Episode Number 235 / December 4, 2023

BRUTAL TRUTH About Working Mothers in India I HerKey Founder

55 Minutes

Episode Number 235 / December 4, 2023

BRUTAL TRUTH About Working Mothers in India I HerKey Founder

55 Minutes
Listen on

About the Episode

This week’s episode is about the brutal truths that working mothers in India have to experience… as we welcome Neha Bagaria, founder of HerKey formerly known as JobsForHer, to the Neon Show!

Biological Clock vs Career Ambitions

Why Working Women Are ESSENTIAL For India’s Economy!

Which Fields Are Indian Women Excelling in?

Where Will India Be As A Country For Women IN 10 YEARS?

All these CAPTIVATING topics and more in this VIBRANT & HONEST conversation. A deep dive into what makes Indian women so vital to India’s economy & how Neha Bagaria is seeking to become a catalyst and a STRONG voice for them… Tune in NOW!

Watch all other episodes on The Neon Podcast – Neon

Or view it on our YouTube Channel at The Neon Show – YouTube


Neha Bagaria 00:00

This was strive for perfection right that women do this. This is really a downfall. You want to be perfect at work. Perfect at home. Perfect mother perfect wife perfect daughter. No perfect boss perfectly colleague. Perfect is the enemy of good. In India where there’s a six months paid maternity leave and zero paid paternity leave. What is the message that we’re sending out to people? We’re telling them that the baby is born to a mother and not to parents. post,


Nansi Mishra 00:22

After that Linkedin post, I’m connected with so many working mothers across the globe. And now I talk about our stories and I hear that their experience it’s the same(Speaks in Hindi). So it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. But sometimes in our own home, it’s not okay.


Neha Bagaria 00:38

You have conversations, difficult conversations with your husband, that look, I really value my work as well. You might think I’m not earning as much as you are. That does not mean my work is not as important.


Nansi Mishra 00:48

I had no realisation that 46,000 mothers messaging me and then I realised that we have a bigger community out there. 81% of women want to get—


Neha Bagaria 01:00

— us want to get back to work, but they don’t know how. Instead of being proud that Oh, our daughter inlaw doesn’t have to do work instead you should be proud for what all work our daughter in law does(Speaks in Hindi).

Nansi Mishra 01:10

81% of Indian women want to get back to work. And yet they can’t. So what’s the problem? Our guest is looking to answer exactly that. I would like to welcome Neha Bagaria on the Neon Show. I would also like to thank our sponsors, Prime Venture Partners, for sponsoring the Neon Show. Hope you enjoy this conversation. Hi Neha, Welcome to the neon show.


Neha Bagaria 01:34

Hi, thank you so much for having me here.


Nansi Mishra 01:36

I’m super excited to have this conversation with you. Because I have waited so long to have this kind of conversation. And I have so many things to talk about. And so thank you so much for joining us today.


Neha Bagaria 01:48

Great, I’m pumped up too.

Nansi Mishra 01:49

So Neha, I was going through your LinkedIn before having this conversation. And I noticed that you mentioned on your LinkedIn that you took a three year break. And you mentioned not just about the break, you also mentioned that you learned many skills during that break. One of them is perseverance, multitasking, and you could see life in a different way. It was unusual for me to see those skills there. Can you please tell me more about that?


Neha Bagaria 02:21

Yeah, of course. Frankly, you know, that’s the problem that we women, sometimes we don’t realise the kind of variant of multiple skills that you bring to the table, and which has a lot to do with our life experiences. Yeah, of course, there’s a lot you learn thanks to education, your work experience, etc. But stuff that you learn from a life experience, we don’t boast about it. And I think for example, motherhood was a great example, you know, and that is why I made it a point to add that to my LinkedIn profile, because the skills that I learned in motherhood is what serving me well as an entrepreneur today. And in fact, on the HerKey platform, that’s why when we get women to fill out their profiles, we call it the profile plus, cause we tell women that you know what, it’s not enough for a woman to just talk about her education, work experience, she must talk about her life experience, and talk about the skills that you learn from a life experience don’t think about it as a handicap. It’s absolutely not a handicap that Hey, you took it took some time off because you needed to be there for your family for example, or you needed to be there for some health reason. All those life experiences taught you something and boast about it on your profile boast about it in an interview.


Nansi Mishra 03:32

All these moms have these the face is common for all of us, right? So certainly we all learn these skills. I don’t I can’t imagine a mother who is not an expert in multitasking I can’t imagine but then why it’s so difficult for them to get an unfortunately when they get out of home-


Neha Bagaria 03:55

You know what the thing is one thing that we realised that every woman on a break has in common is that she loses her confidence. Yeah, and the reason why you lose your confidence is one you know you you feel like you’ve been transported to a different world or different sphere altogether where you know the conversation around you now if you look at motherhood for example, you know, if you’re a full time mom the conversation around you when you’re a full time mom is all about like, you know kids and nannies and mother in laws


Nansi Mishra 03:56

Makes us feel like okay you don’t even know this too(Speaks in Hindi).


Neha Bagaria 04:29

I know that’s true. Okay, you constantly feel like your not getting it.


Nansi Mishra 04:32

One work is there and that one work turns in to multiple works, then it makes us feel like your not even capable of doing that one work also(Speaks in Hindi)


Neha Bagaria 04:39

The thing is that motherhood is very physically and emotionally stimulating but is not intellectually stimulate. Yeah. And it’s so time consuming that it’s not like you are able to spend enough time in being intellectually stimulated. You know, like for example, most women will lose, lose touch with you know, their former colleagues. because here you know, you would rather spend time with moms were talking about which nappy is best for your child versus talk to your former colleague about derivative feeding. You just feel like that world was a different world altogether, and you’re in a different world.

