Women with ambition have the ability to change the world: Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook

At Fuel for India 2020, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, speaks to Mahita Nagaraj, Founder of Caremongers India, about the power of communities and ‘leaning in.’
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Facebook’s first-ever edition of Fuel for India began with a message of hope and highlighted the powerful impact that can be achieved when communities come together. The virtual event began with an address by Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, who spoke about how in a year where the world has faced unimaginable challenges, people and institutions have come together to forge meaningful partnerships and do big things together without being physically close to each other. 

“While the world will always remember 2020 for the pandemic, the human losses, and the economic distress, it will also stand out for the numerous stories of hope, passion, resilience, and survival. Facebook Fuel for India is an effort to showcase a few of these extraordinary stories of grit and resilience while celebrating Indian ingenuity and its enterprise, showing the world that if you have the hope, passion, resolved, and courage, you will find the fuel to power your ideas, and then pay things for the country and the world,” he said.

He went on to introduce a session with Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook, in conversation with Mahita Nagaraj, Founder of Caremongers India, a Facebook group that was created amidst the pandemic with a simple message to “stop scaremongering and start caremongering”. 

Facebook COO Sherly Sandberg (left) in conversation with Mahita Nagraj at the first-ever Facebook Fuel for India online event

The group was created after a single phone call from a friend in the UK, who needed help buying medicines for her parents in Bengaluru. Mahita decided to create a platform where people could request for help or volunteer to help a stranger in need.

In less than eight months, the group has gained over 52,000 members, and has grown beyond Bengaluru to other states in India as well. Today, the group and its members have fulfilled 25,000 requests in 17 countries.

Speaking on the impact that Caremongers India has achieved, Sheryl said that Mahita represented the very best of our community and female leadership from around the world.  “This is something I care about so much. It’s the very best of what can be done when we connect to each other,” said Sheryl.

She asked Mahita about the personal sacrifice of having to isolate herself from her mother and son so that she could devote time to nurturing the group, and whether there was any regret about the months they had to spend apart from each other. 

“I would never ever regret starting Caremongers India. There was a point in time when I was pulling 20-22 hour days and it just wasn't fair to expose them to any risk. The three of us, who are the closest to each other, were apart for a little over two months and it was difficult, not seeing them, but I think technology has made life a little bit easier so we can do video calls on a regular basis. But it's not the same as getting a hug and a kiss every day. It was hard but we got through it,” said Mahita.

Asking about how Caremongers India had changed her, Sheryl asked Mahita, “When people do things like you're doing, you don't just change the world you change yourself. And so I'm wondering if you can share with us how Caremongers changed you?” 

Mahita said her biggest takeaway was self-confidence knowing that ‘nice guys don't finish last’. “It does pay to be kind. Even as individuals, we need a community to survive and to thrive. And you only get as much as you give so the more you give, the more you receive so essentially to ‘lean in’.”

Lean In is the name of the non-profit organisation created by Sheryl in 2013 aimed at building a global community that encourages women to continue to be active and ambitious in their careers after starting families. The session ended with Mahita asking Sheryl about her journey as a global community leader and the pivot points that made her realise that millions of people can be impacted by ‘leaning in’.

“I want more women in leadership, more underrepresented minorities in leadership, and more diversity of thought. We have this idea around Lean In circles – small groups of women that can support each other. We had hoped to have a 1,000 Lean In circles when we started. Today, we have over 50,000 circles in 180 countries. India is of our most vibrant chapters, which is not surprising given the vibrancy of the so many different communities there.”

Sheryl stressed that it was important for women to be ambitious. “Women who are ambitious can change the world. And if there ever was an example of that, it would be you. You have had such a positive impact. Your mission, your drive, your commitment. You are an inspiration to me, and to everyone watching,” she said to Mahita.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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