The discussion began with Dipti elucidating how women have been influenced by their teachers and people who have supported them in their journey. She added that women who stood up with confidence in their abilities were successful in their journeys no matter how tough the going got.
Panellists spoke about how their families – from mothers and teachers to mothers-in-law and husbands – supported them through their journey.
Renu Batra, said, “I want to give credit to my mother who was illiterate but made sure all her children received good education.”
On the other hand, Meenakshi Gupta lauded her mother for supporting her in becoming self-reliant when she was busy burning the midnight oil. She added that her husband was also highly supportive during the difficult choices she had to make.
Talish Ray spoke about breaking the glass ceiling, highlighting that she hails from a small city, and always struggled to venture beyond boundaries. In the early years of her life, she was deemed an ‘impossible child’ by her teachers.
She concluded by saying, “The impossible women are the ones who make history,” adding that women should not be afraid to fail.
Rajashree Rao spoke about her struggles in the boardroom, based on her experiences of being in rooms full of men and how she never let her gender come in the way of her success.
Coming from a place with limited exposure and opportunities, Vidhu Goyal said she believes that giving girls opportunities to expand their horizons while they are still in school is essential for their empowerment.
Vijay Kumar Singh said he was mentored by several women in academics and at work, adding that women putting the needs of their families before themselves is something that has influenced him greatly.
Difficult conversations lead to historic breakthroughs
Tisca Chopra spoke about some of the uncomfortable things she had to bear to emerge stronger. In the show business, where women are unabashedly objectified, discriminated against, and paid less than their male counterparts, Tisca stood her ground and refused to pander to stereotyping.
From demanding equal support from her husband in taking care of their daughter to creating work by directing and producing films, Tisca lived life on her own terms. She urged women to be unapologetic about demanding support, conduct themselves with utmost professionalism and never make compromises in reaching their career goals.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)