ET Women's Forum: Kiran Nadar, Rohini Nilekani, Dipali Goenka battled sexism, prejudice to stay on top
These achievers can face any challenge with resilience.
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Working against prejudice
Kiran Nadar Founder, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
“The government is usually not responsive when it comes to art. It’s on the backburner for them. So, they have no real policy. If you need something, it’s very hard to get [help]. We approached them to give us land — not free — in Delhi to build a standalone museum, but they were just not receptive. Now, we are building in Noida, which was not our first choice.”
Dipali Goenka CEO, Welspun India
“When you’re working in a workplace that is predominately men, especially something like the textile industry, it’s important to know that there will be challenges, but you need to be on top of what you do. For me, to do it better than them was very important. You need to learn the ropes.”
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A Power-Packed Performance
Carving an identity
Rohini Nilekani Founder-chairperson, Arghyam Foundation
“It’s been a battle to carve out my own identity. In philanthropy, I might have managed that a bit. But for most women, it’s a difficult thing. I was just lucky that I invested my own money in Infosys. But suppose I hadn’t and it was Nandan’s [Nilekani] money, I don’t know how much confidence I would have had. I want to tell women to break out of that [mindset].”
A work-life balance
Anita Dongre Founder, House of Anita Dongre
“Time management is one of the challenges most women have to overcome. Allocating time for myself, my family and work sometimes gets difficult. You have to learn to strike a balance, you have to put yourself first, your family and then your work.”
Lack of facilities
Diskit Angmo Ice hockey player
“Being the first generation of ice hockey players in the country, we face the problem of inadequate infrastructure and equipment. Our counterparts from other countries can train through the year; we have only the winters to hone our skills. To stay fit and motivated in the lean months, we practice inline skating and adventure sports like mountaineering and cycling.
The highlight of our journey was going to Canada, the mecca of ice hockey. Justin Trudeau was fascinated by how we were trying to promote the sport in India on a shoestring budget. We have a good opportunity of bringing back the Asia Cup and creating a platform for interest in the sport.”
Dr Sanjukta Parashar IPS, SP, National Investigation Agency
“We hear all these stories of corruption [in the police force] and I think I pushed myself there, not just as a woman but as a police officer. I managed to do my work in the field without getting touched by it [corruption] and I think that was really a big challenge. Yes [i n some cases], the odds were against me but there were also ways and means to beat the odds. I learnt that quickly.”
Lt Cdr Vartika Joshi Lieutenant Commander, Indian Navy
“In expeditions like these, you go through a lot of emotional, physical and mental ups and downs. But they can’t deter you or come in between the mission.
During those eight-and-a-half months [circumnavigating around the globe], my mission was my topmost priority. There were certain issues that were going on back home, but you realise you’re working on a mission and that you have a responsibility not just for yourself, but for five other lives sailing with you. So, in those times, I had to make sure I kept all my emotions in balance and that I didn’t get agitated. I had to be calm and composed while taking decisions at sea.”
Saloni Malhotra V-P, Invest India
“When I started off [at the age of 23-24], the challenge was more age-related than gender related for me. People would look at me and say, great PhD project. You should stay at it, but it probably won’t become a company.
I went to an investor who said, ‘I think you’d be better at selling handmade soap than doing what you are doing’. Clearly talking down, saying that at your age, people and women should be doing small scale businesses.”