Women Who Inspire Us

"I think it's very important to get more women into computing. My slogan is: Computing is too important to be left to men."

~Karen Sparck Jones

For the progress of a country, the involvement of all its citizens is essential. Over the years, Indian women have proved their capabilities in the workplace and balanced their personal and work loads efficiently. Here, we have stories of four women who have inspired us in the tech-industry through their initiatives for creating a better workplace for the women and by the women.

A study by NASSCOM pointed out that corporations with at least 10 percent women on company boards have 2.5- 5 percent higher returns on equity, firms where women are at least thirty percent of C-suite have fifteen percent higher profitability than others (Raghuram et al. 2017). The statistics also show that we need more women in leadership positions in the tech industry. The journey of Sairee, Neha, Sunita and Preethi to become a leader and inspiring the budding ones is indeed an example of this.

1. Sairee Chahal

Sairee Chahal, a social tech-entrepreneur, the founder of SHEROES hails from the small town of Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. In her teen years, she chose to move out of her town and pursued her higher education from Jawaharlal Nehru Vishvavidyalaya and IMT Ghaziabad. As a college student, she had founded her first startup called SAITA consulting, which provided consulting solutions to Small and Medium Businesses. Next, she co-founded Fleximoms in 2010, which worked on the work flex readiness in India and empowered women to make work-life choices with various services. After realizing the gender-gap in the workforce of the tech industry, she started her start-up SHEROES, a women-centric community platform. It is a constructive and empathetic space that provides resources, chat-based helpline for women to talk and discuss career-related questions and other issues they face. Through SHEROES, a million women have been benefited and they aim to help over 100 million women in the next five years.

Meanwhile, she has worked in great firms like Heidrick and Struggles and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). She is an awardee of prestigious Devi Award, Femina Achievers Award, Cartier Award, Editor’s choice for L’Oreal Femina Women’s Award, to name a few. She had been ranked 53 on Onalytica’s “Future of Work Top 100 Influencers” in 2018. Additionally, she is a board member of Paytm Payments Bank and the Milaan Foundation. She is an ambassador for the Girls x Tech foundation. Indeed, women like her inspiration to make a better and equal society, a place with no gender norms.

2. Neha Bagaria

The founder & CEO of JobsForHer, Neha Bagaria has shown that women can find an equilibrium between their personal and work goals. She had founded her first company, Paragon in 2003 right after graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It was a Mumbai-based educational start-up that had introduced the Advanced Placement Program for high-school students in India. After her marriage, she shifted from Mumbai to Bangalore and started working in her husband’s pharmaceutical business as a marketing manager. Next, she had to take a career-break owing to motherhood where she gained several life skills like patience and perseverance. She was inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and decided to start JobsForHer. Indeed, her journey makes us believe that motherhood and other personal milestones become relevant skills in the career. She says that for future jobs, life skills would make the difference between a good employee and a great employee.

JobsForHer was founded in 2015 with a team of six women including Neha working from ChurchStreet Social, a resto-bar in Bangalore. Today, the team has grown to sixty members with the majority of the members being women returnees. JobsForHer truly stands to its aim of capacitating women for starting and rejoining their careers and raising in the same. Amazon, ayU, Airbus, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs are a few partners of JobsForHer who run various returnee programs for women.

3. Sunita Venkatachalam

Sunita Venkatachalam is a well-versed engineer with over two-decade-long experience. She is currently working at Target leading a huge team. She has been working at Target for almost five years. From being the lead engineer of the stores to becoming the director of technology, she has come a long way. Not only that, her versatile experience includes working at Yahoo, Infosys, Oracle to name a few. She tells that in her initial days of working, she didn’t prioritize her career with complete focus but later with changed circumstances, her career became an equal priority and she started planning two-steps ahead. With that, her decision-making skills improved immensely and she kept growing in her work. The secret to her motivation is to read a lot, about feminism and other diverse concepts which have helped her introspect and look at her beliefs and how they affected her. This has made her strongly connected to take actions for the Historically disadvantaged. Her career is an inspiration for young women to constantly work for their passion without any guilt!

4. Preethi Guruswamy

Preethi Guruswamy is a skilled entrepreneur and a tech-enthusiast. She has over a decade-long experience of working with teams on solving analytical problems and coming-up with cost-effective, practical solutions. Currently, she is working as a group development manager at Intuit. She has been the regional leader at Lean In Women in Tech India for over five years. This has made her work and network with people working towards gender equality. She has been a mentor to many young technologists. In 2018, she received the “People First” award by Lean In for her work

Subsequently, she has built a tech community called Hexagon UX along with Prakrithy Pradeep in 2016. They wanted to work towards building a diverse workplace for women and non-binary folx in UX. Moreover, she has received an award for the ‘role-model’ by booking.com, an online travel company.

The four women have been the building blocks for heterogeneous, equal, and empathetic workplaces. Their work inspires the young graduates who will be the future of the tech industry. Hear these women share their journey and discuss gender diversity in the panel discussion below!