The Rising Phoenix
Fearless, inspirational, resilient and extra-ordinary just about highlights Gita Sjahrir’s personality. She’s lived her life on her own terms and have been extremely passionate about fighting for women’s equality.
You’re always doing multiple items simultaneously – multitasking between being a life-long student and an entrepreneur. Along the way, I’m sure you have inspired numerous people...can you tell us about someone who has inspired you?
A lot of people inspired me for different reasons, but one person who has truly inspired me is my brother. Growing up, I was an autistic kid with lots of difficulties because I couldn't adhere to societally defined standards of education. I struggled with my ABCs and 123s, and I was non- verbal for 6-7 years; but my brother never made me feel useless. He always said that she’s just misunderstood and she's different. When you truly appreciate and accept someone just the way they are, you can make a big difference in their lives. You can make them believe that they are able to do things that everyone else don't believe they can do. These days my biggest inspiration is my niece, cause she's 6 years old and in 20 years, I don’t want her to go through the same problems that women today do. This can be in the form of never feeling enough; like I did my best but and I'm talented or I've done this I've done that I'm not getting my chance.
A lot of young adults (especially those in their 20s) have set a lot of self-imposed limitations on themselves; leading to them losing their confidence and ability to perform better in life. There’s a lot of external and internal influences that’s impacting their confidence; and the pandemic has played a significant role in all this. How do you deal with the limitations of the mind?
All the little mishaps that happen along the way don't immediately make me feel like it's all useless. How do I know that what I’m doing right now is worth anything, until a few decades to come? At different points in time, you're either a failure or success; life goes up and down. One thing the younger generation keeps forgetting is that whatever you make today, you can lose it tomorrow. Say, you make US$1,000,000 at 25, you can easily lose it all when you’re 26. I try I try to keep a more process- oriented focus when I live my life, rather than I have to get this and this, and check this box. As for limitations of the mind, we want to believe that all it takes is a positive mindset, but that’s not the case. Sometimes an idea is too unrealistic on all platforms, and how you overcome that ceiling is what’s important. You can’t change the way people think, but you can change the way you look and things and find the way to deal with it. We all only have one life and what matters is what we make of it.
In the recent years, there’s been a slow shift in the way women are perceived in the industry. They are significantly growing in their careers, but at the same time, there’s still a lot of male patriarchy. What is the one step that we can all take to change this system?
I've been in startups now for 11 years in Asia and what’s interesting to me is to learn what my unconscious biases are and rather than trying to fight yourself by yourself, try creating more diversity. There is this group of men known as the PayPal mafia (a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who all held executive roles at Paypal during the 1990s); who fund each other’s companies. It’s surprising to note that even when women are making up a large chunk of entrepreneurship; there isn’t a female version of the mafia and only 2.2% of venture capital funding goes to women entrepreneurs. I’ve also tend to notice that at a panel discussion, it’s very often that we have more males across the board as opposed to females. It’s very rare that we see an equal division of male and female speakers. One way we can change this patriarchy is by paying more attention to more female personalities. The next time we any inspiring female speakers, remember them and try to recommend them for future sessions – whether they are happening for your company or any other event that you are a part of. This way we can try and reduce men dominance and provide the platform for more women to voice out their thoughts and ideas.