Innovation and tech for gender equality

Press and Media   |   
Published May 2, 2023   |   
The Times of India

Date: 27-Apr-2023

Source: The Times of India

How much talk of gender equality is too much?
My answer – it deserves all the attention it gets and more. Despite this topic topping the charts, we are at least 286 years away from achieving this, based on a recent report by Sustainable Development Goal. This is highly expensive to the progress of the society.

Like they say, everything starts at home. And so does inequality. The reasons for this sprout right at the grass root level from access to education, financial inclusion, social (patriarchal) constructs, local customs and archaic societal prejudices that often exist for no valid rhyme.

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a progressive social circle who have always encouraged me to go beyond these. My sister and I were the only 2 girls in a clan of male cousins. Naturally, the spotlight was on us, and what we did with our lives. For college, we went to a prestigious university in Rajasthan. This was a world away from Madras! There were a lot of hushing and “subtle” messages passed around to my parents that it wasn’t the best idea to send “girls” so far away for education.

I can’t recall a single instance in our early lives when we were told that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do something simply because we were girls. We were brought up with the feeling that we could achieve anything.

In my early career days, I’d been asked to decline the opportunity to lead a large project because it would leave me with very little time for my personal life. And that my ‘biological clock’ was ticking. I can safely assume that all women have faced this bias in some form or the other. Majority of families/workplaces still believe that men are the breadwinners. When I supported my husband’s passion to do his MBA, we broke this stereotype.

I’m a firm believer that all women are born superwomen. For a woman, her job is not an option or a hobby. Indeed, women have always taken on more responsibilities in their lives -household chores, becoming the primary care-takers children and more! A lot of this remains unchanged today. With the only difference of women also having equally important jobs to keep.

Thankfully, the advances in technology and automation, have paved way for a sigh of relief. At least 2 in 3 households of India have women using smartphones. Internet penetration is at a 47% as of 2022. Going digital has now paved room for information accessibility. I fondly recall when my house help called to say that the government was giving out a loan for women to start up their own businesses. Today, she herself is an entrepreneur who owns a delivery business. She insists that everyone she works for, pays her only through UPI for better control on her assets.

Access to payment platforms such as UPI, neobanks, fintech have softened the blow of gender inequality across generations. My parents, who are senior citizens, now prefer to go cashless even if they want to do a quick stop at the local Kirana store. This is a massive step towards financial inclusion for everyone in India.
Technology has also made education available for children in the remotest of places. With the support of a device. At Crayon Data, as part of the Make-A-Difference (MAD) initiative, we distribute re-furbished laptops to children who need the same for educational purposes.

With Covid-19, working from home turned out to be a blessing amidst the chaos. For women especially, there are many inflection points that may arise. When a promotion comes up, they’re getting married. Take on more responsibility at work, then find out they’re having a baby.

Women bring a lot more to the table when it comes to empathy, effective communication, and crisis management. They are also more intuitive to their team’s/family’s needs. In my own personal experience, we had just hired a bright candidate for a technical role. Over time, I noticed his strengths leaning towards another domain that was more of his expertise. I volunteered to help him shift roles inside the organization, so it could be a win-win for both the company and the employee. As expected, he was brilliant at his new project and won laurels from the clients.

For many, inclusion and equality are a distant dream. This is a fight we can only win if we all stand together, men and women alike.

Twenty years from now, if I’m able to sit back, scroll up the newsfeed and see that we are blurring the lines of gender divide, I’d be elated with all that life has taken us through.