Posts by Sairee:
Today was an extraordinarily relaxed Sunday. I got up leisurely, read, spent over 90 minutes going through my yoga notes and retraining on them, oiled my hair, sunned myself till I was baked.
A hearty lunch later, I totally thought I am not going to check emails or Slack or anything on our dashboard (which I habitually do). I even found a documentary I had bookmarked to watch on Netflix.
Ten minutes into it, I see a notification from our Helpline team tagging everyone, that a woman from Cuddalore wrote in to say that she found hope as she pinged us and is looking forward to finding her aspiration mojo. Suddenly, the leisurely stead vanished in thin air and I was back where I belong.
Of late, our helpline team has been working tremendously hard – as the time spent engaging with our community increases along with the number of members in the community. At the back of my mind, I always know, part of the team is always on and chipping away – talking to women about their dreams, their action plans, resources and more. Offering a kind of listening service and making connections to help them move forward.
With that at back of my mind, it is hard to stop. It is impossible to let go of the sight of possibility. Our mission is always there in front of my eyes. So much so that over the last few years, everything else has become like a faded background.
Yes. Obessive. #NoBrakes #UpInTheAir
“We have moved the needle from women being ‘pink’ content category to a real, professional network for women,” says Sairee Chahal
SHEROES founded in 2014 has now gone on to become a career platform for women and has been built as a community for women to find diverse resources, opportunities and support related to their careers and aspirations. SHEROES Founder Sairee Chahal, a Woman Entrepreneur herself, is leading the way for many women as they plunge into the world of entrepreneurship.
The gap between the availability of smart, qualified individuals and organisations on the lookout for such candidates is not exclusive to females. However, couple that with research that says there are only 24% of women in India’s workforce of which a mere 5% are at senior levels and 48% drop out of workplaces and you have an almost alarming need to cater to the needs of women specifically.
SHEROES has done just that and also serves women’s startup and operational requirements, “We have moved the needle from women being ‘pink’ content category to a real, professional network for women,” says Sairee Chahal – the founder of CEO. Sairee started her career at college and is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded SAITA Consulting in 2006. Her drive to create opportunities for women professionals, Workflex and Social Entrepreneurship led her to launch SHEROES.
Sairee quips, “Let’s face it, we’re still a patriarchal country so this is still early days – even for a platform like ours.”
Using the platform is simple, women log on to SHEROES and get a profile and dashboard and can use any of the services for free. Companies use the platform to build programs, hire or put their brands out – which is also their monetisation model.
With a user-base expanding of about 20000 locations, Sairee believes that organisations will have to design themselves to cater to the large pool of talent that is mostly a young workforce. Family-friendly policies, safer workplaces, progressive outlooks, breaking down of patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes will all have to be a part of the story that plays out.
Running as a consumer-tech platform, the biggest challenge that SHEROES faced was establishing itself as a category. “If you went out four years ago and said ‘women and careers’ everyone thought you were an NGO,” Sairee says, adding that people often synonymised it with telling women to make ‘papads’ or teaching them how to weave. “There was nothing for the urban educated woman,” she remarks, even now one of the most commonly asked questions she gets is if she runs this as CSR.
Having managed to bring a shift in the face of continuing invisible barriers, SHEROES has managed to raise a series A round of funding from Lumis Partners, HR Fund and Quint Media. Sairee’s suggestion to aspiring entrepreneurs is to stay persistent and not get into it for the sake of money but rather for being passionate about something. She adds, “If you want to make money, go get a corporate job.”
A lot of buzz about women empowerment has been trending for decades now.
A country cannot have a progress without enhancing the status and the position of its women. True.
A holistic development requires having equal opportunities, affirmative action and inclusivity vested and balanced in its core. On one hand, where the importance on the growth of our country’s women literacy rate is being rendered, on the other hand, we have Sairee’s SHEROES, which offers a platform for the women who have a potential to make a stand of their own, maximize it, and lead.
The uniqueness of this platform lies in the fact that it also helps those literate women, who have taken a break from their work, to take care of the family and domestic happiness.
SHEROES lets you believe that every woman (She) is a Hero. Here is an inspiring story of this warm and widely popular start-up owner, Sairee Chahal, Founder CEO, SHEROES.
Tell us about yourself.
I belong to a typical middle-class family from a small town where studies and career are positioned as utmost important elements of life.
I was born in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, but grew up in Uttar Pradesh with my only sibling, a younger sister. I am married. We have a young daughter whose life keeps us all busy and entertained.
From a career in advertisement & marketing to entrepreneurship, how was your journey?
I have had opportunities to explore diverse things in my life; hence, I have an assorted range of experience.