Neha Bagaria 05:14

And that’s why when you decide to get back into that world, you feel that, okay, you know what that world has moved on without you and you can’t catch up. And this really creates a big lack of confidence, especially also because everybody around you tells you, How will you get back to work? Are you sure you’ll be able to get back to work? Do you need to get back to work, and you start doubting yourself. And when you start doubting yourself, you forget that hey, one I already have a lot of those skills or companies are looking for right, because what you had gained in the past doesn’t go away. Yeah, it’s just lying dormant, you just need to turn the light switch on again. Second, you have picked up new skills. And that is something the additional like the combination of your old skills, plus these new skills, plus, then you can rescale into whatever new technologies have impacted your work. It’s all at your fingertips. So which is why it was very important to change the narrative when it came to women returnees and to make them realise that hey, you know what, don’t knock on the door trying to justify your break. Okay, knock on the door, telling them that I took this big proud of your break. There’s a lot that we need to change from our point of view of how society sees mothers. Yeah, I mean, you know, like, in India, we are so used to, like idolising women, you know, saying that, Oh, Lakshmima and Saraswathyma, you know, to either goddesses, or then your Abla nari(Helpless woman), you know, who needs a like knight in shining armour to come and rescue her kind of a thing? We should just stop both extremes. Yeah, yeah. I mean, just normalising like you’re talking about I mean, you know, mainstream this, like a woman. So usually, it’s just a man’s career, which is a mainstream career. So you expect that the career graph would be just like this? Yeah. A woman’s career graph is usually like this. And so when that happens, you’re just like her, you know? Is she actually serious about her work? Or is she actually going to be able to grow in her career, or when a recruiter sees that breaks, they’re like, but I’ve been told to find somebody who’s doing this in this particular company list. She’s got a break, I don’t know what to do with the her resume. So as soon as we start mainstreaming, career breaks, more and more people will feel comfortable about it. And it’ll be be more open to talking about and getting back to work. Frankly, I foresee a day, “The day” will be when men will feel comfortable to take career breaks, because frankly, it sucks. It’s so sad that they are not getting to experience some of these life’s greatest joys, I always find the answer in economics rightly Okay. At the end of the day, it’s first of all, demand and supply. Yeah. Now, when it comes to motherhood, we don’t care. Okay, because it’s it’s such an emotional work that we do that no matter who else is going to do it. As long as a baby has those needs, the mother will be there and do it. Yeah. So which means that you’re not putting up any sort of a prize for doing that work. Right? You either take it for granted. Yeah, this is your work. Also, now, if you have policies, like in India, where there’s a six months paid maternity leave, and there’s a 0 paid paternity leave, what is the message that we’re sending out to people? We’re telling them that the baby is born to a mother and not to parents? Yep. So as soon as the baby’s gotten the word, it is a mother’s job to take care of the child and the father doesn’t even get a chance. They don’t even get leave(Speaks in Hindi), okay? Even if he wants. He doesn’t even have the option. So from the beginning, it becomes her mother’s job. That’s not a surprise that, like 80% of caretaking responsibilities in India are born by the woman and not by the man. Yeah. So now one, the bulk of that load is sitting on that woman’s shoulders to she doesn’t get paid for it. And yet, so economics and monetary policy comes into place, right? If it is unpaid work, it will not be valued work. Yeah, because at the end of the day, for the work that they do the money was coming(Speaks in Hindi). So that work is very important. It’s important for the family’s economics. Yeah. Through this work(Speaks in Hindi). There’s no monetary benefit from it. It’s something that is taken for granted that Mother will do it(Speaks in Hindi).

Nansi Mishra 09:23

I was not part of any moms circle. Because I thought because I was part of Babygogo. I had all kinds of knowledge. that which diaper to choose what not to choose. And I was bored of those conversations. So I never joined any app for that reason. And I was also living with my mother in law, so I thought I’ll manage. But then I’m the first one from a batch who became a mother, right? And I shifted to a new city and I don’t have many friends here. And when I needed the need of friends, felt the need of friends. I didn’t have time Kabir was already there in my life. So I didn’t have anyone who had who had similar kind of experience. So when I became part of these groups, I’m part of that female founder group. I’m now part of like, after that LinkedIn post, I’m connected with so many working mothers across the globe, not just in India. And now I talk about our stories and I hear a chunk of experience. Si, it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. But sometimes in our own home, it’s not okay. And you have to spend so much time in home only for for stay at home moms or moms who work from home. I think it’s a big population who are working from home. For them it’s still not okay(Speaks in Hindi).,


Neha Bagaria 10:43

But we have to take the ownership of changing that also. Yeah, I don’t think we need to think about ourselves as a victim that. It’s not okay, at home. And so this sucks, you know, and oh, no, what are we gonna? Do? We have to take the onus of making that change as well. Yeah. And that will start with having lots of difficult conversations. Yeah. Yeah, you need to have that difficult conversation with your mother in law. That just because I’m working from home doesn’t mean I can answer the doorbell every time it rings. Yeah. Or if guests suddenly pop in at home, I can leave my work and go and make chai and then entertain them. Okay. You do have conversation, difficult conversations with your husband. Yeah, that look, I really value my work as well. You might think I’m not earning as much as you are. That does not mean my work is not as important as yours is. Okay. You do have that difficult conversation with a child that I know you would love for me to come and pick you up from school. But Mama has a job. Okay? That’s very difficult conversation. But oh, and you need to have a difficult conversation with yourself. That I am not a bad mother. I’m not a bad wife. I’m not a bad daughter in law, just because I’m not there at the beck and call off these other people in the house. Yeah. And you could also have a difficult conversation with yourself saying that it will be worth it one day, it will be difficult during this entire time, but it will be worth it one day.


