When women succeed, we all win: Facebook SheLeadsTech panel on making it big
When women are empowered, they empower. And when they succeed, we all win. At the tenth edition of TechSparks, in the Facebook SheLeadsTech panel, three women entrepreneurs spoke about taking the lead and making it big.
YourStory is the outreach partner for SheLeadsTech from Facebook.
Launched in 2017, SheLeadsTech, an initiative by Facebook, is a thriving community where women talk about their entrepreneurship journeys and help each other succeed through discussions and mentorship surrounding the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face. Today, the community has over 600 members.
Research by the United Nations indicates that companies with more women at the table are more likely to have a diverse workforce, higher profits, and overall better reputation in the industry. However, many women in India who want to start businesses fail, primarily because of a lack of investor confidence, gender bias, and a preconceived notion that women tend to focus on family.
At the tenth edition of TechSparks, three women entrepreneurs - Pooja Khemka, CEO & Co-founder, myskoolbus, Priyanshi Choubey, Co-founder, Instacar, and Karthika Reddy, Co-founder & CEO, Awesome Ecommerce Pvt Ltd - spoke about the road to success, in the Facebook SheLeadsTech panel moderated by Shivani Muthanna, Associate Programme Producer at YourStory.
Co-founded by Pooja Khemka, myskoolbus is a mobile app that helps parents track the whereabouts of their children’s school buses and get real-time updates. Instacar, co-founded by Priyanshi Choubey, is a taxi rental marketplace aiming to help travellers easily have access to outstation taxis. Awesome Ecommerce, co-founded by Karthika Reddy, which operates under its website - 'taazataaza' - is an online marketplace for products across a range of categories like clothing, books, art, fashion, decor, food, and beauty.
When Pooja started out with her entrepreneurship journey, she recalls facing prejudice because of her gender:
“When I approached schools initially, I sometimes wasn't able to directly speak with the principal. The travel managers would simply tell me this wasn’t my cup of tea and that I couldn't do it. But now, they are the ones contacting me directly and asking about the services.”
Priyanshi, on the other hand, had a positive experience, and being a woman entrepreneur stood to benefit her. She recalls an interaction she had with an investor while raising funds:
“The investor was more comfortable speaking with me rather than my male co-founder. Perhaps it's because women tend to be more honest.”
However, she did acknowledge instances where women are questioned about their plans of getting married or raising children, because many lack confidence in women to continue with their career.
Karthika said being an entrepreneur, regardless of gender, is a challenge in itself. “Whether it’s where you come from, or the kind of employees you have, it’s challenging.”
Although women entrepreneurs do have good experiences with stakeholders and are able to drive their startups to success, it is a fact that there is some level of bias against women because of certain stereotypes. The Facebook SheLeadsTech community offers a platform for women to connect and support each other against this prejudice.
“The community provides a wonderful opportunity for women to share their real experiences. Listening to them and sharing my experiences has been great,” said Karthika.
Although there are communities like SheLeadsTech that brings women together and helps them succeed, there is still an underwhelming number of women in the area of tech.
“If you talk about the CTO of the company, people will picture a man. There are less women in tech. I feel it's because women are less aspirational when it comes to pursuing tech professionally. Many of them don’t even imagine it.” said Priyanshi.
However, there has definitely been a positive change over the years, as Priyanshi pointed out that many conversations about girls' right to education and higher studies have now shifted to women getting entrepreneurship opportunities. “To support this, communities like SheLeadsTech are planting the entrepreneurship seed in women, and I think it will bring in change,” she added.
And in the space of entrepreneurship, specifically in tech, is it necessary for a woman to know how to code? The answer is a resounding no, from all three panelists.
“I don’t think it's necessary for a woman to know how to code. It isn't the only thing the company needs. There are other avenues like building the interface and marketing too," said Pooja.
Coming to any advice that the panelists have for other aspiring women entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurs emphasised on the need for having a drive and passion for the work one does and jumping at every opportunity they find.
“If there's even just one percent chance to achieving something, just go for it because it could change your life as it has for me,” said Priyanshi.
Pooja also spoke about overcoming obstacles and building a support system:
“Be passionate about whatever you're into. It doesn't have to be tech, but you should love what you do. There are many instances when women get married or have kids, they leave their job. But try to keep it, while balancing things. Getting support from your family or partner is also of utmost importance.”
Karthika had some simple advice that’s to the point:
“We have to be bold and speak our minds. Don't miss out on any opportunities; grab them, whatever they are.”
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