I used to work as a journalist for Advertisement & Magazine earlier. Newslink was my first startup that I built in 1999-2000, when internet was beginning to boom in India. That was kind of my training ground.
Tell us about SHEROES; its revenue model and annual turnover, so far.
SHEROES is a consumer-based internet company which builds a community of career-oriented women and offers a potent and sustainable platform for growth. We are all about catalysing women’s potential and growth. Therefore, we bring a huge network of people from different arenas of professions to share their experiences, valuable suggestions, innovative ideas and more to provide other women a ladder to climb and chase their dreams. We ensure that there is enough leverage to be rendered to women when it comes to SHEROES. Through SHEROES, the users get to use a plethora of products like “mentorship”, “career resources”, etc. The revenues come from different companies and from the platform itself.
Though we have extended our platform to different companies to recruit women, but we are not a recruiter.
Companies use different products and offerings that they use, plus we also provide solutions for certain companies for their managed remote workforce.
Since you are in a way supportive of affirmative action, how do you comply with it while choosing the talent pool for your organization?
Yes, it’s true that I believe in inclusivity; affirmative action and equal opportunity. SHEROES has evolved from these concepts.
I’m really glad to state that majorly we have women employees with a surprising ratio of 70:30 with the male employees. We have a slightly reversed structure here. Women who are working with us are a part of our own community. A lot of homemakers, young moms, and professionals are associated with us.
What are your expansion plans for SHEROES?
SHEROES is building communities and bringing talents together. It has become one of the largest women’s communities in the world with a small footprint across the globe as of now, but primarily focused on India where a larger base exists.
This is one of the reasons why we are investing a lot in the platform to make it more user-friendly & resourceful, in addition to promotions and advertisement it requires. Soon, you will see a global version of SHEROES.
You have been in the Leadership Fellowship Programme with Aspen. Summarize your learning experience there.
Aspen has polished my skills, thinking and analytical abilities, and so on, to carve a better individual & a professional out of me. All I have learnt from it is Challenge Yourself and Find New Frontiers.
#Mumswithoutbabysitters.. This is my story, your article, tells how you have been tiptoeing to keep your personal &d professional duties aligned, especially, when the babysitter was absent. But this is not allowed & appreciated everywhere. For example, breastfeeding a child in the pubic has become a social censure, across the globe. Working moms are criticized if they feed their baby when it feels hungry outside home. How women should cope up in such a scenario, keeping both motherly duties and profession in place?
I believe that there is never going to be a perfect set ready for you to align your priorities. For women, the fact is that the best support you can get is from the other women. Take my case for an instance. I wouldn’t be here, had my baby sitter, caretaker, younger sister, and my mom wouldn’t have been supportive. Women interact more in communities and do well when they work in communities.
So, help yourself and other women.
Apart from this, I think there should be a common consciousness floating in and around the society regarding the stance of women and her abilities. The biological needs of women can’t be underestimated so a certain privilege should be given to this multi-tasking gender.
However, it is also a fact that we are progressing gradually.
At the beginning of this last century, women were not even allowed to get out of their domestic life and work.
But look at the things now. Time is changing. We are evolving (sixteen years in twenty first century), slowly though, but not stopping anywhere. And, as the old proverb goes, slow & steady wins the race.
When it comes to feeding an infant, people should understand that it’s a primal need. And, each one of us is required to keep this in view when it comes to making policies, rules, provisions, and perceptions, instead of creating chaos. Our institutions need to be designed to include inclusivity in their structure, vision, etc.
What keeps you going?
My passion keeps me going. This is all I want to do and I’m glad that I am doing it.
All work, no play is definitely not Sairee’s way. So, how do you spend your leisure time?
I spend time doing yoga, taking a walk, spending time with my pet dog, chit-chatting with my daughter, and so on, all in a stride to strike a balance in both professional and personal life and recharge myself.
You strongly believe in:
I think every person should build their own version of success and follow their heart. Don’t worry too much since you have got just one life.
The fact that climate change has taken a toll, causing havoc in the world, and that you are staying in Delhi, falling prey to air pollution crisis, what are those 3 quick things that you want your readers to do as their bit of sustainability?
· Plant saplings as many as possible
· I want people to be a little more conscious about their extravagance to reduce wastage. We tend to be a bit of extravagant when it comes to celebrations, maintaining status, etc. We need to take a look at it.
· We should also stay connected to nature as human beings and nature will take care of us
Your ideal persons:
Anita Roddick, the Founder of BodyShop; Dame Shirley, Singer; and Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the Founder of Paytm
Your resolution for 2017:
To be more watchful about my fitness. Practice more yoga and walking, but I also want to work harder.
