Giving Forward – The Rewarding Experience of Nurturing Hidden Talent
When Neeti and I started conceptualizing TalentNomics after working together at the IMF for [X] years, we both were very clear about two things: 1) the “what” – we wanted to devote ourselves to empowering girls and women and 2) the “where” – Neeti wanted to focus her energy globally while my passion was India and South Asia. We had healthy debates about which segment of women to target. Professional women who work in the organized sector who struggle to become leaders? Or less privileged women who struggle to get and retain earning capacity? After much discussion we agreed to start with women in the organized sector. Neeti convinced me that this was the right decision because expanding the ranks of women leaders creates role models who inspire other women to join them, and because our experience, skills, and connections lay in the corporate world.
Five years later, I know it was the right decision for us. We have invested our time, resources, and energy strengthening the pipeline of women leaders through our CruciBOLD program, both globally and in India. We have worked with women across sectors, including steel, oil, power, pharma, IT, banking, finance, infrastructure, and the garment industry, representing over 25 organizations. In all, we have strengthened the capacity of over 80 women to become leaders in their sector.
However, my inner calling to also help far less privileged women was strong. In 2017 I discovered we could leverage our programs to impact these women too by working with a trusted partner educating young women in in one of India’s poorest states, Andhra Pradesh. The Rural Development Trust (RDT), run by the Vicente Ferrer Foundation (VFF), has a 40-year track record of impactful work with poor and marginalized communities in India. RDT offers a one-year residential Professional Language Program in Anantapur for recently graduated women to hone their language and computer skills and build bridges to hard-to-find jobs in the organized sector. The Program offers business English, basic computer skills, and one foreign language (French, German or Spanish).
On a visit to the RDT Anantapur campus in 2017 I met these girls, each eager to speak and share their dreams with me. Their elementary English was not a constraint to expressing their eagerness to soar! While none had travelled beyond Andhra Pradesh, many had dreams of work in Paris, Berlin, Barcelona – depending on the language they were learning. In addition, one girl told me that instead of working abroad, “I want to become the District Magistrate so that I can help lift my community out of perpetual poverty.” They shared their dreams with confidence and optimism. I was inspired to help enable these rural girls to spread their wings and break barriers.
A key part of TalentNomics India’s CruciBOLD program is giving forward, called CruciBOLD Ripple, through which CruciBOLD participants agree to mentor other junior professionals from a different organization. Inspired by the aspirations of students at the RDT Professional Language School, we opened up our mentorship program to include them. Women professionals from CruciBOLD were thus given the chance to expand opportunities for young women in rural India, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college, further enhancing their potential to be leaders of tomorrow.