“In a situation where a man is aggressive versus a woman being aggressive, the woman will be pointed out easily. It’s a sad state and the more I see it, the more women I want in the workforce,” Komal Mangtani, senior director at Uber told a gathering of women entrepreneurs and young students during her visit to T-Hub in Hyderabad.
Komal, who currently heads business intelligence at Uber, believes that the journey of a woman towards a successful career should start from a young age. Komal says she came from a socially conservative society where not just women, even men didn’t really go to college. But Komal was inquisitive right from when she was a child.
“From the time I was young, I always played with phones. I would open up the telephone we had at home, but not really understand anything. Then I got curious about computers when a senior of mine was pursuing computer engineering. I started going to a computer centre during vacation where I learnt to code. Since the computer centre was expensive, I would write the program at home and then type it out. I budgeted my time that way. I would have only 10 minutes to get the program to work,” she says, adding that this brought a lot of discipline in her thinking.
Today, Komal not only heads business intelligence at Uber, but also leads all financial services, handles payments for the ride hailing service and UberEats, is responsible for cost management, revenue economics, forecasting, etc. She has also been featured in America’s top 50 female technology moguls.
Women should be empowered right from when they’re young, Komal said in a fireside chat with Deepthi Ravula, CEO of WE Hub. “We need to start empowering girls to make decisions from a very young age, and it can be as simple as going to a restaurant and letting them order what they want. It helps a great deal in boosting their confidence,” she adds.
And while things are improving in terms of women getting more opportunities, Komal says that lack of confidence is the main issue women face. This is also what Komal is trying to fix. Two of the initiatives that Komal is actively part of are Women Who Code and Girls Who Code. In fact, she also led Uber to make a $2 million donation to Girls Who Code to reduce the gender gap in technology and bring increased access to computer science for women.
And Girls Who Code, Komal says, is bringing back the notion that even girls find science cool. “Creating a venue where only girls sit together and collaborate on a project gives them a lot of strength and confidence. We can also encourage girls to pursue technical writing, design and coding,” she adds.
At Uber too, Komal has been working hard to bring about more gender parity. It all starts with being able to have a strong dialogue and having perseverance. “I’m glad I have gained the courage to speak up. Whenever you bring a radical change though, it’s always scary and you may be shut down and your own progress may be shunted. Yet, having the courage to say ‘no, this is the right thing to do, and persevering, will get you there. I have always followed the principle of a no only meaning ‘not yet’. So, when I get a no, it means I have to try again and again, till I get a yes,” Komal adds.
Komal believes that they have made strong progress at Uber where the environment is now open to a strong dialogue.
Interestingly, Uber had a rather difficult year lately where various issues of work culture at the company were in question, leading to its founder Travis Kalanick stepping down.
“Take for example the promotion cycle. Let’s look at the percentage of women nominated for a promotion. You can improve the entire promotion cycle, but if you don’t even nominate women, then they won’t even enter the cycle. You can talk about equal pay but if women are not even placed at the same level as men, then there is still lack of parity. And being able to have that dialogue is what I like so much about Uber. It is that fearless culture where we don’t hide issues,” she says.
And bringing more women into the workforce and into leadership roles can help a great deal in working on bias-related issues, Komal says.
“Unless we dont have more women in workforce, these biases will stay. Unless men see more of us in the workforce, they’re not going to get accustomed to us and these are men with best intent, but they haven’t seen our kind. They need to see that we come in all shapes and sizes,” Komal says.