Nansi Mishra 12:01

I think we all do that. And at some point in time we do that we do have that kind of conversation with our in laws or with that our—


Neha Bagaria 12:10

No most women shy from it. Okay, because most women are trying to be the good girl. Yeah, where you’re not supposed to answer back to authority or to people who are who you’re supposed to show a lot of respect to, especially in laws, right? I mean, what they feel and think should be supposed to be the most important and then they feel that they’re being bad and they’re being wrong by voicing their needs and their ambitions and you know that the the fact that they have an ambition itself they feel is a bad thing. And that is why it’s very important for them to realise that no, it is they need to put themselves in front as well. It’s like that you know that popular saying that put put your own oxygen mask first on first before you put on the oxygen mask for others.


Nansi Mishra 12:55

So what’s the balance? Good girl bad girl.


Neha Bagaria 12:59

First of all, this whole strive for perfection right that women do this. This is really a downfall. Okay, we want to be the perfect we want to be perfect at work perfect at home. Perfect mother perfect wife perfect daughter law. Perfect boss, perfect Colleague. perfect is the enemy of good. Yeah, sometimes good is just good enough. And we should be comfortable with that. Yeah, that yes. I might not be able to, you know, help my child with his studies for his exams. Yeah, the way other moms are doing it. But am I there for him in terms of any emotional support he needs? That’s good enough.


Nansi Mishra 13:37

Or maybe we are working in there watching us or working so hard. And there. There is some kind of learning happening there also.


Neha Bagaria 13:44

Oh Absolutely.Yeah. I mean, kids, you know, they they will listen to very little of what you say. But they’re watching everything that you do. And if you want your child, especially your daughter, to one day have a successful career, then God dammit you do too.

Nansi Mishra 14:00

Indra Nooyi mentioned in one interview that for women who are in their mid 20s or till or women who are in their 30s or early 40s. For them biological clock is ticking. Career clock is ticking. Too much pressure. So many self doubts. How do you deal with that? How do you see that?


Neha Bagaria 14:22

Yeah. No, I mean, this is a law of nature. Yeah, there’s no going away from the fact that yes, the biological clock in the career clock coincides for a woman. But again, who defines that career clock? Yeah, you don’t this whole pressure of 30 under 30 and 40, under 40. Who cares? Okay, age is just a number. So sure if at a particular age of your life, you feel that you need to prioritise on your family and your kids do i! Okay, your career can still be there. It doesn’t have to go away. You know, all these breaks can be just a pause in your career doesn’t have to be a full stop. Finally, any person’s career you spans from when they’re 20 to 65. At least that’s 45 years in the middle, if you have say, two, three years off, when you, you know, when motherhood hits, marriage hits or mobility hits a medical care hits, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean that your career has to come to a full stop.


Nansi Mishra 15:16

So you’re saying that, yes, for us biological clock is ticking, but you don’t have to? You don’t have a thing that—


Neha Bagaria 15:26

That your career clock will go away? Yes. I mean, again, that career clock was set. According to the career for men, a woman can have a very different career clock. Yeah, let’s redefine a career clock. We can’t really define the biological clock that we know. So let’s redefine the career clock.

Nansi Mishra 15:45

Makes a lot of sense. And Neha, you’re so fierce, you speak so well you are working for, for all these women who you know, return to work after becoming a mom. And you actually made a difference in all of these women. And I’m curious to know about your story. Maybe about if you can share about your childhood, or when you were growing up? What was your mother doing? What kind of life she was living? And how did you see all of those things?


Neha Bagaria 16:17

Sure. I mean, so I actually hear from typical Marwari business family. Yeah. And growing up. I saw my dad working all the time. And my mom was a complete full time mother. You know she really devoted her life to her children and her home. And yet, as I grew up, I wanted more of the respect that my dad gathered, versus the love that my mom garnered. Yeah, and I saw that huge difference, okay, between when like, in how they were viewed. And I always felt that it was such a thankless job that my mom did you know, we actually owe our lives to her. We, my brother, and I definitely owe everything to her. But she felt so underappreciated. You know, that one day, when we grew up, and we flew the nest, it was so difficult for her at that time. Versus for my dad, not much changed, right. He was working before that. And he continued working after that. Finally, thanks to my JobsFoHer journey, I was able to convince my mom and on her 60th birthday, she started her own career. Wow. And she has she’s she’s been an incredible artist her entire life, but she always painted only as a hobby. And then finally, one day, I managed actually after years of convincing her and persuading her. Finally, on her 60th birthday, she had her first art exhibition of the Jahangir Art Gallery and was sold out. And since then, she’s a different person. She exi- she has exhibited all over the world. In fact, right now her, her paintings have just left for Art Basel, which is in Miami.


Nansi Mishra 17:55

It’s so amazing. Do you think it could have started? It could have happened?


Neha Bagaria 18:00

Of course, it could have started, she started off a career 20 years earlier. And she did


Nansi Mishra 18:05

like what was she missing though at that time?(Speaks in Hindi)


Neha Bagaria 18:08

The confidence.Yeah, so the confidence that that first of all, the confidence that she can build a career? You know, I don’t even think that the thoughts struck her. Yeah, that she should also think about building her career. So again, because societal expectations were not that right. The societal expectations were that she should be managing her house and a family really, really well. And she did a bloody well job at it. Oh, my gosh. No, even like the house. Right? It’s impeccable. Everything is always in the right place. She’s like, you know, she’s done the like the advanced courses of Ikebana flower arrangement, like I mean, she’s an incredibly amazing cook, you know, all of that she whatever she did, she did to perfection. But career was something just never even a possibility in her mind. Even though by the way, she, when she was bringing me up, she kept telling me that you need to do really well in your studies, you need to work really hard, because you need to be financially independent in life. So the aspirations she had for her daughter, she just didn’t have for herself.

Nansi Mishra 19:13

You have worked with HerKey for last more than eight years, and you have worked with all these women. So I may be wrong here. But I had no idea about these platforms. And it’s very recent for me, and I found it difficult to get into these groups. Maybe I had work so I didn’t feel like getting enrolled on platforms like HerKey. So I missed that opportunity to connect with these women. But I was missing having a circle in my life. And I think it makes a lot of changing our life.


