“Women’s skills span a larger portfolio, or maybe society allows women to express their skill sets in a wider sense – whether that be through culinary pursuit or filmmaking or investment banking or the arts. Women are now learning to utilise their skills, their passions and their interests and to fit into what may be defined traditionally as success,” said Global Indian entrepreneur Akshata Murty, as she addressed a special event to celebrate International Women’s Day in the UK this week.
Murty, the wife of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, is Director of Catamaran Ventures UK Ltd – a company focussed on the consumer tech sector with a view on investing in fast-growing British brands that require strategic capital. She reflected on some of her own life experiences, including as an MBA student at Stanford University in the US, where she took a class on work-life balance.
“What was interesting was this whole discussion about how women have to juggle work-life balance, especially in the corporate world. I was sort of puzzled because I grew up in a family of very strong women… so I never thought it was just a woman’s job to have this work-life balance. It was the family’s job to have this balance,” said Murty, the daughter of Indian tech major Infosys Co-Founder N.R. Narayana Murthy and engineer mother Sudha Murthy.
Now as a mother of two young daughters, aged 8 and 9, Akshata Murty highlighted the importance of children being raised with such a balanced view of family and society.
“What I tell my girls is that don’t ever shy away from who you really are and showcase your passions in your entirety,” she said, as her over-arching message for International Women’s Day.
The “Women in Leadership in Today’s World” discussion, organised virtually by the Nehru Centre in London, included a special message from Gaitri Issar Kumar – Indian High Commissioner to the UK – who focussed on how Indian culture, through the ‘Vedas’ and other philosophies, has always emphasised on respect for women.
“The Indian Constitution highlights gender equality and today women act as agents of change in the social, economic, cultural and political processes of our country,” she said, adding that as a society, we have to ensure that we create an atmosphere where women feel safe and secure to pursue any vocation in their career path.
British Indian film director Gurinder Chadha OBE, behind hugely popular women-centric films such as ‘Bhaji on the Beach’ and ‘Bend It Like Beckham’, touched upon the importance of the #MeToo movement to help break the shackles of society.
“As mothers, we can begin by educating our children to be respectful of women,” said Chadha, as she encouraged more women to use their voices to speak out for causes.
Other artistes joining the diverse panel included talented Kuchipudi dancer Arunima Kumar, who spoke about the tags attached to a woman’s success.
Advising young girls to break stereotypes, she said: “If you have the merit, no one can dispute it,” she said, as she advised.
“Have faith in yourself, build a strong professional work ethic and don’t be afraid to stand alone.”
Fellow artiste Sunita Bhuyan shared her experiences as a violinist in the music industry and had a simple message: “Our boys need to be educated about equality so that they grow into gentlemen and respect other genders.”
The panel, which was moderated by actress-author Raageshwari, had a sole male presence in Nehru Centre Director Amish Tripathi, whose Women’s Day message was about setting the best example for the next generations to follow.