3 wishes a Genie, what would they be?
I would ask for:
· More nature and greenery
· More serendipity
· More connections, to make a larger network for SHEROES
Your message to the startups:
Start-ups need to find their purpose, and give it a shot without refraining themselves because of the fear of failing.
A few words for the North East Women.
I’m very inspired by the women in the North East. They are well read, smart and strong. I want to see more women from the North East following their passion, and coming up with their own start-ups and making a firm imprint as an entrepreneur at the present time and ahead in the future. I want to get an opportunity to serve the platform of SHEROES to as many women as possible in the North East.
We are online, and have a career helpline to guide them. We are accessible, and they can reach us, on our app SHEROES and also talk to the counselors and mentors on our helpline whenever they want to. All the best and make the most out of 2017. Happy New Year!
‘The role of women is changing from nurturers and caregivers to disruptors, creators and growth hackers’ (Graphic by Ishu Vaid) (WION)
According to a United Nations study, only 50 per cent of women are in the workforce, compared to 77 per cent of men. The numbers in India are much lower.
“Where are the working women? Do they doubt their own skills or is it the fear of affecting their families? Do women in India face an identity crisis?” These were some questions that kept bothering Sairee Chahal, an entrepreneur who has been conscious about the theme of women in the workforce.
She doesn’t just talk about the problems but also takes charge. In 2014, she came up with the idea for Sheroes – a platform that helps women with mentorship, career resources, skills development, jobs and work from home options. With her start-up, she aims to put a million women in the workforce in the next coming years.
Kazimi: You are based in India. What is the status of women employment in the nation?
Sairee: India has some startling numbers, which are hard to ignore. We have only 17 per cent women in the formal GDPed workforce, only 5 per cent women in leadership and our gender ranking globally is at 113 out of 136 countries.
Out of the total women population, the age group of 30-49 years constitutes the highest proportion of working women. (WION)
Kazimi: Do you feel this is because of the lack of educational opportunities for women in India?
Sairee: India has the maximum number of women graduates in the world, so there are more women who study and far less who work in the formal workforce.
Kazimi: So where do you feel the problem lies?
Sairee: Almost 48 per cent women drop out of work before reaching mid levels and most do not come back. The problems are of all kinds ranging from
- lack of support system at homes
- loss of financial independence
- doubts about their own abilities to unavailability of opportunities
- battle with issues of identity and confidence.
We are a complex nation; women own and run the caregiving economy – babies, eldercare, weddings, big festivals, family – the list goes on and on. In that process, a woman’s career becomes nobody’s business, sometimes not even hers.
Kazimi: So how does your initiative make a difference?
Sairee: The idea is simple. We partner every woman to stay on a career path of her choice and excel at it – be it that of a first-time intern, work-at-home mom or a top corporate strategist or an entrepreneur. We are attempting to help urban women find choices that work for them, do well in the career they choose, turn entrepreneurial or make effective career comebacks. The core of our philosophy is to help women navigate career stages and find work that fits their life.
Proportion of women working in rural areas is almost double that of urban areas. (WION)
Kazimi: What should be done to bridge the gender pay gap?
Sairee: To reduce the gender pay gap, what could be done is – being more transparent about the pay-out for a specific role, companies should start looking at them as talent resource and not female employees and women must stop being shy to ask for what they think they deserve.
Kazimi: What was the initial response to your ideas?
Sairee: Initially, it was tough convincing everyone that women’s careers matter and that small changes can make big impact when it comes to gender diversity, remote work, entrepreneurship and women in leadership.
Being able to create business alignment with what will be financial value plus social impact has been a challenge. When you are at an early stage of a category, you are written off easily. Or being a bootstrapped start-up with a big audacious goal is not easily acceptable.
Kazimi: What keeps you going in the lows?
Sairee: I have an amazing team, a vibrant community and a goal worth chasing – giving every Indian woman a dream of the career of her choice. Very able mentors and partners also support the venture. One can either make way for fear and regret or one can be open and stay charged. We take charge.
Kazimi: How do you think the role of women in society has evolved over the years?
Sairee: The role of women is changing from being nurturers and caregivers to disruptors, creators and growth hackers. While women have come a long way, they still have a long way to go. Corporates are adapting to newer forms of work engagements, being more inclusive and building up a supportive ecosystem. It will take time, but we are moving in the right direction.
The role of women is changing from being nurturers and caregivers to disruptors, creators and growth hackers
Kazimi: What impact have you been able to make with Sheroes?
