The SHEROES summit is back, and it is girl power all the way

From women in the beauty biz to an AI startup, here’s a peek at what’s in store at the sixth edition of the SHEROES Summit, this weekend
Sairee Chahal
Sairee Chahal

This weekend is all about girl power. At 2.5 million women strong, SHEROES  — touted to be Asia’s biggest forum of women and business has the sixth edition of their annual summit underway. After Bengaluru, Chennai is the second stop, on August 25, en route their multi-city series which covers Mumbai, Trivandrum and New Delhi. Sairee Chahal, the CEO of the platform which launched back in 2013 tells us there is an elaborate line-up of inspiring women leaders at the event on Saturday themed on ‘Building Communities’. 

Beauty and the geek
“We’ve got two tech powerhouses – Ashwini Asokan, founder of AI-based startup Mad Street Den, who’s breaking barriers in this space, and Ramya Kannan, VP — Delivery at global tech company UST Global,” she says. 

This is apart from a whole section of ‘takecharge stories’ like that of beautician and single mom from a small village in Tamil Nadu, Sahithya Sundari, performances by radical thinkers like slam poet Aranya Johar who shot to fame after her viral video, A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender Discrimination and a fireside chat with influencer and TV host Miss Maalini on community building through the lens of her new webseries, The Girl Tribe.

App-solutely every woman
With an app that gives members access to a supportive sisterhood just a click away, Sairee shares that what began as a simple need for a “constructive space for self-growth and community” has since evolved into multiple avenues for resources and peer support. “Today, we have over 30 communities on relationships, health and career guidance, as well as other domain-specific communities like SHE, Drives Data, Women in Tech, Back to work, an entrepreneurship community, and a teachers’ community,” she gives us the virtual tour. This is apart from a Bazaar and Art & Crafts communities whose products will be on showcase at the summit as well.

Sairee speak

Sexism starts at home
What we’re sadly not talking enough about is the sexism in homes — women being denied the right to work, not being supported when opportunities present themselves, men not sharing the emotional load. Our counsellors support women on how to navigate these, but there’s a need for massive cultural shifts 
on this front.

Put your sneakers on
Dresses and sneakers are my uniform. Asics is my brand pick; comfy and slick designs. I have two to three pairs at any given time.
Can we really have it all?
The definition of ‘all’ is pretty different for diverse women. We need space for all kinds of choices. For me, I have two babies — my business and my daughter — and my support network at home, and office, helps me get through the day. I like yoga, travel, sneakers and disruptive tech. Cooking, I outsource to a cool lady called Saraswati. I guess for me, this is my all.

Work from MARS?
For stay-at-home mothers of young children and those who prefer to work remotely, large strides also have been made with MARS — an initiative which bridges the gap between work-from-home professionals and companies looking to outsource a process. “We manage the process, end to end. We recently deployed over 150 women for a remote project,” the 42-year-old entrepreneur and mother tells us, paving the way for flexible work hours and new structures of work modules from the norm.

Talk to me
Often, the broader conversations do get more personal, with stories shared and friends being discovered along the way. And for those who need someone to reach out to with some urgency, there is even a helpline which connects you to a counsellor. Used by 10,000 women a month — the queries, we are told, run across everything from a generic ‘how to start a business’ to more vulnerable conversations on seeking out family support, parenting and sex and consent. 

With a vision to put 100 million on the growth map by 2022, Sairee sums up, “Women leverage all these communities to have conversations, find inspiration, and seek out opportunities — it’s the fast-track to growth journeys.” It’s heartening to hear that being created by women for women, navigating growth weaves into its process the importance of motherhood and family. So don’t worry about who is going to take care of you’re little one while you attend the summit — there is a creche on site!   

9.30 am to 5.30 pm at The Raintree, Anna Salai. Entry is free.

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