Neha Bagaria 19:47

Yeah that’s what we are changing. Yeah, because frankly, everybody needs that positive support system around her. Yeah, and you need so the platform that we’re building at HerKey that three main pillars, there’s the opportunities which is your jobs, okay? Because at the end of the day, we need to make sure there are enough jobs and enough companies opening up the doors for women, then there’s learning Okay, so that the men are making sure that they’re reskilling themselves, they’re upskilling themselves, they’re gaining the confidence that they need. And this third piece is actually the most critical piece which is a community Okay, where women can find other like minded women, you know, can find women who will be able to constantly give them that positive reinforcement and also women who’ve already been there done that so that other women can learn from their journeys as well.


Nansi Mishra 20:33

Right and I want to share one more example with you. I’m in mentioned that I didn’t have friends with whom I could share about the struggles I was having that time. So Kabir was around one year old and I decided that I would make a routine for myself and I’ll start with three four hours maybe and I informed everyone in my family that I’m not available during these hours and since morning, I’ll start singing that mom from 2 to 5 or 2 to 6 I will be outside or I am sitting in cafe for work or i will book a cabin for work. So, you might have to take care of Kabir. So, if you have any work could you please finish it before that or after it or I would ask Siddhartha that(Speaks in Hindi)—


Neha Bagaria 21:10

—you were also asking another woman in the house only.


Nansi Mishra 21:13

Yeah. So it was my first day of working in a co work. And I posted this, I shared this post on LinkedIn that I’m working, I’ve made a routine for myself that I work for hours, and I have no other option. And this is the only option but I won’t disappoint my mother because she has worked really hard to help me reach her and I don’t want to waste or whatever it was, I just shared that post and it got massive traction. And it was I think I was regular on LinkedIn. But I shared that after a long gap(Speaks in Hindi). So I didn’t I didn’t check LinkedIn because I was not active. So there was no expectation which like why anyway, so then you keep checking like how many likes we got today and I was like okay, lets keep the phone aside and do the rest of the work(Speaks in Hindi). Then I had Kabir so, I forgot about that post. And then people started calling me my relatives key your post is going viral. And so many mothers started reaching out to me and they started sharing their stories with me, and that I was so pumped up. I was like now I have to, and they were asking for advice and for help, also, and I was like, I have to help all of them. And how can I help? And then I couldn’t help because I still had limited time to work for my work. But I was like how can I, What are the kind of things that has little effort to work on(Speaks in Hindi). I’m not disappeared from that platform. At least I’m not I’m not setting an example and I didn’t want to do any Favour(Ehsaan) okay. I’m doing it for them. But there was something in my mind what can I do when I have limited time(Speaks in Hindi) but they see me as an example that she is working we will to. And I started sharing my post. I started sharing my stories on LinkedIn. And then what happened? I thought that I would help them but they started helping me because they were coming back to me. That, they have also started working and did this work (Speaks in Hindi) . So they started, they became my inspiration that, there are many people (Speaks in Hindi) I had no realisation that 46,000 mothers messaging me. And somebody’s congratulating me, somebody sharing story. And then I realised that we have a bigger community and—


Neha Bagaria 23:32

It paved forward, right? Yeah, each one of us has to pave it forward. Okay, because somebody during our time somebody has helped us somebody has supported us, somebody has given us that confidence that push that motivation. Now we have to pave it forward for other women. Yeah.


Nansi Mishra 23:48

But sometimes now like, since then, it’s been I think, more than three years I’ve been posting about working woman because that’s the only thing I am experiencing right now. I have that kind of routine, you can say. But there are people who think that I’m discouraging stay at home moms, or they think that I’m anti men, because I’m not. I’m like, How can I support all of these people.


Neha Bagaria 24:13

It is very easy to observe her at HerKey. We have a one of our values, okay, we have 10 commandments, 10 values. One of our values is be pro women, but not anti men. They are completely different things. Okay. We can all be pro women, even men can be pro women. Yeah, because that is what is needed. That’s where the big gap is. That doesn’t mean the anti men, frankly, like we’ve been discussing, if women succeed in the careers the biggest beneficiaries will be the men. The men will benefit from being their colleagues from being their bosses, from being their husbands, from being their fathers, from being their friends. Okay, so this is not a female versus male battle. This is actually a journey that both have to have together. And it’s also not a battle between stay at home moms and working moms. Okay. Yes, our stay at home women and working with Because frankly, most working women also have been through those journeys already. Yeah, so today we are working woman tomorrow we might be stay at home woman(Speaks in Hindi). Who knows?(Chuckles).


Nansi Mishra 24:18

And there is no teams in this like, we are different and you are different(Speaks in Hind).


Neha Bagaria 24:44

We are all just different phases of the same journey.


Nansi Mishra 24:48

And we, we somewhere, want all these women to be part of workforce?

Neha Bagaria 25:20

Absolutely. Because frankly the country also needs it. The country needs it. If we really want to grow okay and become the, you know, the biggest GDP that we can be. Our women can’t be left behind.


Nansi Mishra 25:33

And I think I read it on your website, only HerKey’s website. 81% of women want to get back—


Neha Bagaria 25:39

Want to get back to work, but they don’t know how?


Nansi Mishra 25:42

I think but success of Meesho and Meesho is there UrbanClap is there. We have more platforms like these. They have shown Yeah. Women actually want to work. They just don’t have Opportunities.


Neha Bagaria 25:57

Yeah. I mean, the kind of untapped talent pool that our country has, is incredible.


Nansi Mishra 26:03

And it actually connects all the dots like I have a busy schedule that I can’t go to the parlour every like twice a month. I can’t go because by the time my work is done(Speaks in Hindi), Kabira is already waiting. Yes.


Neha Bagaria 26:16

First hint is over, second shift is waiting.


