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Women Should Be The Bigger Fish in Medium Ponds, Not Invisible in Large Ones: Shaili Chopra

In her conversation with Marketing Mind, Shaili Chopra, former journalist and Founder, SheThePeopleTV, opens up on her journey from breaking news to breaking barriers and empowering women, why organizations which have women in majority tend to have a more constructive culture and better efficiency, why women should be allowed to be angry and more.

| Published on March 8, 2024

Celebrating Woman Leaders (Shaili Chopra)

The world has been a witness to many journalist-turned-entrepreneur, but the story of Shaili Chopra isn’t like any other.

Starting her career with NDTV and being a time Anchor to business shows on CNBC and ETNOW to winning India’s biggest journalism award- the Ram Nath Goenka Award for Journalism, to founding SheThePeopleTV, India’s largest platform for women and penning down five books in addition to being the Generational Equality Ally in UN Women India, Asia Pacific, Chopra’s journey has been all about taking risks.

“From changing 17 schools in 12 classes and coming back from an overseas stay at the last minute to sit for my college exams in India and then sticking around in the country by joining journalism when most women were looking at doing MBAs, I’ve always been a risk taker,” she said.

During her conversation with Marketing Mind, Chopra also stated that she always wanted to do something of her own so that she could do something for others, because it is hard to do ‘enough’ for others when an individual is only doing a job.

Shaili Chopra, Founder, SheThePeople Network, with her team
Shaili Chopra, Founder, SheThePeople Network, with her team

“Today, I have set up the platforms in a way that others benefit from it in whichever way they can- whether it’s in terms of exposure or even giving people the confidence that they can grow here on our platforms in ways that they can’t grow in large organizations,” she said.

That being said, she also highlighted the fact that while there’s a lot of talk about recognition of women, she doesn’t believe in the fact that there is any equal opportunity, equal attention or even equal exposure given to women, be it at the workplace or otherwise.

“In many ways, we believe that women will drive the next phase of the economic growth story. And they certainly are driving the political growth story. But I am extremely conscious of the fact that to a great extent these things are done because it makes brands, organizations look good. But is this what their actual intent is? I think that will only be known in the long run. So I am considerably disappointed with the amount of work that needs to be done but isn’t being done,” she said.

What she’d prefer is that the world creates opportunities for women to be the bigger fish in medium-sized ponds than be the invisible fish in very large ponds.

Upon being questioned on how different is a workplace that primarily comprises women rather than a conventional workplace, since that’s what SheThePeople.TV is, Chopra claims that it is both revolutionary and comforting, at the same time.

“I have always been part of organizations that have had more women. And for me, when it is the women who are working in majority, there’s a sense that the organization’s culture is far more constructive and promotive of both efficiency and ideas. I also think that having a large number of women in an organization, ours being a 95% women comprising team, creates opportunities of support and sisterhood which ensures that no one ever feels alone in the journey. And it’s just amazing to see how hard-working women are,” she said.

With this, she also clarified that both her ventures- Gytree and SheThePeople.TV are not organizations of women because they’re a charity case, but because the women in both these organizations deliver.

When talking about her first job in NDTV as a journalist, Chopra emphasized that the media industry has been one such industry where women have not only led from the forefront consistently, but actually spent an increasing number of time in democratizing the access to opportunity for women.


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But even so, what feels harder than being a working woman in the media industry, to Chopra, is being a woman who’s setting up her own media network.

“When you run the business, you give the command and drive a new generation of ideas, and hence it gets much harder. When I was building SheThePeople.TV and Gytree, for me, it was extremely relevant to see how women can drive businesses themselves rather than just be the ones who do the work. But for the industry at large, it would be refreshing to see women being treated more than just faces, but as money managers, managing directors and CEOs,” she said.

With this, she also highlighted that neither SheThePeople.TV nor Gytree is a men-hating platform, because had that been the case, people like Anand Mahindra, Rajiv Anand, Nitin Kamath, Ajay Srinivasan, etc. would’ve never extended their support.

“When I started SheThePeople.TV back in 2015, there were both men and women who doubted the potential of a platform that focused on telling stories of women. So all these years, I have had to deal with a large number of women also who don’t believe that women’s health requires a separate space as to them health is health. Women not only build their muscles differently, but also walk, think, and bear weight differently. In fact, when compared to men, women are better at multitasking,” she pointed out.

Additionally, she also went on to extend her heartfelt gratitude to the people who’ve showed faith in her and her ventures, including men from different walks of life, for realizing that she and her team is solving a problem in the society- something that is material and has a market and that too via a business model.

On a personal note, Chopra stated that she neither hates men nor believes that they are the reason why women don’t get opportunities.

“I believe that the men end up taking a majority of the space that women should also have because they are conditioned to believe or have probably been raised to believe that this is the space they need to take up and not make space for others,” she mentioned.

Commenting on her TedX speech at Versova and its theme “Let women be angry,” Chopra said that in her opinion women should have a space to be angry, not just at the workplace, but everywhere and not just that they should have the space to reflect their dissent without fear.

“When men get angry, we say they are in control, but when a woman gets angry, we call her mad. And this is not, according to me, the way the world should be and therefore we need corrective measures,” she said.

While she has had to face criticism at every stage of her life on why she works for women and why she speaks for them, the one myth that she’d like to bust is that when one speaks for women it doesn’t essentially mean that he/she isn’t speaking for men.

“I find it extremely stupid that when I speak for women, people think that I am suggesting that something needs to be snatched away from men. What I essentially mean here is not all the spaces should belong to men, some space should also be given to women,” she affirmed.

Commenting on how she deals with trolls and naysayers, Chopra said that she refuses to believe that what people are saying is more important than what she is doing.

“I refuse to fall for their nonsense. And I wouldn’t have lasted 8 years and built this business the way I have, if I did. If you don’t see women take up their own space, be their own self, wear the clothes they want to, speak the language they’d like and live independently and not put men on a pedestal, it is going to make some men uncomfortable. So yes, for me the idea of building a platform is to break down structures that put women down or at the same time put men up, but this is not about hating men,” she said.

That being said, in a world where criticism and rage often target women who excel, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors, Shaili Chopra reflected, “Sometimes when I’m in the world of business, I think, ‘Oh, it must have been easier to be a man.’ But I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

“The ecosystem of media, marketing and advertising is used to seeing women do the hard talk for years, but where it’s gotten harder is that why do we build for women? It’s not that brands don’t want to pay for women or the marketing heads across the world don’t believe in women. They do! But the biggest challenge that most people have is to understand why we are building a platform for women when the larger market is male. But I always bet on the future and to me the future is female in many ways,” she said.

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