Born into a family that’s largely men – father and two brothers, I was always told to dream as much and as high as I want to. With my father away for close to 20 years, working in the Middle East, my mother brought us up single handedly. And I grew up seeing that.
She was not the man in the house and she did not try to be. Instead, she modelled for me an incredibly strong and nurturing woman.
So I did not grow up equating being strong to being a man. Amma always, always told me to stand tall, with head held high and continues to say,
“Your weakest experiences do not define you.”
My father’s favourite and proud anecdote, about his children, is when he says, “She is my only girl and I have two boys. She left home first to study and has travelled all over the world. Boys left much later.” He is also my source of unconditional love, something that makes me incredibly resilient. And my two brothers, who unwaveringly stands on my side saying,
“Do what makes you happy. Dance to your rhythm. We are here. We are proud of what you do.”
I was and am never told that I cannot do, what I want to do or be who I want to be. What happens between dreaming and reaching those dreams are just glitches. At home, differences can be spoken about and I can choose my path even if there is disagreement. I will still be loved.
So when I started out into the big wide world of work, my heroes were different.
A room full of men is odd. A panel with no women to me does not represent more than half the world. Programmes on women’s empowerment without a woman leading? Maybe not!
Get women into the room, and right up front, exactly where they should be. The measure is no longer if there are women, but how many and in what roles?
Today, I am celebrating women with vision at the Catalyst Group.
We dream together. We empower each other to reach for our dreams. We believe in them. We work at them. And the dreams are personal, political, professional.
In a world of too few women at work, our team is mostly women, leading and solving today’s complex social challenges.
46% of the top management at the Catalyst Group are women.
Women lead the pack at Swasti Health Catalyst.
Our CEO is a woman and 33% of our Director roles are held by women.
Shama Karkal, CEO, Swasti Health Catalyst. Led the largest urban health engagement in India, is a runner and insists on empathy when designing programmes! She is also the one, universally loved at work.
Angela Chaudhuri, Director, Swasti Health Catalyst. Almost single handedly set up the global health consulting at the Group, loves to bake, and drives results at work.
Shrirupa Sengupta, Lead, Communications, Swasti Health Catalyst. Stand up comic, artist, writer, and passion and kindness personified. We laugh loudly, go find each other to hug and cry at work, and order each other’s favourite food.
Shaonli Chakraborty, Lead, Invest for Wellness, flagship programme, Swasti Health Catalyst. She makes sure that gender is a priority in every little thing that we do. And when you are in her turf, nothing is left uncared for.
Ashwini Bhat, Lead – People Engagement, Swasti Health Catalyst. For her people, their priorities, emotions and needs are at the centre of how Swasti works. Data excites her mind and human connections are her forte.
Bhavani Kumaran, Leads the Generation Youth initiative at Swasti Health Catalyst. She is our youngest leader. Loves animals, photography and travel. Thinks human beings can be strange. And is currently mourning the absence of Game of Thrones in April.
Flagship programme teams in Swasti Health Catalyst have majority women. 82% women in Life Skills for All team, building skills and leadership among workers in factories across South Asia, and 81% women in Invest for Wellness team, our innovation in primary health care, which is changing the way the poorest quarter of the population, and unreached experience health delivery and outcomes.
Men are our allies.
We work along with men, who are not threatened by our strength but believe that’s how the world should be. They are allies and proud ones at that.
Our politics is firmly female, unintimidated by men, and empathetic.
And I always find my tribe, not just in my office but in my family, my friendships and the communities that I work for. Here is to us!