‘Don’t Let Anyone Tell You That You Can’t Do Something Because You Are A Woman’ – Aayushi Agarwal – IIM Bangalore – Celebrating Womanhood On InsideIIM
Amidst submissions, deadlines and exams, we got a chance to catch up with Aayushi Agarwal, who was more than willing to share her story! Here is how it unravels. Aayushi is an electrical engineer from DCE, Delhi University Gold Medalist. Aayushi worked in NTPC for four years. She got married in May 2014, took CAT the same year in November, and is currently a PGP 2015-17 student at IIM Bangalore. Passionate about fitness and enjoys swimming and running, she loves to watch short films and comedy series.
What was a high school like for you? How did it contribute to your personality/ the person you are right now?
Having studied in a Convent school, where high emphasis is laid on discipline and academics, the picture portrayed to me was – you put in the effort, you’ll succeed, and you’ll be big in life, everything else is a distraction.
Initial schooling shapes the personality. The urge to live a disciplined life, and honestly speaking I feel more or less, I do lead a disciplined life, comes from there. Moral education was one subject which was laid equal emphasis as any other regular course. So that embedded at an early age helps me in coming out of critical situations in life.
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I would teach. I love engaging with kids, their curiosity to know more, the ambition in them gives a drive to me too. There was one such instance at IIMB, where a little girl of 6th standard asked me, “Akka, what do you want to become in life, my brother wants to become a pilot, and I want to become a doctor.” It really made me ponder, as a kid how often we asked these questions to ourselves, but now why have we stopped asking, is it because we have started perceiving “money” as the only object?
What advice would you give to a 5-year-younger you?
I would say live life. Enjoy every moment. It is important to seek advice, but there are questions which nobody can answer for you. You have to explore and find it for yourself. Do not think, what if I fail or the decision I take doesn’t turn out to be right. When you ask “yourself” and not others you can’t be wrong. You have thought about it enough, and that would be the right decision at that time, so just have faith in yourself. Only in hindsight, you feel for a moment, that the decision was right or wrong, but it was the best then. People around may put pressure, and hence you may get duped into feeling, time is running out – you are aging, and hence, the urge to get a right answer immediately, but believe me, you never age. You just experience, live and grow. Always keep the little girl in you alive, who wants to explore and have fun.
How do you think women are better equipped to deal with problems as compared to men?
From an early age, through families, society, films and television shows, our thinking gets shaped. We are well aware that we’ll have to go through a lot of tough situations and sometimes be patient and at other times protest. We know that it is not going to be easy. That thought itself I think shapes our thinking and makes us tougher. Be it kids fighting in school, or a girl traveling alone to her school, as little as ten-year-old; she faces it all. And that only makes her better equipped to the problems facing ahead for her.
Many IIMs and other b-schools award extra points for being a woman. What is your take on that? Do you propagate the concept OR Have you faced any backlash for the same?
Well, I don’t think girls are any less competent that they need extra points to get that coveted place. But, in the present scenario, very few women are at senior management positions, and amongst them too, many decide to drop out of the workforce force due to family responsibilities and the inconsiderate workforce policies and management. Hence it is very important to provide that impetus to women to reach there, till the organisations start having a decent male-female ratio at senior positions, till it becomes as easy for a female to pursue higher education as it is for males in our society. That impetus doesn’t necessarily have to be extra points, though.
Name one incident that you encountered where someone told you; you couldn’t do something because you’re a woman.
Even as a kid, I was highly curious and wanted to explore, try almost everything, play all kind of games. There was a park right in front of my home, where guys gang used to play marbles. I wanted to play too. My brother was reluctant and told all his friends not to play with me, and rather insisted that I play hopscotch with other girls. I went to my dad, bought a lot of marbles and sat in the park, with so many marbles in my pouch. For obvious reasons, the guys thought, so many marbles are at stake, and an easy opponent to win against and hence I got to play. After that incident, I played Gilli Danda too, which is traditionally considered to be guys’ territory. :P. After these incidents, I never refrained from doing anything, just because somebody else told me, “you can’t because you are a woman.”
If you are out on a date, do you prefer to pay yourself? If you insisted that you want to pay for yourself, how did the other person react?
Yes, I do. When I said, initially I received question mark kind of looks. But then, when I said, it is OK, I want it to be split, the person just respected my decision, and never again questioned it. In fact, after 2-3 dates, I could see even higher respect for me in his eyes. Not only did we end up getting married. He supported me throughout, in my decision of leaving NTPC, to pursue higher education. Surviving the rigorous PGDM at IIMB, and still excelling couldn’t have been possible without his faith and support. And here again, I don’t mean financial support 😉 but moral support.