Nansi Mishra 26:18

It feels like now I have to switch and he’s there(Speaks in Hindi). Because he’s been waiting for like throughout the day. He’s angry upset with me. So, now he is small so he won’t even come with me to the parlour also(Speaks in Hindi). So, I have built a support system for myself and I have my fixed person on urban company. And she comes and she’s also in that stage.


Neha Bagaria 26:40

Yeah. Wow. It’s amazing. And you will understand you can relate to what she’s also going through.


Nansi Mishra 26:46

She’s like I first make breakfast and my husband reaches by 1.00pm. And after reaching at 1pm he will be there with child at the home. My shift starts at 2 and work till night(Speaks in Hindi). It’s so inspiring

Neha Bagaria 26:59

That’s what they have figured it out. See, they have figured out so usually also the the other problem that happened again, economics boiling down to economics is that usually the more affluent a family becomes in India, the lower the chances that women working. Okay. Because then they start feeling what is the need(Speaks in Hindi). There’s no need to work. Yeah. Usually, if a family needs the double income, they will figure it out. Yeah, the whole family will support that woman’s career, the husband was upon the woman’s career because we’re it should be done(Speaks in Hindi) There’s no other way. Yeah. But as soon as the husband’s doing very well in the career, no, suddenly then there’ll be like okay why is she is working(Speaks in Hindi)?And also becomes a status symbol in India. My wife doesn’t need to work on my daughter in law doesn’t need to work. Yeah. This is that mindset change that we need to do. Instead of being proud that Oh, my daughter in law doesn’t have to work(Speaks in Hindi) we should be proud that look what and all work my daughter in law is doing(Speaks in Hindi).


Nansi Mishra 27:53

I think this is one of the reasons why women participation is much better in rural areas. Absolutely. Because they are they have to work, they are not thinking about these things, they are not looking for solutions they have to do.


Neha Bagaria 28:07

And so overall women participation in the Indian workforce is 20%. In urban India, it’s 15%. And this is where your educated, qualified women are sitting.


Nansi Mishra 28:19

I think it breaks my heart to see that there are women who are, you know, well deserving. Like, they have that kind of education, background, they have that kind of they have skills, or whatever you call to whatever is required to be there in the work for participation. They want to work, they are not allowed. Yeah,


Neha Bagaria 28:44

Absolutely. We’re all that’s what, again, economics as soon as we make the—


Nansi Mishra 28:45

But how do you change that?

Neha Bagaria 28:46

— As soon as you make the family so, COVID really helped in changing that, for example. Yeah, because a lot of the sole breadwinners were the men, a lot of them lost their jobs. And suddenly, the economics became a big problem right? And the home Suddenly family started realising that oh my god, we better figure this out.


Nansi Mishra 29:09

It’s like there should be one big phenomenal event to realise that(Speaks in Hindi).


Neha Bagaria 29:13

Yeah because this generation say no, this is not going to be an overnight change. Okay. I mean, it in the eight years that I’ve been running this company, we’ve seen so much change, but we had to push it more(Speaks in Hindi)Yeah, and nothing has happened overnight. Luckily, the pandemic was like a watershed moment, though. Yeah. Because when the pandemic happens, suddenly families realise that we can’t rely on only one breadwinner in the house, we have another qualified, skilled, talent sitting at home, wait, maybe we should support her career also, maybe she can also get the double income into the family. Also, companies realise that, you know, because there was this huge war for talent that happened during the pandemic. So they realise that if we want to win this war for talent, we can’t not access 50% of the talent pool. We have to figured out a way that our workplace has to be much more women friendly. Yeah. How do we get more women back? How do we get women to stay? How do we get women to rise in their careers? So the kinds of efforts that we’re seeing companies put in to actually look at recruitment, retention advancement for women, we’ve never seen it happen before, as we’re seeing it now. And it’s not just earlier, it was usually just the large MNCs that are driving this change. Now, it’s like every Indian company, also, SMEs, startups, all of them are coming to us and talking to us that how do we get more women in? And how do we get more women to stay and rise?


Nansi Mishra 30:35

That’s amazing. And that’s not because we have-


Nansi Mishra 30:40

There are many companies or organisations who do it for the sake of diversity. They’re not doing it for the sake of diversity.


Neha Bagaria 30:48

So first of all, diversity is very good for business. Yeah. So diversity is a very important reason to do it also, because frankly, if you don’t have diversity, that means you’re not getting diverse perspectives, you’re not getting diverse skills. And if your consumer base is diverse, your employee base also needs to be Yeah, like think about it. FMCG companies, for example, 80% of people who they’re selling to are women, 80% of their employees are men, doesn’t make sense. Okay, you need more women in to be able to create products that other women will consume, to market to other women to sell to other women, or to communicate and service other women, right. So it’s just again, so as soon as we make companies realise that diversity helps the bottom line, suddenly, there’s huge buyer.


Nansi Mishra 31:34

What’s that one advice you would want to share for all these women, like me, like you or we have so many women out there, they are doing amazingly well in their career, they still feel guilty.


Neha Bagaria 31:48

You know, they say that, show me a woman without any guilt. And I’ll show you man instant, once you’re aware of that, we can also learn how to deal with it. Okay. And instead of constantly trying to fight it, we need to realise that it’s there. It doesn’t have to own us. Yeah, it can kind of be at the back of our heads and let it be at the back of our minds. And frankly, sometimes use it to your advantage. Okay, because we feel that little guilt, maybe to make us a better mother, we will maybe we’ll try harder and be there for that child’s you know, concert where he is participating for two minutes and you’ve to sit through for two hours. But because of that nagging guilty you will be there and that’d be nice. That’d be good for you and for your child. Because you feel that guilt, you’ll put in those extra hours that your work requires that your job requires because they in during the day you do attend that concert. So you have to make up for it at night wherever everybody’s gone to sleep you’ve put in those couple of hours that so use that guilt to your advantage instead of constantly fighting against it and feeling that it will don’t let it destroy you. You instead make it your weapon.


