Updated: Feb 16
Nothing inspires us more than a woman who chooses to educate herself and use her knowledge and experience to shape the lives of other women around her. This is the first time that Women Who Slay has featured an entrepreneur from India and we are honoured that our first feature is Parul Yadav, a recent Gargi College, University of Delhi graduate who is the Founder of the online networking community Asian Alliance India, a one of a kind project launched within India and the rest of Asia-Pacific region which aims to initiate a community where online networking can be turned into various prospects for career enhancement.
Parul believes strongly in female empowerment through both their personal and professional development and we wanted to speak with her to find out more about her ventures, why female empowerment is so important to her and to find out who motivates and inspires her.
Read on to find out more….
Hi Parul, thank you so much for featuring on Women Who Slay! Parul you are such a multi-faceted woman with so many strings to your bow. Being a recent graduate from the University of Delhi you chose to study both English Literature and Philosophy. What were the deciding factors behind you choosing to study these disciplines and how has your university experience shaped your next move into entrepreneurialism.?
Thank you so much for inviting me, Sasha! I am incredibly honored and grateful for this opportunity and being able to amplify my voice.
I remember, throughout my teenage years, I was always influenced by the way we lived in a society, wanted to learn more about where our information was coming from, how cultures have communicated information in the past, and how the structural dynamics within the society works. Tracing my familial roots from a middle class Indian family, I have seen patriarchal mindsets and drastic gender disparity for women trying to get into STEM, politics or media fields.
My quest for intellectual growth and self-improvement began through acquiring undergraduate education. I was passionate about emphasizing the importance in our world for solving inequality that exists between gender rights, economic disparity, job opportunities, education and overall growth. English literature facilitated my innate ability to express ideas and charged my enthusiasm towards learning more about public affairs, and communication in diverse communities, digital context, and ethnicities. This experiential knowledge laid a useful foundation for me and opened up a world for developing new skills in an increasingly international environment.
The initial weeks at university were spearheaded with existential crisis and my learning of the crucial ways through text of how we can understand and improve both the world and ourselves. I came to realize that English Literature was an extremely broad field to study. It covered everything from analyzing historical and contemporary trends to creative writing, poetry, and the philosophical implications of the world.
By the end of that year, I was in the driver’s seat. I identified what was important to me, transitioned to the career I love, and began gaining competence in areas that benefited me. Times are changing and I think the passion we have to create a job or opportunity we want to spend our time doing is amazing.
You have worked within the public, private and non-profit sector to tackle a variety of social issues with a focus on digital literacy and women empowerment. What inspired you to focus on instigating positive change within these areas?
I strongly believe in enhancing the personality, capability and character of young girls in my country. I want to set a trajectory for young girls who often fall prey to developmental and societal barriers created by patriarchal mindset and society while achieving their dreams. Age-old practices and rituals still dictate gender bias and dictate the lives of many Indian women today. For instance, the duties of the household and child-rearing are naturally allotted to women even if they work a full-time job. I believe the future is female and India can accomplish greater heights when young girls are empowered and guided.
As a leader, I value that diversity of thought and have learned to broaden my own perspectives in everything I do. I also believe that over time, virtue is its own reward. People recognize how you are investing in them, and they reciprocate.
The nation (India) that I am from is a multi diverse version of inter-cultural faceted values, where the practice towards advocating rights, political advocacy for ending penury and destitution underpins the success of most humanitarian leaders such as feminism and economic growth in history. The rationale for being a feminist and arguments on how existing gender injustices, dynamics, and double standards harm us all, greatly resonated with me.
I started becoming active around social campaigns for women’s rights and thought of ways to cultivate entrepreneurial behavior among young girls in my area. Through my other initiatives with Leading Women of Tomorrow, Girl Up Angeza, Girl Power Talk, The Period Society and YP Foundation. I hosted fundraisers, menstrual hygiene education sessions to spark conversations about reproductive health, break taboos surrounding periods and involve GenZ to lead this movement to end the menstrual taboo and period poverty in India.
Why did you start your online networking community Asian Alliance India? And from the initial idea what steps did you have to take to move from the initial idea to the launched project?
My drive to undertake Asian Alliance India’s project was derived from personal experiences. I always believed that young people can make invaluable contributions through dynamic and innovative thought processes. To provide young Asian people the opportunity to have a real impact in their communities, and participate in the entire process of diagnosing, designing, implementing international programs and projects in Asia-Pacific is the project’s major goal.
The ever increasing technological world opens up new avenues for diverse people to consume content. However, content is not always relatable to everyone. As an online networking community, our goal is to be as inclusive as possible. Human society without ethics and personalization seems hollow.
Asian Alliance India is working to create today’s public relations knowledge, as a far more accessible asset, and the value of it is understood and utilized by a far more spectrum of demographic. Our purpose driven values are adopted and demonstrated with the true purpose of educating, and guiding students, graduates, and emerging practitioners to exhibit authenticity.
We have recently received funding from the AMEC 360 Virtual Pitch Competition, the world’s largest media intelligence and insights professional organisation, representing organisations and practitioners who provide media evaluation and communication research.
What challenges have you faced along the way whether it be in life, education or within the launch and development of your ventures and what steps have you implemented to overcome these challenges?
In India, people often generalize career paths for women. Gender stereotypes dictate that women are fit for domestic or some creative work, while hard physical labour, or intellectual prowess is reserved for men. These ideas are constantly reinforced by the media and society, making it easy for children to emulate and follow them.
