Women who are building "Bharat", why the future rests with them
Ayn Rand, who never identified herself as feminist, once said, "women are not inferior to men in ability or intelligence." This statement holds true for ages, from ancient mythology to the arrival of AI, women are the agents of change. One only has to read Hindu Mythology or Greek Mythology to understand how women shaped the course of time or the destiny of humankind. They were indeed powerful, sometimes more powerful than men. In the modern era, it has taken a good two hundred years for women to set their own rules and forge unto their own. Without getting in to history and it's discontents towards women AutoBrix wants to focus on the positives that women have achieved in our company.
Our technology, customer service and payment teams are led by young ladies who have great stories to tell about their experiences with the world that they encounter while they are not in the company. These are women who did not go to a Convent and neither were they educated in an English speaking private school. They are who women who represent the future of "Bharat", the term gives homage to people who come from cities other than the top 100 cities in India who without resources, which are made available to city dwellers, achieve great things for their country.
Puja, Divya and Bhavya are shining lights of our startup, but, in many ways define the future of our great nation. Here we present their dreams and aspirations.
The love for Math
Let's take the story of Puja, our engineering lead, she came from Godda District in Jharkhand where quite frankly women are not supposed leave their families. But, thanks to her father - a government employee - she was able to break out of a stigma that a woman's role was solely that of working at home. "It is not wrong to be working at home as a woman. It's a choice we make about what we want to do with our lives. I was ambitious, thanks to my father's love for education. I was very good at Mathematics and that was my ticket to success," says Puja.
Everytime she travels to her village she reminds herself of how she would travel alone in a train or a bus to get to the college or a coaching centre and she would not disclose the dangers of travelling alone in a place that was not used to women going out in the streets alone.
"The hardwork paid off. I was prepared by the end of graduation that I could take a shot at becoming a valuable asset to anybody who could use my engineering skills. I packed my bags and came to Bengaluru in 2015. I was good at Java and the rest as they say is just learning the art of becoming a leader. Today I have eight engineers under me. If you dream big and work at it, I believe women can achieve great things," Puja added.
According to Catalyst.Org only 23.6 percent of women participated in the workforce in India. Imagine the potential that can be unlocked with women participating in meaningful work. At least the good news is that, in 2018-2019, 53 percent of the country's undergraduates were women. However women from the rural workforce are dropping off the employment radar.
A first in her family
Let's take the case of Bhavya, the customer support lead, in our company. She has to travel 50 kilometers (up and down) to work every day. She comes from a place called Chikka Tirupathi, a rural town, situated in Kolar district, outside of Bengaluru. Everytime she would alight at the bus station of her native town a old man or a lady, watching her come home after a hard day's work, would comment, "Is your father in some financial trouble that you are working. Is your brother not earning enough."
Reacting to such statements was not a solution.
Bhavya knew very well that these comments did not mean anything to her because society, in her village, was yet to embrace women in the work force. The funny thing is that she was the first woman to have a post graduate degree from her family and one of the very few women who had a Master's from her village. This went unrecognized, but, she would not flutter away from her goals.
"Such comments are regular in small towns. My father was concerned about those comments. I assured him to believe in my abilities and he backed me. My mother and brother were supportive too. I have to thank them for putting up with society and its pressures," says Bhavya.
At work Bhavya is jovial and confident. As a customer support lead she believes handling men and their complaints is easier. "Men are sweet. Once someone understands that their problem will be heard they will quieten down. However I must add that women must support women openly and whole heartedly and in my experience I do not see it as yet. We have to create a mechanism to help each other. At Autobrix, the co-founder being a woman is very proactive in supporting our ideas and she trains us in to making independent decisions. May be that's what women need, a push to understand what it means to be sensitive, caring and not hesitating to make those hard leadership decisions," she adds.
Bhavya is now married and loves her in-laws because women there are highly independent and this makes her believe that she has more to achieve as a leader in order to give back in learning all that she has achieved so far.
"I remember my father who was in the animal husbandry trade. He really pulled through a lot to educate me. I have to go out and make him and my family proud," she adds.
Women are indeed warriors and the Supreme Court of India believes the same.
India's Supreme Court ruled, recently, in favor of equal rights in the armed forces, ordering the government to grant permanent commission and command positions to women officers on par with men.
Times they are changing and they are changing fast.
Walking it alone
Chittoor, in Andhra Pradesh, is well known for its mangoes and sugar factories. What people don't know is that it was also, until recently, known to have its first woman politician, the MLA Mrs D K A Satya Prabha.
The city is known to have highly independent women, yet, they are typecast in to specific roles like bank employee or a government office clerk.
Divya, left home, four years ago in search of herself. She is an engineering graduate who is now a data analyst and payments lead at AutoBrix realized that her strength was in making people understand that she could make it in the field of study that she loved the most. "Everyone in my family supported me. But, it was also odd because they would ask me why would I have to work in Bengaluru, which is quiet far from home. They believed that the hardship in Bengaluru would drive me away and let me forget my dreams. However I became stronger and thrived at work. Women have to realize that rather than blaming the situation they have to just go after what they believe in. It is also our duty to protect our families and in many cases support men too. Men have been helpful, it is not as if they have imprisoned us. A woman is powerful if she expresses herself openly about her responsibilities," says Divya.
Today Divya has the respect of her family, especially her father who now believes that one must pursue their dreams to be happy.
"I am now focused on building great data sets for my tech and customer support leads to use and scale the company," she adds.
According to Crunchbase there are more than 500 companies with women founders in India. India certainly needs more and AutoBrix is committed to increasing that pie.
Margaret Atwood famously said, "men are afraid that women may laugh at them."
The Mahabharata, which is the Indian Epic, and its prelude to battle begins with a woman (Draupadi) being misunderstood as behaving rude when she laughs at a King (Duryodhana) slipping in to a pool. May be the Epic leaves us with a subtle message in telling the world that it is not the incident that one should remember as much as respecting the good character and conduct of a person if one has to avoid conflict.
On this women's day, let us celebrate the reason why the world should be inclusive, secular and sustainable. Let the change begin with us - we are the women of tomorrow, but, rooted firmly in the present.