14 Mar 2017 20:06 IST

Listen to the call of your soul!

Millennials not averse to taking risks, make informed choices, say speakers at MMA Convention

“It’s clear that the millennials of today are not afraid of doing what’s right, even if it’s not easy or comfortable,” said Bharati Bhaskar, Senior Vice-President, Citibank India. She was speaking at a panel discussion on “Millennial women: Are they embracing or averting risk?” as part of the Madras Management Association’s annual Women Managers Convention in Chennai on Saturday.

Describing the recent protests in Chennai against the court ban of traditional bull taming sport jallikattu, Ms Bhaskar, a powerful orator and popular participant in Pattimandram programmes, said she was impressed at the number of young women who took part in the protest. “They may have never seen a jallikattu faceoff, either in real-life or on TV. But they don’t want to be mere spectators, they want to be there, be part of the movement, even if it means taking a risk to show their support by marching on the roads as part of a group raising slogans,” she said.

A year off from school

It’s this willingness to take risk that prompted Std XI student Sagarikka to take a gap year after she finished Std X — a year during which the 15-year-old learnt about stock trading and did some investing herself, did direct selling of products, interned with a hotel and a hospital, trekked in mountainous Ladakh and Leh, and made a short documentary too. All this apart from devoting a fixed time each day for studies! She’s written a book about her year off called My Unskooled Year.

“It was a risk, and I couldn’t have done it without my parents’ support, said Sagarikka Sivakumar, adding that such risk-taking has to go hand in hand with being disciplined and setting a clear goal of where one is headed. “I was only able to do all those things because I stuck to a time-table that I drew up based on whatever I was doing through the year.”

She is, however, saddened at the ingrained discrimination between boys and girls, and the prevalence, even now, of archaic notions that make distinctions between what boys and girls can achieve. In reality, such barriers ought to be breaking down, and young women should get the same opportunities their male counterparts do, she said.

Using opportunities well

Talking of opportunities, Veena Kumaravel, Founder, Naturals chain of beauty salons, recounted her experiences training young women from small towns and villages to be beauticians.

“Most of these women come from underprivileged backgrounds and are willing to take any risk, grab any opportunity to move ahead in life, as they have, literally, nothing to lose,” she said. Though the franchise sets up the initial infrastructure for each salon, it is the franchisee’s responsibility to run the venture profitably, she said, adding that the women concerned are willing to put in a lot of hard work to achieve this.

Informed choices

Dr Lalitha Balakrishnan, Principal of MOP Vaishnav College for Women in Chennai, described her life as being “surrounded by about 3,000 millennials most of the day!” “They are certainly not averse to taking risks, whether in relationships or in making a choice from among the several opportunities before them, whether in academics, careers or even in starting up ventures of their own.”

“But are they burning out too fast?” she asks, rhetorically. “How can they sustain their interest in their varied activities in so many spheres, in a relationship, or even in being a good citizen of the country?”

“At MOP, we teach them to take calculated risks, based on informed choices, backed by a thorough weighing of all the options, to assess which will pay off and which won’t,” she said.

Role models

On making choices, Bharathi Bhaskar pointed out that: “It’s easier for millennials to make these choices today, because of the role models they had in their mothers or aunts, from the baby boomer generation, who braved even greater odds to go out to work and be good wives and mothers too”.

“It’s because the young women of today are inspired by such older women that they have the courage to switch jobs frequently, speak their minds, complain to office ethics committees if they see injustice being done and, most importantly, insist on their voice being heard at home, rather than the opinion of a neighbour or relative, she added.

Taking responsibility

Well-known pattimandram debater S Raja, who, with Ms Bhaskar, moderated the session, pointed out, that, despite such empowerment, it is not so easy for women to shake off certain responsibilities. Despite having a good support system, often a woman is the one needed at home when a child or elder is ill, or to meet a teacher at school. “This conscious decision they make, to be present when needed, could be the reason why not all women professionals have been able to break into the league of that top 6 per cent who make the CXO grade,” he said.

In conclusion, Bharathi Bhaskar said that women who went to work in the middle of the century, in a sense, actually took far greater risks than the millennials of today, as they had to excel in academics and their careers but had far fewer resources to fall back on. They are inspiring examples for the young women of today who are empowered with the advantage of information, social media and other inputs that help them take informed risks. Ultimately, though, she said it is the inner promptings within each of us that will guide us to make the right choices.

“Listen to the call of your soul,” she advised.