Often been personally held back due to perception of not fitting in the managerial roles because, “I was not tough enough for corporate life or were too young, and emotional to take up the role.” My journey of catalyzing real change has been no less than a roller coaster ride. Born and brought up in Haryana, I came from a humble family background. However, the patriarchal mindsets prevailed throughout the household. While choosing my undergraduate course, I had to go through so much family bias of not pursuing a liberal art course and going into law.
For me, living a full life means being open to experience and persuasion, experimenting endlessly with new arguments and knowledge, risking ridicule by testing new ideas. During my years at university, I volunteered at the women empowerment cells, became a part of women led organizations trying to bring an impact through their special endeavors.
Eventually I grew passionate towards women empowerment, and entrepreneurship to bring opportunities for young women. Society loves the idea to glorify and instill a sense of insecurity into you for the idea of being an entrepreneur. There are pros and cons to it, just like every other experience and I found that that’s the key — realizing that it is an experience, whether you succeed or not.
What we found the most inspirational about you when we read your bio was your stance on the role of Indian women who, as you have said, have “fallen prey to developmental and societal barriers created by a patriarchal mindset and society”. How supportive have other women and men in your sector been of your ambitions to create more opportunities for women and to enable them to be a part of the advancement of India overall?
The various leadership roles that I earlier held vigorously helped me acquaint myself with community relations and how its functions are vital to create meaningful engagements in society. With the accelerated pace of change in the world today, information availability is rapidly moving towards digitalisation.
However, India as a country with a disproportionately large adolescent and youth population, often referred to as the demographic dividend. Naturally, there are benefits and drawbacks to this reality, including inherent challenges for young women. There are still millions of women out there who need inspiration to unleash their inner leaders. Young girls growing up in South Asian communities seek women leaders and mentors footsteps to emulate.
The pay diversity between men and women, as well the lack of advancement opportunities for women, still prevents women from achieving the same career goals as men in their profession. Additionally, there is a lack of mentor-ship and networking platforms which often drives away young graduates and women.
I believe women have come a long way to prove their worth in developing countries like India.
Further to Asian Alliance India, during your studies you managed to also launch another venture WE BELIEVE INDIA which was launched off the back of your own gender biases. This initiative works towards creating a mentorship program which strengthens the confidence of women and provides them with opportunities. Why was it important for you to set up this initiative and what has been the response to it since its initial launch?
Yes. It’s a charity organization that I started seven months ago. By founding and establishing We Believe India, I want to ensure more women enter into business as a result from our mentorship program. Our program helps young women feel confident and explore different career paths more thoroughly. We also emphasize how important diversity is in terms of subject matter, like economics, politics, sexuality, etc. We built a platform that women can connect with other women at a similar stage of life with similar interests to build a network and inspire one another. Ideally, women can also find internship opportunities from it. It’s a sisterhood of a rising community of women in business.
We Believe India is entirely online. We create a safe space to have candid conversations with likeminded people and be a part of ambitious conversations. Because it’s online it allows for easy and quick access to these resources. We also have access to a lot of exciting virtual opportunities like Instagram lives, webinars on professional mentorship, etc.
What does a typical day look like for Parul?
No routine has ever stood the test of time for me. There is no typical day. I usually attend lectures, get involved in campaigns, work on my organization, apply for my masters, etc. I always allot time to relax, eat, and exercise though. I do have sticky notes in place so I can jot down notes or things that are top of mind to accomplish. I also use Google calendar and alerts on my phone which help me stay on top of everything.
What motivates and inspires you?
As often said, “you can’t find your passion thinking about it in your head.” I never had one specific source of inspiration but learned from multiple legacies of powerful and empowering women. The stories had a great impact on my mindset! I also love speaking to people across different age groups, professions and highly value the importance of networking and mentorship. My motivational sources have also been an endless number of people with whom I have shared my mind space and exchanged ideas with.
I also believe that if you try new ideas, explore new avenues and try pushing the envelope, failures may happen. The key is to not get bogged down by those. It also made me believe in the strength of the human spirit. I believe the tough times can also bring out the best in us and help us emerge stronger than ever.
What is next for you and what can we expect from your ventures in the coming months?
Currently, to actively convey Asian Alliance India’s ethical and sustainable campaign for change, special scholarships, grants, and bursaries for highly motivated, and passionate students are being set up. This way, development of effective scholars and leaders is possible within developing countries. Scholarships will be awarded on a 50% grant : 50% loan basis through a competitive application process once a year in June or July.
The main criteria for selecting award winners would be: l) consistent good academic records, 2) genuine financial need, 3) demonstrating thoughtful and coherent educational and career plans, with extra-curricular interests and achievements. The next application cycle starts on 5th June 2022.
What tips for success have you learned along the way that you wish to impart to our readers?
As young students, we’re told that we need to work hard to get where we want to be. This is true but also remind yourself that work doesn’t define you, don’t neglect the rest of your personality, the part that your friends and family love you for. It wasn’t too long ago that I realized this aspect of my life was taking over, and yes, I can’t fix it by clicking my fingers, but the first step is realization. Education and skills can help you live like a pro if you use both.
It’s absolutely alright if you haven’t figured out life yet. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what my passions were, so I started early and tested out different things. Remind yourself that no one actually has it all together. People who are business owners or working in fancy cool jobs are not perfect. Social media makes it look like people are doing everything, but it’s not true. It can distract and put pressure on you that you aren’t doing enough. Don’t let it get you down.
Follow Parul on Instagram @parullyadavv
Interview by Sasha Shantel for Women Who Slay @women_who_slay_