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Founder SHEROES Sairee Chahal On Women Entrepreneurship

“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.”


Building SHEROES – Learnings About Women @ Work

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Sairee Chahal

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.


Sairee In Discussion With NIKKEI On Opportunities For Women

Social constraints and dearth of opportunities are the primary reasons for low participation of women in the workforce. Even lack of flexibility in working conditions tends to dissuade women from joining the labour force as they turn to their domestic duties. It was a major task earlier to find work from home jobs, today SHEROES is breaking stereotypes and encouraging women from all walks of life realise their aspiration.

In the article by NIKKEI, founder Sairee Chahal discusses how team SHEROES is committed to engage and inspire women to ‘make more from life!’

Read how SHEROES is empowering 1,000,000  womenRead how SHEROES is empowering 1,000,000  women professional across levels, stages and sectors and offering quality and quantity of opportunities to increase women participation at work –  Indian StartUps Open a World of Opportunities to Women professional across levels, stages and sectors and offering quality

Sairee In Discussion With NIKKEI On Opportunities For Women

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Social constraints and dearth of opportunities are the primary reasons for low participation of women in the workforce. Even lack of flexibility in working conditions tends to dissuade women from joining the labour force as they turn to their domestic duties. It was a major task earlier to find work from home jobs, today SHEROES is breaking stereotypes and encouraging women from all walks of life realise their aspiration.

In the article by NIKKEI, founder Sairee Chahal discusses how team SHEROES is committed to engage and inspire women to ‘make more from life!’

Read how SHEROES is empowering 1,000,000  women professional across levels, stages and sectors and offering quality and quantity of opportunities to increase women participation at work –  Indian StartUps Open a World of Opportunities to Women

Three Lessons About #WomenAtWork Learnt From The US Presidential Debate

 Lesson 1: We are engineered to dislike successful women. Hilary Clinton, with her power suits and no nonsense leadership style, attracts the ire of many – not because she is less qualified, but because she is who she is.

Why do we dislike Hilary so much even when she CONTINUES to outshine, out-honest, and out-perform her opponent?

This article has a lot to say about it:

“It’s time to stop pretending that this is about substance. This is about an eagerness to believe that a woman who seeks power will say or do anything to get it. This is about a Lady MacBeth stereotype that, frankly, should never have existed in the first place. This is about the one thing no one wants to admit it’s about.”

We just don’t like women being unapologetically strong and unabashedly seeking a position of power.

In the world of work this translates to: women are welcome as long as they don’t step into the limelight “too much” or actually make it to the C-suite.

Lesson 2: A woman will do double the homework, come well prepared and still be not extended any benefit of the doubt.

The number of times Hilary Clinton was interrupted with baseless retorts during the debates was appalling. In addition, Donald Trump wasn’t really able to answer any question well – even those about his supposed tax evasion, sexism, and racism. He wasn’t prepared.

Hillary showed her clout over and over during the debate. In fact, as a former Secretary of State, she is OVERQUALIFIED as per the job requirements to be President, and probably to debate with Trump. Imagine when you were making decisions about war and peace – to be questioned about the workings of one measly country. ESPECIALLY when you have experience in the White House and Senate before.

Lesson 3:  Our Patriarchal mindsets will set attach a woman’s identity to her marital status, her relationships and family.

 

 

“What is Bill Clinton going to be called if Hillary wins the White House?” is a topic of discussion at every water cooler in America. We care more about her relationship in and out of the bedroom with her husband and former president  – surmising that since she’s such an alpha female, they must not be having fun together.

Women who reach the upper echelons of power not only have their qualifications and overall fitness to lead questioned, but also their ability to make a home, mother, and be a good wife to their partners. Why do we see these leadership capabilities as so black and white?  If a woman is a leader of the free world (or a corporation, or her own startup) can she not also be a good partner and mother. Junta seems to think not.I think Hillary is going to prove us all wrong.

What do you think of these lessons? Do they appear in your own work experience? Share with us in the Career Connect Forum.

