The journey of LadyDrinks. For seventeen years, I was a television anchor. It was what I wanted to be since I was 4 years old. Daily, my father would watch Tom Brokaw deliver the Nightly News at 630pm. I would sit on the floor and watch with him. To my immigrant father, it was patently American.
To me, it was my future.
I credit my mom with really nurturing the journalist in me from a young age. She perennially entered me into essay contests and poetry contests so I could hone my use of words. When I went to college, however, she didn’t have a say in my professional choice. I grew up in a traditional Indian home where women didn’t have a voice. And if they dared express as much, there were consequences. Physical ones.
So I left at 18. I wanted better for me. I don’t even know what better was at that time. But I knew better had to exist beyond the four walls where I grew up. I paid for college, I paid for grad school, I paid for every move from Pennsylvania, to Washington, to Boston to New Jersey to New York to Wyoming and back again to become an anchor. And then I climbed all the way to the top and was the business anchor on the #1 station in New York City. I was on the jumbotron in Time Square everyday. I had made it.
But the journey was a hard one. And it was a lonely one. I wouldn’t be standing here today without the support of good friends who stood in as family along the way. This is when I understood the importance of building a network.
Six years ago, July 2012, I started something called LadyDrinks. It was truly the by product of the production company that I had started with my then business partner Greta Knutzen. She and a few friends had started this networking group with the catchy name for women in film in TV in Toronto. It was a way for ladies to connect and get jobs,post recession.
When we started hosting LadyDrinks in New York City, some 300 hundred South Asian girls were showing up to the events. 300! I was overwhelmed. I didn’t realize, that while I was hiding behind the glass screen of the television, a whole generation of Indian girl had grown up watching me. I had been unapologetically also been telling my story of orchestrating this career, without my parents in the picture. And they had been listening! Now all these ladies were coming to share how they were engaged in careers other than the parent approved professions of “doctor, lawyer, engineer.”
I realized that I was in a place of responsibility. I couldn’t just gather women together for drinks every month. For 17 years, I had been interviewing some of the top titans of industry. authors, and CEOs of businesses. I could connect this demographic with those thought leaders. Here we are — — 6 years later — -and Ladydrinks is 1200 women strong, with chapters in New YOrk City, Princeton, New Delhi, Toronto, and soon to be Washington DC, San Francisco and Chicago.
How does it affect the community. First of all, I had to get really specific about who would comprise the Ladydrinks contingent. Over the years, I narrowed it down to women ages 35–55, senior to mid level management or entrepreneurs, making 150K+. YES, we are having conversations about breaking the glass ceiling. But we are also having to overcome some extreme cultural hurdles to get there. And LadyDrinks is curating a group of like minded women plus a platform to have that critical dialogue that we’re not having with our spouses, our social circles or our parents. Ladies are hiring one another. Ladies have patronized one another. Ladies have found friendships. And most importantly, they have found support.
The next generation. If you had told me 6 years ago, when I co founded LadyDrinks, that I would be invited to speak to these little girls yesterday about gender equality, I wouldn't have believed you. But Wednesday, I was surrounded by 6 year olds that were a wonderful mix of Korean and African American, Filipino and Asian. Isn't this what the melting pot that is New York City looks like? But regardless of ethnicity, I'm learning that girls from all over the world still share the same concerns and the LadyDrinks mission now may, in fact, extend to them too. We talked about the importance of speaking up when we need help. A sister asked her brother to come with her to soccer tryouts. She never gets picked for sports teams, and it was the first time she articulated to him that him being there in the stands would make her feel more confident. A sister recognized that her little sister would only take the stage to dance and sing, if her older sister was backstage. We talked about NOT being afraid to ask for support in order to be successful.