By Mayank Jain:
“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.”– Plato
Technological revolution has taken over the world but it hasn’t arrived for many Indian women yet. The empowerment that comes with having access to all the information of the world on your fingertips is unparalleled in today’s times. The statistics of usage of technology by Indian women are not veryÂ motivating but somewhere in cubicles and co-working spaces, things are changing. The need of the hour is to lead on this change and build the impetus to bring about a technological revolution that is inclusive.
Women empowering women using technology
Sairee Chahal belongs to that coveted group of female entrepreneurs who leverage technology to help fellow women deal with challenges in their lives through a variety of solutions. She is the founder and CEO of Sheroes which is a community for professional women and gives them access to career resources, information and community sharing. The community also enables active mentoring and helps women take crucial decisions for their careers.
Talking about the avenues namelyÂ Sheroes and Fleximoms open for women empowerment by giving a new direction to their career, Sairee is enthusiastic to explain the impact she has been able to make, “Over 2000 companies seeking to hire women as part of business strategy or work with them use the sheroes.in platform to reach out. SheroesÂ helps companies enhance gender diversity ratios, build newer models of engagement and reduce costs, while building new revenue channels.
Fleximoms is a support group, backed by SHEROES, which assists returning professionals and young moms in reconfiguring options for themselves.”
The role of women like Sairee has been indispensable in the startup ecosystem which has seen lesser women than men stepping up to build multibillion organizations but Sairee is hopeful that given the right environment which is conducive to growth, it will happen.
“No one thinks that women can buildÂ billion dollar product companies, maybe because the precedence does not exist, but I think they can, they will. The startup and product ecosystem is deeply sexist, to the extent, they don’t realize so. But given so many change initiatives and some deep greenbuck success, this will change too.”
Women with technology: An untapped gold mineÂ
AÂ studyÂ carried out by Intel with inputs from UN Women and other agencies uncovered just the reality that we have been grappling with, for a painfully long time. The study revealed that in embracing technology, women have been lagging behind men. The results show that the 27% fewer women have access to the internet than men in the country. The same ratio is around 25% in the developing world but enlarges to even 45% in the sub Saharan Africa.
Countries like India are struggling with no consequence to multiple feminist movements that call for equal opportunity and equal representation in areas as large as governance, but patriarchal structures stand in the way.Â Technology is a big leveller and internet is a great enabler in the hands of the user which can open new pathways for manyÂ women to go out and be accounted for.
Sairee realizes the fact better since she has been working to level the playing field for women who aren’t able to secure professional opportunities for themselves due to responsibilities which force them to take a break. She stands tall as an example of self-belief and perseverance.
“Technology is a great leveler, especially for a user point of view. Being a technology enabled platform means we reach over 1100 locations all over India with specific user base from over 65 Indian cities. That also means that anyone with a smartphone or a computer has a world of opportunites available to them. Technology has allowed us to serve women from Gorakhpur to Pimpli — towns typically not on the women at work maps.
While technology enables, there also exists the technology wall — an invisible barrier in creating new technologies. Women building new technologies are few and women building high tech even fewer. There is an opportunity to have them move over towards creating technology solutions that will directly impact development and quality of life.”
An important outcome of this study was the impact that behavioural treatment ensues when women are not given access to technology. Gender barriers aren’t just a figment of imagination but a real psychological obstacle on the way ofÂ helping women empower themselves. One in five women in India and Egypt believes that internet isÂ “inappropriate”Â for them which further deepens the problem since access alone can’t turn into acceptance.
The economic and social impact of getting women online goes much beyond than access to information and searching about it on Google. In a country where massive shift from agriculture to technology is due, women can make careers and livelihoods out of technology and the possibility of being recognized increases manifold with anÂ access to the internet.
Enabling access to technology and internet for women will translate into addition to GDP of not only the country but the whole world and also help make the society safer and better equipped to deal with the challenges that threaten to pull down women.
The report summed it up well as more than 70 percent of Internet users considered the InternetÂ “liberating”Â and 85 percent said itÂ “provides more freedom.”
Sairee represents an even bigger group of young women who are never able to come out of their cocoons because of inaccessibility of so many resources. Chahal is one of the many women who are changing the world by using technology, one click at a time.
You can, too.