A fresh wave of women empowerment started in the corporate world when Sheryl Sandberg launched her book Lean In. The book encouraged women to take initiatives, grab opportunities and be unapologetically ambitious. This resulted in a lot of online and offline followers eventually leading to Lean In Circles across the world.
Lean In India is one such initiative under Lean In, started in 2014, by two young girls (then studying in Delhi University) – Rashmeet Kaur and Sanya Khurana. These youngsters saw the culture and beliefs around them and stood up for change. As Sanya recollects, when she was studying in college, most of the girls there had literally made up their minds that they would get to live their lives until 25, when they would get married and would not even have the choice of clothes anymore!
Under these circumstances, they started the Lean In India, which has now reached close to 85 circles and 4000 active members. This is what Sheryl Sandberg had to say about its progress:
On International Women’s Day this year, Eyra announced a partnership arrangement with Lean In India and had its first conference together on March 16, 2019. Titled ‘Women Negotiating for Better Lives and Salaries,’ this event had relevance not only for working women but women from all walks of life. We all need negotiating skills and power to navigate through life, with our parents, relatives, friends, spouse and children. This is what we aimed to achieve with this event.
With a good turnout and interactive sessions, Lean In opened the conference with an introduction from Rashmeet about the work we have been doing so far and what we intended to achieve during the day. To summarize, the very powerful essence of her message was that we should not only stand up for ourselves but also lead other women to success. Because as history proves it, if it weren’t for all those women fighting for our rights, we would still not be eligible to vote!
Swapna Narayanan from Eyra took the first session on ‘Climbing the Corporate Ladder by Raising your Hand.’ In this very informative and interactive session, we found that 80% of the women in the audience felt that they had been given a raw deal because they never spoke up at the right time. Still worse, more than 90% of the women present confessed that they end up underestimating their own worth and hesitate in asking. As they say, once we know the exact problem, it is easy to find the solution. That’s what the session concluded, with an appeal to women to unhesitatingly ask for what they think they deserve (irrespective of what anyone else might say).
The next session was on ‘Women Negotiating for Better Salaries’ by Insaff El Hassini, the founder of Lean In France. A lawyer by profession and very active in women empowerment, Insaff is an inspiration to many and provides training and workshops to help women negotiate better salaries. It has been a personal mission for her to close the gender pay gap. In a very enlightening session, Insaff drove home the point that if we take up a role for less than what we think we deserve, we would end up feeling bitter and angry and hence would be unable to do justice to the role. She gave some great tips on salary negotiation and how to assess oneself practically and objectively.
Her three-step mantra was:
- Estimating what we deserve to be paid, having clear numbers in mind – what is ideal, what is reachable, the amount acceptable to us and what is our ‘No Go’ threshold.
- Building up our case and anticipating any objections we may face.
- Creating a win-win solution in advance to ensure we get what we want.
We ended the day with a fireside panel discussion moderated by Samar Sikka, co-founder of Arteree. The panelists included Deepika Chawla from a Fortune 500 company, Gitika Bhatia from AarGee Group, Latika Wadhwa from Mompreuner Circle, Neha Bagaria from JobsforHer, and Shilpa Ajwani from Unomantra.
Each of them spoke about various aspects like #heforshe, confidence in women and the problems faced by women while returning to work after maternity. The entire panel discussion soon transformed into a highly open, interactive and mature discussion towards the common challenges and the probable solutions.
At the end, our take-home point was that no one can take us for a ride if we know what we want. As Eleanor Roosevelt had said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’