Women Who Dared To Defy The Norms
These ‘Sheroes’ took the unconventional path and marked their roaring presence in male bastions
Let’s change our perception of how we see ourselves’ — this is the message a few women are sending across gloriously.
The well-known names such as Indira Nooyi, Naina Lal Kidwai, Chanda Kochhar are always remembered and will remain sacrosanct but there are others who have carved their own niche by defying norms and foraying into male bastions.
According to a report by Babajob.com, an online job portal for blue-collared jobs in India, more and more women in the metro cities are now applying for jobs that, by social norms, were not meant for females — such as club bouncers, delivery executives and cab drivers. Thanks to attractive pay packages, women are out to break the rules and turn the impossible into possible.
Decoding the data compiled from actual applications on Babajob.com in 2015-16, there has been a seven-fold increase in the demand for female cab drivers and a striking increase of 153 per cent in the number of applications for women driver jobs. The women applying for unconventional jobs is higher in Mumbai as compared to other metros. “We see a rise in preference for women in unconventional jobs or those sectors which were traditionally considered male-dominated,” says Vir Kashyap, co-founder at Babajob.
Let’s meet these ‘Sheroes’.
Meet 40-year-old, Sulakshoana Thombre. Her mother wanted her to become a police officer. She briefly struggled to fulfil her mom’s dream, but she succumbed to her domestic and financial problems.
Working as a telephone operator, she got a chance to join an agency providing bouncers at five-star hotels, clubs and events such as The Indian Super League, Hockey India League, Stardust awards and Filmfare Awards. “I immediately took the offer as the salary was decent,” Thombre recalls.
The salary of a telephone operator is not more than Rs 10,000 per month while the salary for a female bouncer is upwards of Rs 18,000. “My family was concerned about the role as they thought my safety is being compromised. With time they understood that I am capable of taking care of myself and many others around me,” she says confidently. Thombre is trained in identifying body language to look for in miscreants. She works out regulary with weight training and toning exercises and follows a strict diet.
For female bouncers, career progression is quite exciting as they get into celebrity security and security of VVIPs in the later stages.
Topsgrup, a London-based business security firm that is operating in India, employs around 1,200 female bouncers. They claim that the demand for female bouncers is growing around 20-25 per cent year- on-year, especially for high profile events. In 2011, the company employed 300 women bouncers.
“They are as efficient in breaking up fights between drunk patrons as their male counterparts. There are instances when clients get aggressive with bouncers themselves — and in these cases, the presence of a woman security officer is immediately calming,” says Niraj Bijlani, CEO, Topsgrup.
For Harmeet Kaur, the turning point was when she came across an advertisement by the Aeronautical Society of India for a course in aeronautical engineering. As per industry estimates, the ratio of female versus male in aeronautical engineering is 5:100 in India and 16:100 in the US.
While women in aerospace engineering are largely under represented, Kaur dared to do her masters in ‘rotating machinery design’. “I also worked briefly on verification and testing of engine control systems,” she says.
This interest took her to domestic IT giant, Tata Consultancy Services, which supports Rolls-Royce engine projects. “I led the team that supported the performance evaluation of engines before they are sent to aircraft manufacturers. Eventually, I joined Rolls-Royce India when it started its engineering centre in India,” says Kaur who is a principal engineer at Rolls-Royce.
There were several occasions in Kaur’s career when she was the only woman, as the profession is severely male-dominated. “In fact, when I started my career, I was an introvert and overtly sensitive. I would get extremely nervous if my colleagues didn’t agree with my feedback or idea during technical brain-storming sessions.
However, I soon realised that if I had to stay in this industry and excel, I must develop confidence and stand by my ideas,” says a more enlightened Kaur is in her early thirties.
Thirty eight- year-old, Jyothi Tharkur lost her father at a young age. Her strong-willed mother brought up the family of seven by selling raw fish. Due to domestic responsibilities she quit her education post class VIII. “My in-laws always ridiculed me for not being qualified for anything other than making tiffins,” recalls Tharkur.
Instead of continuing the monotonous routine which lacked self-respect, she decided to earn a dignified life. Once a dependent woman, Tharkur now rides all over the city to deliver packages for Subway, a food chain. She has bought her own scooter and is earning anywhere between Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 per month, for the last eight months.
Tharkur works with Hey Deedee, which is the first all-women parcel delivery service, working for Amazon, Subway, Pizza Hut, Everyday Gourmet Kitchen, Ecom express, Spicebox and The Bohri Kitchen among others.
Tharkur is not the only one who decided to break the shackles, the survey points. The data cited by Babajobs reveals that there has been a five-time increase in job opportunities for women delivery executives and a 114 per cent increase in applications by women. With an average salary of Rs 10,981.44 per month, jobs of delivery executives saw an increase of 2.57 per cent for women over men.
Real Estate Broker
Ekta Acharya Mahajan
Real estate is a male-dominated industry and for centuries women have been under represented. Gender diversity is very low and women constitute only 11 per cent of the entire work force, which consists of mainly desk and administration work.
Meet, newly wedded Ekta Acharya Mahajan. She deals in office space brokering for Jones Lang LaSalle Property Consultants. “Whenever I thought about what I want to become, the first answer that came to my mind was very simple, a housewife,” she says jokingly. “Otherwise, I wanted to go for some banking job. But as they say, everything is pre-decided, I entered into real estate brokerage.” She was the first girl in the company’s Pune office and held back her opinions several times after feeling alone and under confident. Today, 36-year-old Ekta heads a team of 18 people where 15 are men, as an evidence of her bossy instincts.
Women’s love for mixing cocktails in the comfort of their homes and to be able to host parties for guests, has made a few women choose bartending as a profession. Amrita Puri, is a professional bartender who loves her job. When she graduated, she knew she didn’t want a traditional 9-to-5 job but at the same time she wanted a job that was well paying and had flexible hours.
There are many others like Puri, who choose to become bartenders after completing their hotel management course. Several institutes are now offering professional courses on bartending. “From a batch of 60 students, only 4 to 5 students are girls. While the participation is understandably low, it has been increasing from zero participation earlier,” says Suraj Bhagi, director at Indian Institute of Bartending (IIBT), Chandigarh. Bhagi places the students in five-star hotels such as Hyatt Regency, Marriot Hotels and Sheraton Hotels.
But handling inebriated misbehaviour and serving drinks does not stop a few girls who vouch for better opportunities by finding placements abroad. “With enough experience and knowledge, one can also work at beverage and wine companies in India and abroad — in the field of business development, sales and marketing, or could even be a brand ambassador for a liquor brand,” says a spokesperson at Grant, a blended scotch whisky brand from the spirits company, William Grant & Sons.
This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated 'March 20, 2017' with cover story titled 'Most Influential Women 2017'
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