Nansi Mishra 32:58

So the first step is break free from denial. Yeah, absolutely. Become comfortable with Yeah don’t that I’m doing fine. Everything is okay.


Neha Bagaria 33:06

Yeah know, somebody actually gave me this advice when I was starting, you know, when I went to her and I went to so many people, right for mentorship and advice when I was starting I told her that I really need to figure out how to get over this guilt before I start because you know, I have to help other women get over it. And she said, once I can calm down, she that calls the call. This is not some pill that you can take an overnight be done with the guilt. Yeah, this is a journey, and you will learn how to deal with it. You know, you I don’t think the goal has to be how to forever be rid of it. I think the goal has to be how to deal with it and how to use it to your advantage.


Nansi Mishra 33:40

This makes so much sense.


Neha Bagaria 33:43

I hope you use that also now, because that helped me so much. And this thing that you talked about how when I started I wanted to help all the women out there and then over time I realised that they were helping me that’s exactly what happened. Yeah. It’s only when I when I actually started hearing their stories and listening to so many inspirational journeys of different women I learned so much from their journeys and that’s what helped me overcome my guilt and my fear and you know my lack of confidence.


Nansi Mishra 34:13

Because I think what happens you will get ready to prepare for large purposes in life that, I want take my company to this level, that we want to hire this much people, we need this much bandwidth, and want this sponsors and in one year wanna achieve this much(Speaks in Hindi) and what’s most difficult is fighting the daily battles. Yeah. And for that you need people telling you or showing you that it’s it will happen. Yeah, it’ll take time will happen. It’s okay. I’m also doing this do a little of this and that it will happen eventually(Speaks in Hindi).


Neha Bagaria 34:46

And it’s all fine. Yeah.


Nansi Mishra 34:49

So I think hearing that makes us feel much better about, about the journey and the struggles.


Nansi Mishra 34:56

Neha, I think everyone needs to hear this, especially our audience, what are the fields where women are topping? Like you mentioned in one of your post? STEM. Yeah. So what are the fields where women are doing amazingly well, and we don’t know about those fields, like science technology and what other fields?


Neha Bagaria 35:18

First of all, there’s no field that women are topping, there are no field that women are not topping in.


Nansi Mishra 35:25

I was reading your post that we have so many signs and technology graduates in—


Neha Bagaria 35:32

Any field and you will find some spectacular women in it. Okay. I mean, look at the recent Chandrayan mission that went out there. The there have never been more women in space in India than there have been right now you have and at a time when we had our biggest success, okay, the kind of women who have backed that success is extremely amazing. And earlier, many people would have thought that this is not a job for her. Yeah, you look at pilots. Yeah. Earlier Peoples only think woman means airhostess can’t be a pilot. You look at surgeons, you look at civil engineers, you look at semiconductor industry, okay, sure. In some fields, there must be there’ll be less percentage of women in that. Because traditionally, again, there were all these biases where women were told that this is not the right field for you, you know, but now all those biases are being broken. And companies are actually doing a lot to make sure that so wherever that is less pipeline of women there actually retraining women and getting them interested in these other fields. So for example, you know, somebody I know very well, she got into MIT for her undergraduate, and brilliant, absolutely brilliant, try to get into MIT. But when she was selecting her major, her dad suggested she wanted to mechanical engineering, or her dad said, mechanical engineering is not the right field for a woman, you should do architecture instead. Now, again, who says which field is the right field for a woman? Yeah, at the end of the day, anything that the woman has the aptitude for is the right field for her. So for example, there was also a study that said that why are there not that many women in the women surgeons? And some people thought, oh, it’s because of the long hours that women surgeons have to that surgeons have to quote, you have to be at the beck and call, anytime you might be called in, you know, that’s not the right job for a woman. Guess who’s standing side by side with those surgeons, nurses. But nurses, people feel it’s fine for women to do. Now, if your best cooks in the world, your top chefs in the world can be men. Can’t the best surgeons in the world, we women who says this field is for women, and that field is not for women? Yeah. The surgeon


Nansi Mishra 37:49

Example hit me. I had never thought about it.


Neha Bagaria 37:54

Yeah, I mean, there is, they work the same hours, right? They will the same hours, they also have to be available at the beck and call of any emergency. But in nursing, you will never raise an eyebrow that a woman wants to be a nurse. Or if a man wants to be a nurse and you raise an eyebrow. Why? So these are all biases that play out and that they’re at an early age itself, you will see teachers will start, you know, discouraging Certain girls to get into these kinds of fields, right, like, in fact, there’s also studies that show that girls who graduate from girls schools, they end up doing better in STEM than girls who graduate from Co-Ed schools. So strange, right? The reason is because when girls and Co-Ed schools, the teachers usually end up encouraging the boys more to get into STEM. Versus when girls and all girls school, somebody should be encouraged so(Speaks in Hindi). The girls get encouraged.


Nansi Mishra 38:48

Thank God I was part of girls class.(Chuckles)


Neha Bagaria 38:52

Yeah, I mean, for me, luckily I you know, again had a person like my dad who said, sure you want to study business studies, but 11th and 12th sciences compulsory you have to study. So I was one of the I think we were 10 Girls in like 150 students who were studying electronic engineering electronic studies in their 11th and 12th. And then I was like, we were two girls from India, who went and say about 30 guys who went to Wharton to study for undergraduate. But also because that’s the whole thing because we hold the girls back.

Nansi Mishra 39:28

You had such supportive parents Neha. And then you stayed at home after having such a successful career. What were you thinking during those three years about your career? What was the turning point that made you make that shift?


