A beautiful chilly Saturday morning when one would like to curl up under covers to enjoy the luxury of an extended sleep, an interesting event drives you outdoors. The catchy yellow white notepad at the venue spoke about the topic of discussion as # Future of Work. Further reading suggested that the conversation will navigate from entrepreneurship to Women in Workforce, to Indian Millennial’s workplace challenges. This conversation was organised by ILO India and Youth Ki Awaaz, a digital media platform.
It was a full house, but I waded carefully through the jammed space and ensconced myself on a single vacant chair in the second row next to one of the panellists, Gayatri Buragohin. The discussion had all the elements to keep the audience captivated. The panellists, the topic, the conversation had the lucidity and went smoothly. The discussion saw a wonderful moderator in Ashwaq Masoodi, a writer, journalist with Mint who was awarded Ramnath Goenka Award for Journalistic Excellence.
Ashwaq very effectively spoke about the under-representation of women workforce in India and made a reference to the McKinsey report which says that only 24% of women in India are employed. Though some of the women have broken glass ceilings and have taken up assignments which challenge stereotype notions.
It was wonderful to see Geeta, a true representative of women empowerment, among the panellists. She is a commercial female driver with Sakha Consulting Wings. She chose a different profession to be able to pave way for other women who are hesitant to enter the profession owing to sexual discrimination.
Gayatri Buragohain another powerful speaker is an electronics engineer by training but the rebel spirit within made her a champion for women’s participation in technology. She floated her organisation called Feminist Approach to Technology. She didn’t aspire to land into a traditional so-called safe job for women despite having her roots from an Assamese middle-class conservative family. She defies the conventional idea of restricting one’s choice of employment due to gender.
Saloni Malhotra is another dynamic young entrepreneur and Founder of Desicrew who shared Gayatri’s sentiment about women in the technical field. Through her venture, she aims at shifting of employment opportunities from metros to smaller cities and villages. She spoke how her choice of being an entrepreneur was looked down by her father but she pursued her heart’s call. According to her, entrepreneurial venture is all about hard work, not gender. But yes she was privileged to be able to take the risk.
Sher Verick the lone male panellist is credited with many journals on various aspects of employment. He is the Deputy Director of ILO County office for India. His current research focuses on changing work patterns in females of developing countries. He highlighted how there is a huge gap between the requirement of employers and skill set of job aspirants. He too echoed Gayatri and Saloni’s sentiment about women in the technical field. The statistics show that there are only 14.3% women involved in Scientific Research. Social norms, insufficient finances, accessibility of women to certain jobs make matter worse. But in India, the world sees a future place for work.
My heart goes out to the organisers for such wonderful arrangements to facilitate participation for people with Disabilities. The two interpreters tirelessly working deserve special mention. Among the audience, a pretty young girl spoke how being deaf has restricted her scope of finding a suitable job. She shared about her difficult life and how she had to start working at the age of 10. Being in Delhi has made matters worse as expenses are manifold but recourse to employment scant. She was asked to leave abruptly from a job owing to her little knowledge of English. She asked for guidance and help for employment which elicited assurance of assistance by the panellists.
The first session was very engrossing and encouraging. Soon there were two other speakers, the Founder and Editor in Chief of Youth Ki Awaaz, Anshul Tewari and the Founder of Squadrun, Apurv Agrawal. I couldn’t help admiring the passion and energy of these two young entrepreneurs who have made a world of difference through their work. Anshul has been awarded various prizes in social media and has made a change in journalism. Apurv spoke of his business journey where people known to him with specific skill set joined his business. He picked step by step and kept creating value to his business. He spoke of how entrepreneurship allows the power of choice and flexibility. This power of choice reflects in output. Another flip side is that fundraising is a big challenge and everyone is your boss. There was concern about artificial intelligence ruling over human intelligence, resulting in job loss. Also how there is a lack of skill development and little insight about the industry. Apurv gave an example of an African Company Andela which is posing serious threats to big IT companies by creating a pool of skilled developers.
There was a galaxy of issues to be addressed, so another panel of stars joined in. This was an eclectic mix which saw Sarvesh Agrawal founder and CEO of Intershala. He spoke of the landscape of internship in India which like dating is expanding with every passing day. Nipun Malhotra advocates for rights people with disability through his foundation, Nipman. He conducts audits for companies to check their disable friendliness. He has serious objection on christening persons with disability as Divyang by Prime Minister Modi as it is belittling.
Karuna Nandy, the most outstanding speaker of the entire session is a Supreme Court Advocate with many landmark cases to her credit. She was involved in the case against Section 66A of IT Act that was struck down in regard to freedom of online speech. She was actively involved in December 2012 rape case and drafting of new anti rape laws. She clearly identified the root cause behind this gruesome act in patriarchy. She is also working on a Womanifesto currently. She spoke about addressing discrimination and sexual harassment at workplace. She also spoke about stepping outside discriminating patriarchy structure. Freedom of fear means freedom of mind.
There was Anurag Mittal from NIESBUB who spoke about various government schemes to facilitate Entrepreneurs with finances, business plans, proposals and even sale of their products. He was saddened to see Indian entrepreneurial scene being eclipsed by Oxford-educated mortals. He also stressed upon value education.
There was no dearth of ideas and brilliance of mind. The session supposed to be over by 1:00 p.m. but got extended till 2:30 p.m. The excitement was still intact which poured over cutting chai and biscuits too. What a lovely Saturday afternoon and a brilliant effort by ILO and Youth Ki Awaaz.