Reena Ranger, the chairwoman and co-founder of Women Empowered (WE), was enjoying her role as a mother, however, she felt the urge to do something more to help shape the world. Speaking to Anjana Parikh from Asian Lite, Reena talks about the idea behind WE, and how women can bring a new approach to work and quality on the table.
AL: What made you start Women Empowered?
Reena: I was lucky enough to have attended many events through the course of my work and family life. I heard many inspiring speakers, and the wisdom they imparted stayed with me long after the event ended and this broadened my horizons and sometimes helped my imagination to run free. After having my children, I felt out of the loop. I was looking to engage my mind in the way it once was when I was in the office environment. With my new family, and the different way my mind was now occupied, I soon found that I was not alone in this feeling. Many of my friends wanted inspiration as to what to do now, what the possibilities were and how to get there. It seemed logical to bring the two worlds together, bring speakers to anyone who wanted to hear them with no requirements to entry. I spoke to Mona, who was and is my friend and neighbour. She was excited behind the idea and WE was thus born.
AL: Who’s the inspiration behind WE?
Reena: All those women who wanted to find that special something and didn’t know where to look. Those who wanted to hear inspiring stories first hand but didn’t know where to go.
AL: What does WE aim to achieve?
Reena: We have created an exciting platform for people to come and hear about how others have achieved their goals in life; it is a place to network and meet like- minded and totally new people. WE is a place to be engaged, encouraged, empowered and enables you to do that ‘special thing’ which makes a difference to your life.
AL: Do you feel that more women’s involvement or representation is required throughout the civic processes? If yes, why
Reena: There is evidence that women bring a new approach, way of working and have a different way of looking at situations. More representation brings more of these qualities to the table and is complementary to the current ways of thinking.
Women are catalysts for social change; more women throughout the civic process would bring balance.
In societies where women are empowered to explore all the opportunities afforded to their male counterparts, one sees a reduction in poverty, greater economic activity and improved maternal and child health and education.
AL: After marriage, women including successful ones tend to give more priorities to their family life. How far is this justified?
Reena: I think you mean career-minded and not successful. There is evidence that the same number of men and women start their careers but as the career ladder progresses, there is a drop in the number of women around the time they have families. If that is the path that they wish to pursue then they should feel free to do so and there is nothing wrong or that needs to be justified. Success is relative and measured in different ways by different people with varying opinions and priorities. One could argue that successful career women go on to be equally if not more successful mothers and homemakers. It is also worth noting that priorities change, so for many (although not all), it is a conscious choice that has been made.
For those women who wish to return to their career paths, they should be enabled to do so.
AL: Everybody is not fortunate enough to strike a balance between family life and career. What is your suggestion to them?
Reena: Everybody’s balance and situations are different. I don’t think there is one prescriptive formula that works for all. It’s all about finding the balance for you. To try to emulate someone else’s balance may ultimately lead to disharmony. WE aims to bring different perspectives on a topic, I feel that is the best approach. See how others do it and tailor those pieces of advice that apply to you to reach the perfect fit balance for you.
AL: Do you think that a woman needs to work extra-hard than her male counterpart in order to be successful in life?
Reena: With so many competent and driven women in the workplace, I wonder if men feel like they have to work harder!
There are practical issues that women face, for many a time if a child is ill or unwell, it is usually their mother that they want and she will have to take time off work to attend to them. There is always a feeling that for women, multi-tasking is a normal state of play. History tells us that women have been under pressure to look after the home but also to play a financial contributory role too, but times are changing and I feel that men are expected to and actually are doing more for the family unit now.
I would hope that in time, we will achieve full parity, as far as practically possible, in both home and work environment. However, success must be subjective and viewed from a personal point of view and not from the point of view of others and the wider world.
AL: What do you have to say to those women who even at this age and time keep themselves within the confines of traditional values and culture?
Reena: For many traditions, values and culture are a part of what makes them. I don’t feel that one should be confined by them but enhanced by them. We have a rich and diverse history and we live in a fast changing world. We should not be afraid of reassessing our perspective in today’s context and ensuring we know why we believe what we do from time-to-time and create our own traditions for our families along the way.
AL: How far is it true that behind a successful woman, her husband is her backbone?
Reena: Behind every successful man, there is a woman – isn’t that what they say? It is possibly because successful men and women have partners who support them and are their backbones and, that is why they are successful.
My husband has been an immense support to me and is my backbone and protective fleshy layers too.
AL: How has your father, Dr Rami Ranger inspired you?
Reena: There is a quote which is attributed to Sir Isaac Newton which sums it up nicely. “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”
AL: What are those three lessons in life that you’ve learnt from him?
Reena: To do whatever you are doing well. People will remember you and your attitude long after the job itself.
To give back, look after others and contribute to the society; help wherever you can, and always try to be positive and big-hearted.
There is no substitute for hard work.