Women discuss profit, survival at silicon valley event

Among other things The India Business & Professional Women conference covered networking, sexual assault and health issues

 

Ritu Jha

 

Young women entrepreneurs of Indian origin showed up in strong numbers for the 20th Indian Business & Professional Women conference, held September 9 in Milpitas, California.

The discussions in the conference, relying this year on the theme “Life Hacking: Career, Health, and Spirit,” covered everything from entrepreneurship to sexual harassment to health issues, such as the increasing incidence of heart disease in women.

IBPW, founded primarily as a support network, now provides a forum through which members can identify and address issues of common concern.

 

Deepka Lalwani

Deepka Lalwani, IBPW’s founder, said there were many young women professionals attending who need mentoring. Though many silicon valley companies have their own mentoring programs, many of the attendees are new immigrants who like talk and network.

 

Michele Dauber, a faculty at the Stanford Law School, spoke about her own experiences at the event.

She started a petition drive to recall Santa Clara County judge Aaron Persky, who rendered the verdict in People v. Turner case, in which a young man who sexually assaulted a woman was given a minor sentence.

Dauber said she received threats and an envelope containing white powder and a threatening note.

She discussed how voters in the June 5 primary this year recalled the judge. She also spoke of workplace sexual harassment and the concomitant rise in the risk of stroke, heart attack, anxiety and sleep disorders in women.

“I think there are certain factors that increase the risk of sexual harassment – being a woman of color and being an immigrant. There are multiple intersecting sets of vulnerabilities and not having immigration status all make you vulnerable,” she said.

“It’s not their (immigrant status) problem to solve; it should be all of our problems to solve. We need to create a society where victims come forward and they are believed and supported, and where perpetrators are held accountable,” Dauber said. “When we create that society then women will be able to speak their truth and do it safely. That is the society I am trying to create.”

According to Dauber, “Privileged women, white and women with immigration status need to protect, support and live up and encourage and protect women with vulnerabilities and make sure we are being up to the standard and helping to be good sisters,”

Later, answering a question from indica about on how she got the courage to fight against sexual assault, she brushed aside the praise, saying, “The anti-rape movement in India in many ways was stronger than the anti-rape movement here… South Asian women were part of my inspiration actually. I think women all over the world had enough.”

She said that a similar incident in the US-inspired her.

“When we launched the recall of Judge Persky, one of the things I took as an example was a gang rape in public transit. There were millions of outraged women who protested and were on the streets.”

“I felt that was inspirational,” said Dauber, adding that the fact that the women took to the streets was a strong demonstration of their commitment to support the victim.

“It was almost a riot. I saw an interview with the women and they were talking about being sexually assaulted. That was before the ‘Me Too’ movement,“ she said.

Dauber said women today are educated and have more economic power, and they use the media and the Internet to connect and bond as part of a global feminist network that encourages them to believe they have the right to basic human dignity.

Pointing to the India Supreme Court judgment striking down Section 377, a part of the penal code that criminalizes homosexuality, she said, “It’s a remarkable diffusion of movement [like] ‘Me Too’ and gay rights and it’s moving at light speed.”

Lalwani spoke to indica about the issue of unequal pay, describing it as one reason for sexual harassment at work. She said that while women usually ignore sexual comments, speaking up could put a stop to it.

Another speaker and serial entrepreneur Anu Shukla, founder and CEO of Reward Pay Inc, preferred to prioritize persistence and a thick skin – at least when dealing with customers who reject her product.

“I am very thin-skinned. The first thing you have to learn to receive a rejection,” she said. “I am not going to take it personally… Get used do it and learn how to move forward. Self-motivation is very important.”

Another speaker Dr. Anjali Gulati, a cardiologist in Mountain View, California, spoke of a huge gender-based disparity in heart disease and said these patients do not go to the emergency room or pay attention to the problem soon enough.

“Heart disease is increasing in younger people,” she said, saying young women were at risk and needed to be made aware of the problem. She told indica that these young women were coming at times complaining of palpitations, and exhibited anxiety, and had high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“The young are not coming for acute blockage yet,” she said but said there still was a threat in the community.

“I see a fair number of South Asians with coronary artery disease. Stress definitely adds to it and in the Bay Area stress is a high factor in everybody’s life. There are multiple risk factors but stress is the leading causes of heart disease.”

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