A study conducted by Harvard’s Decision Science Laboratory found out that while women are generally more risk averse than men, they are more willing to take future risks when they have even small amount of income. However, men increase their risk-taking after winning.

Speaking at Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women summit in Mumbai on Monday, Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO of online make up and beauty company, Nykaa, said that if men are able to take a risk and jump into entrepreneurship or a new, difficult career, women should have an equal right to try.

“For too long in our society, women have been the support system of the family. They are too afraid to take a risk. They feel they will bite more than what they can chew,” Nayar said in a fireside chat - Breaking barriers, with editor Sourav Majumdar and Alice G Vaidyan, chairman & managing director of reinsurer General Insurance Corp. of India.

Nayar, the former managing director and chief executive of Kotak Investment Banking, has spent almost two decades as an investment banker. Her entrepreneurship career stared when she was well into her fifties, with Nykaa in 2012. The six-year old company has made a name for itself in a short span and is almost synonymous with beauty and make up online. And this, despite intense competition from online giants like Amazon and Flipkart.

Nayar recalls the scepticism when she started her journey as an entrepreneur. People called it her “mid-life crisis” and some assumed she must not be doing well at her job, while others thought that she is being greedy and hankering for more money.

“I wanted to create a company and an institution that will live for itself,” she says. To start a business or even pursue the careers they want has not been easy for women, but Nayar believes that women today are ready to commit.

“In the long run, the happiness you get from building your careers, from achieving something is tremendous. I think women need to recognise and understand that because there are a lot of very bright, smart women who don’t want to do that because they are afraid they will destabilise something at home,” she says.

Apart from the ability to take risks, both Nayar and Vaidyan believe that, women are also at a disadvantage because of the lack of support infrastructure making it difficult for them to give equal focus to both their personal and professional lives. In fact the pressure of having children often forces women to quit midway through their career.

“Women have certain drawbacks especially at a certain age, when they are young at their career and they also have young children. We as an ecosystem have to be very supportive and understanding of that,” Nayar says.

Last year, India passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, which increased paid maternity leave and made day care centres mandatory for companies with more than 50 employees.

It won’t be long before we see a lot more women, confident women take their rightful place.
Alice Vaidyan, CMD, GIC Re

Vaidyan believes these steps are changing things for women. At GIC, she says, 50% of the employees are women, and she mentors some of them.

“It won’t be long before we see a lot more women, confident women take their rightful place,” says Vaidyan.

Vaidyan, who has spent more than a decade at GIC and 25 years in the insurance business for 25, agrees. Last year, she saw the company through a major initial public offering of ₹ 11,370 crore, one of the largest in the financial sector. She says being at the head of the insurance behemoth, she has keeps her ears to the ground, and her doors open.

“As a woman leader of you have the right leadership style. Gender has little or no role to play...a leader should be able to inspire people who work with you,” she says.

FIRESIDE CHAT - Breaking Barriers | Falguni Nayar, Founder & CEO, Nykaa & Alice G. Vaidyan, Chairman & MD, General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re) | MODERATED by Sourav Majumdar, Editor, Fortune India

Posted by Fortune India on Monday, November 26, 2018

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.