An Interview With Sairee Chahal – Founder & CEO, SHEROES

By BankBazaar | March 8, 2017

An Interview With Sairee Chahal – Founder & CEO, SHEROES

Once in a while, we come across people who aspire to do great things, but more than that, inspire others to do great things themselves. We recently had a chat with Sairee Chahal, Founder & CEO of SHEROES – an online career destination for women. She also happens to be a Forbes India W-Power Trailblazer (2017).

Start a business – check, excel at it – check, break some stereotypes- check, bring women and businesses together- check. All in a day’s work for Sairee Chahal, a Delhi-based entrepreneur.

Hear what Sairee has to say about her undertaking, the challenges she faces and what advice she has for women who want to shake the world up.

Tell us a little about SHEROES?

SHEROES is a platform for women with ambition and aspirations and offers a career world with opportunities, high-growth career resources, mentorship, skills and support. A community built around principles of learning, growth and sharing, the members access most diverse work formats, including corporate jobs, returning professionals programs, partner programs, work-from-home jobs, part-time work, freelancing, franchising, mompreneur and internship programs. We partner with over 12,000 organisations to help them connect with female talent in the form of employees, partners and customers. With over a million women served, SHEROES is putting women’s careers on the nation-building map.

What inspired you to start the business?

I founded SHEROES because for the number of educated, talented women in the country, we still do not have any intelligent discourse, availability of resources, network, opportunities, and moreover, women’s careers were not on the map. SHEROES impact will go a long way in influencing women in leadership and the workforce in general.

As an entrepreneur, could you tell us about some of the challenges you have had to overcome?

When you build a category, you are bound to come across several challenges – some routine and some absolutely brand new. Getting people to understand that women’s careers matter was one such challenge. Others were putting together the resources to build up the company.

The recent round of funding that SHEROES received is a testament to the good work you have been doing. Are there any specific areas you plan to focus on to leverage the business?

SHEROES is expanding its technology and brand presence to reach more and more women. With this fund raise, we are ready to undertake some bold new initiatives among other things.

Could you talk about a few of the challenges that women face when getting back into the workforce after a break? What is your advice to them?

The workplace itself is under stress, and its ability to effectively facilitate career comebacks is not always there. Jobs are shrinking and IT Services – one of the bigger employers of women – as a sector is not growing, thereby, not rehiring its past employees, who went away for a break.

At the same time, product economy is growing. I always advise more and more women to look at building products and also to get into business, technology, finance and not just support or softer roles, as traditionally envisaged.

Here’s some advice to women looking at career comebacks:

  • Build or keep your network
  • Invest in skills and learning liberally – it never goes waste
  • Make a daily habit of your career
  • Take help, and someday, give help
  • Find great mentor

What are the women-friendly career/ employment policies you’d like to ideally see in India?

I would surely like to see remote and work-from-home options grow. It would really bring in more women than ever into the financial fold. I would like to see growth of shared parenting, conversations around gender norms, patriarchy and future of work, among other things. As an employer, empowering managers to support individuals, especially women, is a massive way to enhance gender diversity. Investing in childcare and elderly-care options also help companies become more family-friendly. Lastly, women-friendly workplaces are really just people-friendly workplaces – high on empathy and action-ability.

What do you think of BB’s women-friendly policies? Some of the policies include: 

  • Maternity leave for 6 months
  • Flexible work hours & work-from-home policy (not just for women)
  • Strict Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy
  • We-Care program for pregnant women

I think BB is a great place to work, has built an open, merit-driven work culture and is constantly investing in becoming a more gender-diverse workplace. Articulating a vision for a gender-diverse workplace is a major step in building a women-friendly organisation.

Additional Reading: Women At The Workplace

When it comes to personal finance is there a broad rule of thumb that you follow?

  • Take risks but always have your own little pot – what I call your ‘F*** Y** money’. Every woman needs it and should have it.
  • Do not venture into a start-up business because you want to make money.
  • Be practical and generous at the same time.

Your advice to women when it comes to managing their finances.

Money is a great enabler and never let that power go away. I personally prefer frugal living but having enough money to make sure I can chart my own course. It is less about lifestyle and more about self-respect.

Additional reading: Financial Planning For Women

A little about Sairee Chahal and SHEROES

Sairee is India’s foremost women-at-work evangelist and earlier co-founded Fleximoms. She is also the Convener, The SHEROES Summit and has been instrumental in providing businesses and women professionals with a common platform to connect.

Winner of the Sunday Standard Devi Award, Femina Powerlist, Editor’s choice for L’Oréal Femina Women’s Award, she is also a Cartier Women’s Award Initiative 2012 alumni, a TED speaker, Business Today’s Most Powerful Women in Indian Business 2012 and has been featured on shows like Young Turks, Pioneering Spirit and What Women Want. A believer in work-life redesign, serial entrepreneur, mentor, an occasional writer and mother of a 9-year-old.

Sairee has worked in start-up mode as well as in large set-ups in research and consulting capacities. She has built the SHEROES Community which provides access to high-growth career resources, mentorship and support. SHEROES engages with businesses to help them connect with female talent in the form of employees, partners, customers and business owners.

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