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At SheSparks2023, Dr Chintan Vaishnav calls for mentoring programmes that are aspirational and diverse

Upskilling women is one of the sharpest arrows in our quiver to pierce through economic barriers. Encouraging women to pursue their careers and supporting them – from a training perspective and professional development standpoint – can be a win-win for both employers and employees alike.

In a fireside chat with YourStory’s Shradha Sharma at the ongoing SheSparks2023 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, Dr Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, spoke at length about ‘Building a robust framework for upskilling women’.

“At the G20 summit, India proposed that we should have an engagement group dedicated to startups. So, this is the first year where we have an engagement group, which gives equal weightage as large corporations for startups called ‘Startup 20’. Startup20 is organised into three task forces – finance, inclusion, and sustainability,” Dr Vaishnav shared.

Within the inclusion taskforce, Dr Vaishnav spoke about a two-pronged approach. The first: how can one build an innovation or startup ecosystem that is inclusive and creates equal opportunity for everybody. The second: how to identify and promote startups that make the world a radically more inclusive place.

Responding to Shradha on how women and girls can get involved in the initiative, Dr Vaishnav said, “G20 will put out a policy communique, which will go to leaders of these nations. We have built a taskforce council around each taskforce, with Indian members and four chairs from other nations, to make sure that the policy communique is as inclusive as possible. Inputs are welcome from everybody and this exercise will go on until July.”

Speaking about how startups led by women can co-exist with larger entities, Dr Vaishnav explained, “The cultural argument is that women are shy about asking for help. How do you overcome that cultural constraint? The challenge of how do you make more people believe that the world is your oyster? I don’t have a formula, but I do acknowledge the problem. But I also see that beyond a certain level of success, they seem to begin to believe in it.”

Ratifying his statement, Dr Vaishnav spoke of how the ATL Marathon, an innovation challenge at Atal Tinkering Labs, has seen around 50% entries by women. Some of the final top 3 winners are often women teams.

Dr Vaishnav also talked about the need for mentoring programmes for women that are aspirational and diverse in experiences. “If we can work together to make that happen, it would be great,” he said.

He added that the unique strength women have is compassion. “And compassion matters a lot in solving problems. For instance, climate change issues cannot be resolved without women because that requires a lot of compassion.”

Dr Vaishnav signed off with a quote from Swami Chinmayananda, “Thought by thought, action by action, we make the blueprint of the future.”

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