In 2022, the International Women’s Day theme asked us to “Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.”
For many, it is a distant dream. And at Crayon, we’ve realized that neutralizing inherent gender biases is not simple or straightforward. As co-founder and COO Aarti Ramakrishnan says, “It [is] about creating a space for equal opportunity. And giving [women] a platform to succeed.”
We don’t need to look too far for inspiration. They’re right next to us in the Box. Three Crayons share their life stories. On how the people in their lives supported them as they broke barriers. And the tenacity and strength it took to overcome odds.
Devaki Gopalan, Director – Program Management
The only two girls in a clan of paternal male cousins – that was my sister and me! Naturally, there was plenty of focus on what we did with (and in) our lives. That being said, we were more fortunate than most. 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. If we were willing to work for it.
This supportive environment helped us thrive. In school, we took part in everything from basketball tournaments to cultural programs. For college, we went to BITS Pilani. Rajasthan was a world away from Madras! It was almost unheard of in the early 90s to send girls so far from home for their education. But it didn’t feel out of the ordinary for us.
Today, we’re accomplished, independent women. We’re in great jobs in positions of power. We have husbands of our choice who respect and cherish us. None of this would have been possible if our parents hadn’t batted for us every single day. They enabled us to #BreakTheBias as a matter of course.
These experiences shaped my belief that men also require an equitable environment. My husband and I met at our first jobs right out of college. Since then, we’ve stood by each other. He understood my reasons to take a career break. I encouraged his dream of pursuing an MBA. This may sound like a basic part of any relationship that’s based on respect, support, and confident dependence on each other. But when people heard that I was the only earning member, hell froze over!
I hope to see the day when this is not a rarity, but a normal part of our culture. Till then, I’m thankful for the fact that I have a partner who sees me as equal and able. And is as ready as I am to continuously #BreakTheBias.
Dr Kanimozhi U, Head of Data Science, Platform
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “There’s no tool for development more effective than women’s empowerment.” And I believe that for women, there can be no better tool of empowerment than education. It was the tool I used to cross barriers of discrimination, abandonment, and abuse.
I hail from a remote village in an underdeveloped district of Tamil Nadu. The primary occupations there are agriculture and beedi rolling. From being impoverished children in such an environment, my sister and I have come a long way. Because of my family’s insistence on the importance of education, I have a PhD from the state’s leading university. My sister Surya completed B.Tech and PG in International Relations from JNU, New Delhi. She also cleared the UPSC exams. Our mother, Uma Kanrangam, is our guiding light. By sheer hard work, she rose through the ranks. And last year, she won the local body elections and holds the post of councilor.
In my personal life, I’ve had strong pillars of support in family and friends through my darkest hours. Back in 2014, I was in a road accident. It resulted in a bilateral femur fracture, among other injuries. My daughter Diya was only seven months old at the time. Doctors said my prognosis was poor, and there was a possibility of me being bedridden.
But seven years later, here I am. I survived. I’m a self-made professional and single mother to my 8-year-old. I feel like I haven’t thanked the people in my life who stood by me and made me who I am today. Better late than never. There are no words to express my gratitude to my mother. My sister has been a second parent to my daughter – and at times, for me as well! And when friends become family, thanking them is insufficient. I owe them too much!
Anonymous, Sales Enablement Manager
Today, my world is great. I feel precious and valued. I have a very fulfilling life. But things were not the same a few years ago.
In late 2019, my newly married life took a turn. Our fun outings were replaced by painful doctor visits. There were hundreds of procedures, tests, and injections. This ordeal went on for close to two years. In the beginning, I was hesitant to ask for help. Now, I often wonder if I could’ve stayed this strong without opening up. That’s when my support system rallied around me.
My parents and sister were in shock themselves. But they helped me navigate every daily ordeal. They allowed me to relax. My in-laws supported and gave me confidence, reassuring me that this too will pass. My friends never made the situation the center of our conversations. It helped me feel completely normal.
At work, my colleagues and bosses were all focused on my health. There was no hesitation when it came to giving me a break. They provided the mental and physical space I needed. With care and compassion, they ensured that through it all, I was part of the team’s progress.
Of course, I cannot leave out my husband, the co-recipient of my pain. He sobbed with me, consoled me, without a single murmur went with me to every hospital visit. I received an other-worldly level of care, affection, and patience from him.
According to me, feminism means accepting a woman the way she is and being supportive of her. This entire experience helped me understand that life was much bigger than just being independent and strong as a woman. I found that I am resilient and confident. And that I can cross any barrier with the pillars of family and friends around me.
Acceptance, support, and care can make a woman stronger and more powerful. And to the men reading this: independence, education, and freedom would be the best gift you give to the women in your life!