Three Lessons About #WomenAtWork Learnt From The US Presidential Debate

Lesson 1: We are engineered to dislike successful women. Hilary Clinton, with her power suits and no nonsense leadership style, attracts the ire of many – not because she is less qualified, but because she is who she is.

Why do we dislike Hilary so much even when she CONTINUES to outshine, out-honest, and out-perform her opponent?

This article has a lot to say about it:

“It’s time to stop pretending that this is about substance. This is about an eagerness to believe that a woman who seeks power will say or do anything to get it. This is about a Lady MacBeth stereotype that, frankly, should never have existed in the first place. This is about the one thing no one wants to admit it’s about.”

We just don’t like women being unapologetically strong and unabashedly seeking a position of power.

In the world of work this translates to: women are welcome as long as they don’t step into the limelight “too much” or actually make it to the C-suite.

 

Lesson 2: A woman will do double the homework, come well prepared and still be not extended any benefit of the doubt.

The number of times Hilary Clinton was interrupted with baseless retorts during the debates was appalling. In addition, Donald Trump wasn’t really able to answer any question well – even those about his supposed tax evasion, sexism, and racism. He wasn’t prepared.

Hillary showed her clout over and over during the debate. In fact, as a former Secretary of State, she is OVERQUALIFIED as per the job requirements to be President, and probably to debate with Trump. Imagine when you were making decisions about war and peace – to be questioned about the workings of one measly country. ESPECIALLY when you have experience in the White House and Senate before.

Lesson 3:  Our Patriarchal mindsets will set attach a woman’s identity to her marital status, her relationships and family.

“What is Bill Clinton going to be called if Hillary wins the White House?” is a topic of discussion at every water cooler in America. We care more about her relationship in and out of the bedroom with her husband and former president  – surmising that since she’s such an alpha female, they must not be having fun together.

Women who reach the upper echelons of power not only have their qualifications and overall fitness to lead questioned, but also their ability to make a home, mother, and be a good wife to their partners. Why do we see these leadership capabilities as so black and white?  If a woman is a leader of the free world (or a corporation, or her own startup) can she not also be a good partner and mother. Junta seems to think not. I think Hillary is going to prove us all wrong.

Go Big Or Go Home

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Big is Better If You Are Building A Business

Here is why:

Everyone has 24 hours

Every entrepreneur works hard and gives their business all their time and energy. The amount of time spent on building a small business and a large business is the same.

Serve more customers

A bigger business can potentially reach more customers, fulfill a larger unmet need and create value in the process. Bigger businesses can also help many small businesses grow as vendors, suppliers, partners.

You can grow in a big business

In a small business, it is difficult for you to replace yourself and find yourself a newer bigger role. In a small business, the entrepreneur typically gets tied down to keeping it running.

Generate better impact

A growing business and a large business has potential to generate high impact for all its stakeholders – employees, customers, society and can generate significant value for all. Amul, Godrej, TATA are all large businesses impacting everyone in their fold.

Create lasting legacy

Building for scale is potentially an opportunity to create a brand that will last longer for many years or decades. There is recurring business lifecycle and the organization has a chance to reinvent itself in keeping with the times. Think Ford, think Coca-Cola, Dell, HP, IBM among others.

You can be a founder of a small business but you can create an exit from a large business and the journey is a reward in itself. In process, you create significant economic value and deep satisfaction.

#Mumswithoutbabysitters. This is my story.

My colleague Aditi brought her son Aryan to work today. Another colleague Smriti who is a remote worker, is often seen in office with toddler son Meir.  We recently moved office and made sure we provision for a room – we call the Baby and Yoga room – two things we need to make space in our lives for.

These strong young women are the core team of SHEROES but they also represent the #takecharge spirit of SHEROES.

No babysitter, no problem.

Can do, will do!

My daughter V is almost a tween now – but she came to work with me for the first 18 months. I had a nascent startup business and no other backups as an entrepreneur. With help of a day-sitter (no space for live-in help in Delhi apartments), we would back all our bags – baby, bottles, feeds, toys, nappies and head to work, where the baby would be parked in a tiny but comfortable baby room – all equipped with sterlisers, toys, cots, mats and cushions, while Mama Bear tried to get some work done.

