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Aspire for Her Together

~ Esha Mohol and Deepa Soman

Torchbearer Thursday Grand Finale

The season finale of the Torchbearer Thursday series is a tribute to women, work and well-being, a cause that reflects the Lumiere purpose. Madhura Dasgupta Sinha and Reema Sen, co-founders of Aspire For Her have initiated a movement to offer mentoring and guidance to women to take ownership of their careers. 

“Our mission is to motivate women to enter and stay in the workforce and we want to add 1 million women to the workforce by 2025 by using the power of communities and networks” ~ Madhura Dasgupta Sinha

The Idea

The idea of Aspire for Her came about just before the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. As a banker, Madhura observed that the participation of women in the workforce was receding for the past 15 years. India is amongst the poorest performing in terms of economic participation and empowerment of women as per the gender gap index. 

Women from all walks of life started acknowledging the concept of Aspire for Her and turned it into a movement. It especially resonated with young women in the age group of 18 – 25 years who were educated, qualified but didn’t have an economic agency of their own. “They were seeing disappointment, they were feeling a sense of vacuum among older (non-working) women and didn’t want the story to be continued.” Madhura explains. 

Aspire for Her has grown to be akin to a movement and is being recognised by people worldwide, with mentors and supporters across 60 different countries.

“For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show…As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.”

– Justice ruth bader ginsburg

The 5-Point Mindset Change Model

Madhura’s sheer energy and conviction to the cause drew Reema Sen to join Aspire for her. For Reema, economical independence of women is at the core as she believes that there is wide spectrum of talented women waiting to address gender disparity and discrimination. 

The Aspire For Her 5-Point Mindset Change Model helps guide the continuous incremental process of changing mindsets. This 5 point mindset change model is a framework that sustains and directs the works of Aspire for Her. 

The model constitutes of: 

  1. Mentors and Role models – acting pillars of the system
  2. Resources – learning opportunities, business resources
  3. Career Reviews – professional exposure opportunities
  4. Peer Communities – to connect and elevate one another
  5. The 3Es – education, employment and entrepreneurship

Power of Networks

Madhura and Reema ensured that the idea of Aspire for Her connected and resonated through snowballing networking. They believe that the idea is bigger than individuals themselves which enables the reality of different women being able to connect to different ideas and contribute in ways that they find most comfortable. 

Covid led them to start the #NotAlone community – a platform that supports “covid widows” to rebuild their life post incidents of loss and trauma. 

“When women deal with the loss of a loved one, suddenly one day, they wake up to the cold hard fact that they are responsible for the household expenses, education, finances and most importantly, their own wellbeing” – Reema Sen

The idea of the #NotAlone community resonates with Reema as she grew up watching her mother deal with the loss of her husband when she was 34; Madhura and Reema visualised and created a platform to provide a set of solutions and services to the women in need.

The Anchors

Anchors are the accomplished yet compassionate women. They serve as allies whose role is to act as the centrepiece of the organisation to connect the impacted women back to the community resources. The resources include counselling services to help with inheritance/ succession management, to help the women transition themselves to start thinking about empowering themselves to economic independence through the 3E model. 

They also provide upskilling courses, employment opportunities and guidance to scale up small businesses. “Madhura is at the forefront of leveraging her networks and her network’s networks to bring them jobs!” exclaims Reema. Aspire for Her also has successful collaborations to provide pro bono grief counselling. 

The Game Plan

Today Aspire for Her is a community of 80 to 100 women, 40-59 individuals at the back-end and 20 anchors with Madhua and Reema as mentors for life.

“Today we are a B2B to help organisations recruit and retain diverse female talent because finally the story ends when the 3Es take shape.” 

  • Madhura

As Aspire for Her continues to welcome women into the workforce by upskilling and gearing them up for success, it actively looks out for collaborations and partnerships with individuals and businesses across all sectors. It aims to build a network of existing and aspiring women entrepreneurs to increase their contribution to India’s GDP, which is at 3%, through the the #EntrepreNaari community. 

“You are taking responsibility for a woman who is in a fragile state of mind and has been let down by everybody in her life, she is putting faith in your platform while onto it – You cannot let her down. Do what you think you can do; whatever you are comfortable with. Just do that little bit and that is a lot. Even the little bit translates to a lot”  

Reema Sen

Watch the interview with Madhura and Reema on Season 2 Episode 20 of Torchbearer Thursday.

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