Globally, women face many challenges. These include fewer opportunities than men, less access to education and health care, and greater risk of violence and exploitation. On top of all of this, women are faced with many biases in their lives, both personally and professionally. Whether it’s about their leadership, their expertise, their experience, these biases have been affecting women globally.
To this day, this remains an issue in every country in the world considering that none of them has fully attained gender equality. Scandinavian countries like Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden are seen as leaders in this area, with a relatively equitable distribution of available income, resources, and opportunities for men and women, but there is still much progress to be made.
FalconX hosted a networking conclave of women leaders across VCs/ Corporates/Entrepreneurs on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The group focused on the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions to create a more inclusive and gender-equal world. The discussion based on this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #breakingthebias featured inspirational talks, a thought-provoking panel discussion and pitches by womenpreneurs.
Lakshmi Pratury, CEO and Founder, INK
K.C. Oakley, American Freestyle Mogul Skier
Pinky Reddy, Chairperson, FICCI FLO
Mona Sabet, Chief Corporate Strategy Officer, UserTesting
Vinita Belani, Founder, Enacte Arts
Anshu Aggarwal, CEO & Co-Founder, Nimbella acquired by DigitalOcean
Susan Mason, Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Aligned Partners
Preethy Padmanabhan, Senior Director Platform Product Marketing, Freshworks
Embracing the Challenges
The event started with a Lightning Talk by Lakshmi Pratury, founder and CEO of INKtalks, a platform building multi-disciplinary communities, and enabling leaders through story sharing. Lakshmi shared how growing up in Portland (a community with a 92% white population at the time), she was faced with many challenges early on in her life. While she was getting her degree, she was the only Indian in Portland State Business School; while she was working at Intel, she was the only person without an engineering degree; and most of the time she was the only woman in the room. But she never let the bias about being a woman, or being dark, stop her.
“All I learned over time is that I think I look like whoever I’m looking at. If I’m in a room full of models- I think I look like that too. If I’m in a room full of men- I think I look like that too.”
Panel Discussion- Breaking the Bias
During the panel Discussion- ‘Women Leaders- Breaking the Bias’, Mona Sabet, who is a Chief Corporate Strategy Officer at User Testing made a powerful statement on the importance of networking and developing relationships. In her words- “if we want to have a more balanced society and a more balanced workplace, we have to start within our own companies. Companies are the power centers for what we look like politically, societally and equitably. If we cannot have equality in our companies, we cannot have equality in our society”
Susan Mason, Managing Partner & Co-Founder at Aligned Partners, encouraged women not to be afraid to invest in themselves. “Don’t think about investing in yourself as a waste of money. Investing in yourself and in your capabilities will allow you to live up to your full potential in whatever it is you choose to do”.
Vinita Belani, Founder, Enacte Arts invited women to stop feeling guilty of taking some time for themselves. “We all feel like we’re invincible, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, then we can’t take care of others either”. She also pointed out the importance of overcoming the workplace bias, in fact the workplace at the moment is in a state of an unstable equilibrium because it is not representative of the market it’s serving.
Anshu Aggarwal, CEO & Co-Founder of Nimbella, shared that the biggest lesson she learned throughout her career was accepting failure. Once she learned to accept failure, she was able to take risks. She learned how to fail fast, so that she could get back up, do things differently and succeed next time. Anshu also highlighted the lack of opportunities for women entrepreneurs and how, even when there are opportunities, women still have to prove themselves even more than male entrepreneurs.
A Woman Amongst Men
The panel ended with a closing keynote by K.C. Oakley, a world champion in mogul skiing who shared her experience of being in a male-dominated world, both in sports and at her workplace. Growing up, she always knew that she wanted to be a part of an industry where she would be a “woman amongst men”, making sure that she is creating an impact, making her voice heard and paving a path for young women and girls around the world. Today, as a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, she gets to do just that. Although she is faced daily with many challenges, her learner mindset and her infinite curiosity allows her to rise above her fears and stay true to herself.
“Society forces us to live this linear path and I saw many many people crumble under pressure because they were doing just this one thing. So, choose other passions, be curious and have a learner mindset.”
It’s Time to #breakthebias
At the end of the day, fighting biases and promoting gender equality is something that is of extreme importance for women everywhere. Having a balanced workplace and equal opportunities is not a privilege, it is a right and it is something we should all strive for.
We all deserve to live in a world that is gender equal, free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
It’s time to #breakthebias