TiE Women is a global, not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurship. TiE provides a platform for mentoring, networking, and educating, to both entrepreneurs and professionals. Each TiE office location is known as a chapter. Through the proliferation of these chapters, TiE has grown into a global organisation which is inclusive and transparent in its governance and operations. We caught up with Ambika Malvia, entrepreneur and Director of Tie Women, to find out her thoughts on startups, feminism and desk accessories.
Firstly, what is the one desk accessory you couldn’t live without? Why?
A paperclip with a magnet at the back. I use it as my organiser and calendar. I stick everything I have to do on sheets of paper in chronological order. It keeps me on track with what I’m up to. It’s from IKEA.
Do you have a favourite quote or novel? What is it?
One of my favourite author’s is Douglas Adams, he wrote “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. In one of his books, he says, “The art to flying – all you have to do is throw yourself at the ground and miss.” I think startups and entrepreneurship is like that, you have to throw yourself at it and hope for the best and keep flying.
What was the biggest setback in getting started and what have you learnt along the way?
The thing with starting something that hasn’t been done before is getting people behind you to support you right off the bat. With the TiE Create-a-thon, it’s specifically targeted at non-tech female entrepreneurs. When I first pitched the idea, there wasn’t anything else to compare it to. And you had to find these professionals to volunteer to come in and help these women get the ideas off the ground. In the end, I was lucky in that it all came together.
Have you ever had a mentor who helped you get to where you are today? What did they teach you?
I don’t think it’s possible to get very far without mentors to be honest. Whatever you’re doing, there is usually someone who has been there and done that in some form or shape. One of my first mentors was the old president of TiE earlier. He was a big supporter of all my wild ideas. He was also ruthless and brutal in cutting down any of the wild flights or fancies. You do need someone who will give you the room to grow and encourage you, but at the same time, know when you’re way off track and can bring you back in a way that makes sense for you. They can tailor solutions to you.
What professional problems do women have to face that men often don’t? What professional problems do men have to have that women often don’t?
No matter what we say, it still is a different world for women than it is for men. For a lot of successful women, there is an expectation that they need to behave more like men and think more like men. Men tend to be the default and women making their way into an existing community. I think the point at which I say there will be equality is when the way women do things that are different to the way that men do things. If there is a woman executive or founder, she may have a different approach to the same problem. That should be valued as well.
What does the word “feminist” mean to you?
The word itself has no one defined meaning – everyone tends to adapt it to suit their own thinking. I would replace the word feminism with something that actually talks about equality. Feminism tends to be about women instead of everyone being treated equally in a workplace environment. My daughter is 7 years old and i strongly believe that she should be able to do whatever she wants to do regardless of whether its a girl thing or boy thing. But there is already theres a that gap between what what boys do and what girls do. Even lego – why can only boys play with lego? If you look at the lego thats available to girls, it’s not spatially challenging. I feel that true equality is feminism where everyone is allowed to be who they are and be the best that they can be without being forced into a gender construct.
WORDS AND INTERVIEW BY CYNDALL MCINERNEY. Not sure if you should start your own business? Why not ask our range of high profile mentors how they did it through the PropellHer Q&A!
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