Neha Bagaria 39:46

Let’s go actually I had never ever thought I’ll take a break in my career. Yeah. When I got pregnant also, I was like okay, actually when I was nine months pregnant, and I told my colleagues Okay, fine. Once the baby comes, I’ll be gone for 40 is because in my worries is a 40 day Japa period. And then I’ll be back sudden clear out at my desk, nothing. Yeah, 14 days go to verse. There’s no way I can come back right now maybe three months. Three months got over and I was just like, No, no, you know, there’s too much going on. I don’t think I can trust my baby to anybody right now. So maybe one year, by the time one year was over, I become a raging full time mom. Okay, I felt that everything I had to do for my baby, you know, nobody else could do it the way I can do it. Also, my mother, my mother in law had always been full time moms. So I and everyone, all the women around me, once I became mothers, they were full time moms. So I really started feeling this whole expectation of society and family that became my own expectation, I felt that I would be doing this baby a big disservice. If I wasn’t there for every bath time and naptime and you know, sleep and everything I had to do myself. It’s only my second son was born that for the first time, I had to shift my attention from my first one there, then nothing right, like my day started and ended with my son, my whole routine, exactly what you said, I can relate to it. So my whole routine depended on his routine. When my second son was born, I had to shift it because you have to get on the second child. And I realised that oh, the heavens haven’t fallen down. He’s fine. In fact, he might be better off because he doesn’t have this crazy helicopter mom on his head anymore. And you know, his relationships with other family members, including his dad, they grew. So second timer, and second time around motherhood is much easier, by the way, point to note, okay. Because in a second baby cries, you don’t think it’s such a big deal. And you’ve learned a lot, right? So, after this three and a half years, I finally realised one day that you know what, there was too much frustration that had seeped in. And if I want to be a happy mother, or to be a happy person, and for that I have to get back to work. But still, I didn’t think that this will make me a better mother. I couldn’t do it. Yeah. And that’s the whole thing. I really feel like sometimes when you’ve been an overachiever all your life, you will be an overachiever and motherhood also. And that’s sometimes you know, it’s like everything you take on, you want to do it at the best of your abilities, right. And for me, being perfect at being a mother meant being a full time mother. It’s only when I started realising that this is not good for my children. That’s what got me back to work.


Nansi Mishra 42:36

And you also mentioned that your mother was like the perfect mother to you.


Neha Bagaria 42:40

My mother was a perfect mother. Oh, she’s still the perfect mother. Yeah.


Nansi Mishra 42:43

So do you think sometimes we start competing with our own mother? That No, you’re not competing? Comparing or feel like..


Neha Bagaria 42:51

No expecting yourself? No, you start expecting yourself to be the kind of mother that your mother was to you? Yeah. And my mother was always there. She’s always around and we have very, very close like, she’s like my best friend. Yeah. And so I wanted, I started feeling that that’s what I need to give to my children. Also. I just forgotten that. No, I have to be the best mother. I can be to my children. I can’t be the best mother. My mother was to us.

Nansi Mishra 43:18

Makes sense? And yeah, you have worked with HerKey for more than eight years. I would want to know about the insights you have, you know, learned about in in these last eight years. And where do you see India in the next 10 years? Where are we as country like women workforce participation, where are we, how much more should we go, what have we done so far in the last eight years(Speaks in Hindi). If you can share insights?


Neha Bagaria 43:46

Yeah sure. No, I mean, women participation in the intern workforce is really dismal. Okay, we are 20% overall and 15% in urban India. Compare that to USA which is at 55% China, which is at 60%. Okay, and male participation rates in India 80%. So, that itself tells you first of all, why there’s so much gender inequality in the country. Okay, because not having financial independence leads to complete gender imbalance in your in the home in families and society. Second, it shows you actually where we can go because of the USA with its unaffordable childcare, and no maternity leave policies can get 55% or with China can be at 60%. With the we have the most number of women graduates in the world. Yeah, it is just a no brainer that we also need to get there. And frankly, now, I feel like the whole country has woken up to this fact, you know, companies have woken up and the government has woken up. So there is a huge amount of concentrated effort being done to make sure that we get women to participate in the labour force and not just in Job But even as entrepreneurs so that the women themselves can become job creators as well, yeah, and I really think that in the next 10 years, okay, already in the last eight and a half years, we’ve seen so much change with getting women back to work. In the next 10 years, you will see so much change with women rising in the careers.

Nansi Mishra 45:16

So one of the main goals at HerKey is to reverse female brain drain, like, in numbers, what has changed?


Neha Bagaria 45:25

So again, the change is slow. Yeah, right now, the government just published a report, saying that the latest survey they have done of women participation in the workforce is now at 37%. These numbers are getting verified in fact getting published by the minute as well. And if that’s the case, then it is a cause of great joy for all of us. If we have managed to pull up that number from 20% to 37%. Already, then our 50% target is not very far away. Yeah. Also, if you look at it today, out of 100 college grads, 40 of them are women, which is great or 40 of them, only 10 even pursue a career. Sorry, out of 40 of them only eight pursue a career. And then out of those eight, four of them drop out within three years. What we are trying to do is between first of all 40 and eight that drop off that happens that to STEM that itself so that fathers are not just educating the daughters to get a good husband, they’re educating the daughters to get a good career as well. Yeah. Secondly, when of course, women take that break in their careers, we are never ever against the break. Yeah, if a woman needs to take a break in a career, let her take it. Okay, there’s obviously some pressing need, because of what she needs to take it. What we are looking at is that the for that dropout, how do we get them to rejoin the workplace? And that is why when it comes to re-starters, there are two categories. Okay. One is women who started working and stopped. And then there are women who just never started. And those are the women we call the Late Starters. So a lot of learning initiatives are being put in place to get women in their 30s who are restarted or Late Starters to get upskill and reskilled. And join back the labour force. And hopefully that number you will be able to see from that jump from 20% to 37%.


Nansi Mishra 47:15

Wow, I just wish that happens. It’s not good for it’s not only good for all of us, it’s good for economy and overall the it will surely help us shatter those ceilings or norms we have set up for a woman. That, you have to go to college that is nearby, not the one that is distant(Speaks in Hindi) thought process.


