Few months ago Kanika Tekriwal, co-founder of JetSetGo found herself at a private aviation event where she was the only women amongst 150 odd men.
"This had made me rather worried about how delusional my views on gender bias at the workplace were. I have always been a strong propagandist of gender bias being a state of mind rather than reality," said Kanika.
JetSetGo is the marketplace of private jets and helicopters. The company operates a fleet of world class private jet and helicopters. It is slowly changing the face of private aviation in India and hopes to put Indian private aviation on the globe.
JetSetGo then went about studying the private aviation market only to find that on an average not more than 3-8 per cent of the workforce are women in private aviation companies apart from very rare cases. Cabin crew also forms a majority of the team. The recent headlines on India's first female fighter pilots graduating in 2016 finally put the nail in the coffin.
To address this imbalance and enable more women in aviation, JetSetGo has taken a step forward to ensure by 2017 its workforce consists of atleast 50 per cent women. This will not only change the industry in India but hopefully set global standards for international businesses to implement too.
Entrepreneur India interacted with Tekriwal, to know more about gender neutrality and what they are doing to address it.
What are the steps that JetSetGo is taking to achieve gender neutrality?
To begin with, we are promoting a more gender friendly atmosphere at work and inviting women to apply for roles that have historically been male-dominated in the industry. Our plan is to be a 50 per cent women workforce by 2017 and I see us achieving it.
Do you believe that women are more smarter or hardworking than men?
I think it would be unfair to comment on either, to be honest. Intelligence, smartness or dedication towards work is not defined by gender. Yes, but I definitely believe that women do have certain qualities like instinct, tact, patience etc that most men I know lack.
Are we still a conservative country and choose to hire more men at the higher position even if the women are more qualified and deserving?
Oh yes absolutely! I cannot count the number of times I have found myself in a board room full of all men with myself being the only women. As much as corporations work on their gender-neutral images it’s just stunning to see how women are generally put in non-strategic management roles such as HR, Admin etc.
A survey recently read that only 8.4 per cent of corporate India has women at CxO positions. I am not one who believes in secondary data and surveys through all sources but my gut says the number would be close to that mentioned.
I wouldn’t comment on whether women are intentionally not hired even if they are more qualified or deserving because I am yet to come across such a situation. But then again 92 per cent men and 8 per cent women - is that the gender talent ratio in India? Makes one think...
What made you take this initiative?
A number of situations sort of kicked this off for me. Repeatedly finding myself in board rooms and meetings without any women, a CFO of a very large organisation setting an out of office response reading "hello gents....", repeatedly finding myself in airport lounges with only men around and sitting in business class on domestic flight and again being the only woman.
Over the last few months, I realised my views on gender equality at work is very dwarfed and as much as I choose to think it exists thanks to the kind of chances I have been given - it really does not exist in the real world. My bubble burst.
Do you think women are more productive than men?
Again it’s not a war of which gender is better, individuals define their qualities. Both could be equally productive and unproductive.
Being women entrepreneur, have you faced any difficulties while starting up?
I wouldn't say I have faced any difficulties as such but yes there have been minor challenges given I work in a very male-dominated industry. Initially, it took time for people to take me seriously for the business I am in and I did receive remarks such as you should take up baking cupcakes and the likes. Sometimes when I am assertive I am considered arrogant whereas a man being more assertive than me is considered passionate. But these are very non consequential things as such.
How was your learning experienced since the day you started the business till now?
The journey has been nothing short of amazing. I've been blessed to have had an excellent year with BBC 100 women and Forbes 30 under 30 Asia. These milestones in life keep one very motivated to keep moving forward, take greater challenges and achieve. They helped me restore faith in myself when I was in doubt or low. This I believe is still the beginning of the journey. There is a long way to go and achieve, put Indian Aviation on the world map and disrupt.