We would head home at about 6pm every day, post which my babysitter would get a drop home. This is a strenuous, tight schedule – as it meant lot of juggling, reliance on the day-sitter and of course little provision for bad days. Luckily, my daughter played total sport, and we managed those early years. She also learnt that ‘Mama has to work’ – and what her Mama’s life is like and what an office is!

There were many ‘no babysitter’ days, and on those, I just took my daughter along – for meetings, for pitches, to the lawyer’s office and even to a board room. Maybe not a super sustainable solution but that day it worked. Showing up is important.

#Takecharge everyday. Rest will follow, and it has.

Don’t Miss The LLOYD-SHEROES Summit 2016 – Here Is Why

Work Life Bank Balance

Access to economic opportunities is key to gender parity and in bridging the gender gap across the spectrum. More and more options and more availability of resources to avail to those options is key belief system to SHEROES and this year’s theme reflects that.

Future of Work

Work as we know has a new game face and we all need to prep for it. The VUCA world is here and we all are here to face it with a #takecharge mindset.

Changing Landscape of Opportunities

Opportunities as we know it are evolving. A time to renew our connection with opportunities and the pace of change.

Meet the Movers and Shakers

The finest entrepreneurs, coaches, CEO’s and the ones setting the trendlines in business and society.

Investing a day in yourself

Cool things happen when you get dressed and get out. Meeting, mingling and finding conversations that are relevant to you

Inspiration

Who does not need inspiration? Who does not like stories that make you all goosebumpy?
When we first put together the SHEROES Summit in 2013, we did not imagine, it will reach its fourth edition. Here we are rolling out SHEROES Summit 2016 in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore.
So, see you there!

Top 5 Tips For Women To Revamp Their Careers

In a country like India, where women are expected to sacrifice their careers after marriage or dedicate themselves to motherhood. It is important for such women to understand that they are much more capable and equipped to touch the sky, rather they block themselves from a world of opportunities. Women can define success, leaving no stone unturned in way of success. Aligning to these chain-of-thoughts, there are a few tips for women, that could be followed in order to revive and revamp their career.

Re-establish yourself: The only thing constant in life is change and women must learn to embrace it and move ahead in life. They must maintain a proper update, as it is imperative for them to do well and rise fast. Feeling lost and useless at the loss of that job you were passionate about, is definitely deteriorating. However, if we understand that passion is nothing but just a feeling, and feelings change with time, we start considering other options and work towards re-inventing ourselves. Just remember, passionate people are passionate about anything that comes in their way!

Continue adding to your expertise: There is so much to learn in this world that one life is not enough to discover and absorb everything. However, the one with passion for life can go a long way. For example, if you are already an expert at something, there is no harm in supplementing your expertise with another qualification or certification to rebuild or refresh your career.  There are various certification courses like project management professional, Microsoft certified system engineers, etc. Such courses can enhance ones professional profile and help them grab better jobs exploring newer avenues.

Socialising is essential: If you had a social life that you have not considered engaging in, you might want to reconsider it. Your social circle is an asset and engaging with them, once in a while, could help you rediscover yourself. Try and rework on the networks that you had, in other words, re-build connections with ex-colleagues. Contact your ex-boss or manager who knows the way you work and can vouch for you. But before sharing your resume within your networks, ensure that you are job ready.

Keep reading: If you are looking at reviving your career, it is important to keep yourself updated with changes in trends. Reading blogs, newspaper articles and listicles could be help you in gaining knowledge.

Gain more knowledge, hone your skills: Simply relying on work hours to gain skills will not take you anywhere. What you do after work determines how far you can reach. Develop a hobby that complements your skills and make some time for that hobby.Such practices can give a new direction to your career.

With inputs from Article authored by Ms. Sairee Chahal,Founder & CEO,SHEROES.in

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