Neha Bagaria 47:39

Yeah. Or you can’t work out of home. I mean, that also when you’re on your break. Yeah, you have so many families are like me, Don’t wanna work for others(Speaking in Hindi). Yeah, you know, as long as they have these big bad men in the workplace, office myths have to really change. And the more the women will join the workplace. So it’s a self confirming prophecy, more than women will join the workplace, the better the workplace will become the easier to be for other women to join the workplace.

Nansi Mishra 48:04

And Moms First CEO said in one of her posts, or I think she was making a speech where she mentioned, impostor syndrome is not a syndrome. It’s it’s a fault. And it’s not our fault as women, it’s the system’s fault. What do you think about that? How do we improve that system? Because what we as women can do is okay, we will be be mindful about the guilt that we will acknowledge that we are feeling this emotion. And now we have to, you know, find ways that how do we overcome this feeling? How do we create a support system for all of for us, for myself, and then I’ll see how I can help other women. But system’s end what is required, I like how they should or they can improve the situation?


Neha Bagaria 48:59

Yeah, no, I think it changed the way that we that we bring up our daughters, right? I mean, most of the times, you know, we will tell girls to not be so bossy. Or we will tell girls to be more humble. You know, to not speak up, not voice your opinion, not speak against authority. And it’s all of this that chips away at her sense of self belief over the years. Yeah. And that is what finally leads to impostor syndrome one day, which is where women feel that they don’t belong, or they did not deserve this achievement or this award is accolade that they’re getting, because maybe, you know, I’m not that. So versus if we start appreciating and respecting and inspiring and motivating and pushing women and who have been that little girls itself and tell them that, you know, this is you have great leadership skills when they are being bossy or that when we meet them in a party, we don’t tell them just what a love The dress you’re wearing, but we talk to them about, you know, what good books are you reading? You know? Or what is it that you want to do later on in life, which doesn’t include only managing the home. All these things will instil a sense of self belief in girls at an early age. And then when they achieve it, they will feel like of course, we’ve achieved it. That was my plan. All along.

Nansi Mishra 50:20

Yeah, I think I have learned a lot from this conversation. And Neha, just one last question I have. You have you have been working with lots of organisations and large corporates, who get place like were these women get placed with? How do you pitch them?


Neha Bagaria 50:37

Look, good question, actually, because that was something that we really changed the rules of the game when we started, okay, when I started, I realised that a lot of companies were going around telling these companies that we need to hire women from a social goodwill point of view, or, you know, from a CSR point of view. And I was just like, what, this is not a charity case, okay. You don’t hire women, because you’re doing them a favour. You’re hiring women, because and especially women attorneys, because they have the experience, they have the qualifications, they have a fire in their bellies to prove themselves again, and they’ll join you at no notice period. Yeah. So the way we pitched the women, the power of the women talent pool was very different. Yeah. I mean, if a company ever told me to speak to the CSR department for hiring, I was just like, I don’t get it, I need to speak to your talent acquisition, I need to speak to your HR. Okay. And once we meet them realise the value and the power of that pool, then not only were they willing to hire women attorneys, they were willing to pay us to hire women attorneys.


Nansi Mishra 51:47

The companies were hiring for CSR initiative.


Neha Bagaria 51:50

So they were being told that that’s why you should hire women. Yeah. Because it’s a good thing to do for society. And he said, No, it’s a good thing to do for your bottom line.


Nansi Mishra 52:01

And what’s your, what has been the most experience working with the organisations that makes it so challenging? Like the work so challenging for you?


Neha Bagaria 52:12

Well, so many, right, but for every one bad case, there have been 10 Good cases also, or the bad cases have been just shocking. You know, like, in the beginning, the number of companies that felt comfortable to tell us that we don’t want to hire mothers, or we don’t want to hire women attorneys. You know, where they said that. OB, I said, why would you not want to hire mother? Okay, because I myself, by the way, my starting team were pretty much all they were all women attorneys even today 80% of my team of others. Yeah. And they said, Oh, you know, we hired a mother, but then she couldn’t manage and she left. So we decided never to hire mothers again. And I was like, has no male employee ever left you? And then did you decide to never hire a man again? I mean, what kind of decisions? Are these? Yeah. Or somebody told me once that we don’t have women attorneys, because we don’t want to have kitty party women. Yeah. Or we’ve been told that we don’t want to hire women attorneys, because we have a age criteria, like, you know, they’ll be too old to hire.


Nansi Mishra 53:17

They’re thinking about everything else, but work.


Neha Bagaria 53:20

Exactly, exactly. And this is what this is exactly what we turned it around to when we turn it around for women also when we told them focus on your skills.


Nansi Mishra 53:28

And I think why there is one reason why I think, like mothers who are returning to work can be the better solutions or better, you know, employees or colleagues, because they’re more mindful of their times and priorities and all


Neha Bagaria 53:45

that I agree with you okay, because they say, if you want something done, give it to a really busy mother.


Nansi Mishra 53:53

I mean, much more mild.


Neha Bagaria 53:55

The amount of stuff you get done in a day is incredible. And the more you have to do, the more you will get done.


Nansi Mishra 54:01

And I feel bad about myself sometimes I don’t have a life I’m always working. But I didn’t think about my life before Kabir on before marriage. I was wasting my time all the time. I still had 24 hours and now still have 24 hours and It’s so much work(Speaks in Hindi).


Neha Bagaria 54:19

There’s a very good Quote for that. It says that ‘My hands are full, but so is my heart’.


Nansi Mishra 54:24

Yeah, yeah. So beautiful.


Neha Bagaria 54:27

For joining writers, lovely chatting with you. Thank you for


Nansi Mishra 54:30

I learned alot from this conversation. I hope our audience also will relate with you and they will have so much to learn from you.


Neha Bagaria 54:38

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you

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