Sairee: Once a priest’s wife from a small village in the state of Bihar called asking for career help. She had studied before getting married and never worked. Now she was an empty nester, with kids settled overseas. She wanted to find herself an identity, a career and we managed to help her with an opportunity. Millions of women across the country have similar stories and they share them with us. That is why we are a community, where one comes in when you might be just curious or inclined.
Proportion of women working in rural areas is almost double that of urban areas. (WION)
Kazimi: What advice would you like to give to women struggling with their careers?
Sairee: Ask for help. Reach out. Talk. There is always somebody who will be able to show you the way.
(Coordinator and Editor: Devanshi Verma)
SHEROES today is perhaps the largest professional community of women anywhere in the world. It is an eco-system of growth, support, opportunities and resources that over a million women from across India access to scale their own ambition. Bringing it here has meant a tonne of learning, experiments and breaking some norms. Here are some observations from having undertaken this journey!
MARKET SIZING IT: When we talk in the context of women as consumers of FMCG products and services, the market stacks differently. When you slice it by growth, aspiration and potential of an individual, the pie gets more complex. There is elite – think women in CXO roles, board room potential and more, there are the vast grassroots – artisans, SHG’s, rural workers, labourers, farmers, small shop owners etc and then there is the middle class – separated by education and a need for upward mobility. Within that, one can slice it by urban rich, upper middle class and middle and urban poor clamouring for an entry. Then there are women from privileged sections of society with lots of access to education, networks and opportunities, the first generation women in workforce and women in small town India for whom articulating their aspiration is an achievement as well. There are SOHO owners, SMB entrepreneurs, non-registered businesses and the corporate class. Building for such a fragmented set means going deeper into each of these personas. A lot of products and services for women go homogenous or simplistic in their approach.
CONVERSATION HAS GROWN: There is a lot of effort being deployed in initiatives, women’s entrepreneurship, diversity initiatives, policies and most of all conversations – women’s conferences is an industry now. However, outcomes are pending and so is accountability. From pure lip service to non-scalable solutions to over repeating of cliches (it is time to ban the term women empowerment!) – we hear a lot and a significant of action is also being taken. But the needs of the market and pace of efforts are misaligned.
INDIA IS DIFFERENT: I am often invited on panels talking about Gender Pay Gap and having run world’s largest career community for women, I can assure you what women are looking for in India is getting paid in the first place. Work from home or remote work is a considerable ask and anyone who has tried their hand at it – knows getting paid is a boon, only granted to few lucky ones. Not to undermine the veracity of gender pay gap as a serious issue but if India wants to move its women @ work needle, then it needs to align itself with the growing needs of its mass market.
REAL LIVES OF WOMEN: For the longest time, work and growth, careers and aspirations played out as linear zones, with little scope to integrate rest of your lives into it. All trends at SHEROES point to us otherwise – Women bring all of themselves to work and work allows more integration into lives now – thanks to technology, global collaborative organisations, shorter and unpredictable business life cycles and of course the growth of on-demand everything, including the workforce. Women stand to the biggest beneficiary of the #FutureOfWork as we scale tech and allow of organic diversity.
SYSTEMIC TACIT HIERARCHY (STH): We know of mansplaining and biases but there is a tacit systemic hierarchy which dictates and settles what women are going to get at the end of the day – in funding, in salary hikes, in the quality of jobs and access to resources, opportunities etc. STH surfaces in form of companies trying to less than minimum wages to qualified remote workforce, managers trying to hold back projects from moms, startup conferences allocating one measly women’s panel to get done with it, when only 3 women are found in that industry conference at 9 pm – because some of us run home to kids and rest have long commutes. This list is endless and closely tied to patriarchy.
FIXING THE WOMEN: A lot of women at work effort is being deployed on fixing the women. Train them, coach them, send them on returnships, offer them internships, Mahila schemes and what not. However ignoring mainstreaming of gender parity as part of routine processes is a strategy for no growth – India’s ranking on every gender index points towards that. Making way for public spaces, organisations, govt to bring women into their mainstream everyday fold is an intentional shift we all need to make.
LISTENING DEFICIT: We run world’s only Career Helpline – #AskMonica for women on the SHEROES App and the real gap it fulfils is that there is a listening deficit – in companies, families, educational institutions about women and their aspirations. Our team of coaches and counsellors run this effort round the clock, talking to thousands of women about their potential, possibility and aspirations. Turns out – whether you are born with a silver spoon or a stainless steel one – it is hard to find a go to for your dreams, for advice, support, connect, actions and for sustained growth efforts. Once plugged into an eco-system that has enabling, uplifting, empathetic approach – every participant becomes a catalyst.