Speak Up / Speaking Out

The Kool Kanya Community: What happens when women build products for other women

. 7 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
The Kool Kanya Community: What happens when women build products for other women

The Kool Kanya is an online community for women that build each other up. An instance of what happens women support other women. Step into your power and find you cheering squad on the Kool Kanya Community.

Have you heard about the ‘drunk girls in restrooms’ myth? If you have, then you have a fair idea where I’m leading to with this. But if you don’t, then allow me to elucidate because if everyone behaved like ‘drunk girls in restrooms’, the world would most certainly be a better place to live in.

The ‘drunk girl in the restroom’ is empathetic. She will lend you her scrunchie if your hair is sweating. Having full knowledge that she’s perhaps never gonna get it back. She is kind. She will hold your hair back when you puke. Regardless of whether she knows you or not. She will compliment your hair, your dress and everything about you that you’re not particularly fond of. She will give you a tissue when you cry over that long lost ex of yours’. And most importantly, she will be there for you. No matter what.

Now if you’re one of those “women-are-women’s-worst-enemies” kinda gal (or boi), then let me tell you why this perfect human exists only when she’s drunk and only in restrooms.

  • Inebriation is known to lower your inhibitions and enable your true self to come out (or so they say). That basically implies that women are essentially each others’ biggest supporters.
  • And why restrooms? Glad you asked. Because the space of a women’s restroom is sacred. Untouched by the outside world or the other gender. It is undefiled in its purest essence. When out in public, it is the safest space for a woman to truly be herself.

The need for a safe space

So what if there was an alternate universe where we didn’t have to go to a closed space to find our cheering squad? How different would the world be if women could freely own public spaces, become policy makers and build products more in touch with the needs of women?

What would happen is the translation of the metaphorical safety net of the ladies’ restrooms into reality.

How do we take the same sense of safety and bring it into this reality?

Short answer: by creating safe spaces where women can begin to assert their voice and own their space.

And the long answer…

Finding a space for a female voice

Ainee Nizami is a Kool Kanya Gamechanger, and a writer who’s bio reads “Feminist. Reader. Writer. And in that order.” A writer, journalist and content creator with a decade of experience in the field, she uses her gift to help equalise the cultural and media narrative.

As a journalist, the realisation hit her that the voice in which news was disseminated was typically ‘male’. News headlines about violence against women were being chalked out by men. Safety articles or even news that appeared to cater to women were designed with the now redundant “women should”, “women should not” or how “women must”.

It was the lack of representation of the well rounded female voice in the media that motivated her to put women’s experiences at the forefront of her writing.

As we spoke, we realised that we had both reached this conclusion independently : that in order to create products that put women at the centre, there is a need for more women in positions of power and at decision-making levels.

And the most striking difference that comes across when women build products for other women?  “The sense of empathy”, she says.

“But that’s not how women think”

A quote that I often hear from Khushboo Bhandari, the Product Manager at Kool Kanya, and a major driving force behind the inception of the Kool Kanya Community.

Khushboo, the only woman in her tech team, mentions how there are countless occasions when she has to simply put her foot down and fight to be heard in the process of decision making.

Let me give you an example. Let’s talk about something as simple as what features an online female community needs,” says Khushboo. As I hear her talk, I can already sense that this is something she feels very passionately about.

There would be so many times when the idea of a particular feature would be floated around. Something as cool as a live chat feature, but which is not something that women would particularly need or even want for that matter. I’d have to put my foot down explain to the team the impossibility of gaining a female user’s trust by something as absurd as entering an online community, one that is infested with strangers, with the feature of a live chat!

Hence the need for having more women in positions of power. A team of women would understand how their user thinks. A team of women would implicitly acknowledge the need to build their user’s trust first, to create a safe space for them and encourage their vulnerabilities rather than welcoming them with features that conventional product creators find “cool”.

But have we ever wondered about why products, vocabulary and industries in general tend to pine after the “cool” rather than the what’s truly the need of the hour?

Representation matters

Technological advancement lies at the backbone of growth and development in general. And the Indian tech industry is without a doubt heavily male dominated. Research suggests that the Indian tech industry has merely 26% of women in engineering roles, while the overall tech representation stays at a plummeted 34%.

This exclusion of the female voice in the product-creation industry manifests in the nature that products are built, that they are designed to cater a voice of the majority - the ‘male’ voice. And this exclusion has given way to various other far reaching consequences too.

Since the digital space is so male dominated, research suggests that women are twice as exposed to online bullying as men. With the tech - and consequently the digital industry being built by men, for men, it is no surprise that women have to resort to inaccessible spaces like the aforementioned metaphorical restrooms.

Which leads me back to my conversation with Ainee and her belief in the empathetic voice that women product creators bring into the tech, digital and content industry with them. “Women just understand women better. It’s as simple as that.”

Ainee’s own experience boasts of having worked in several women-centric organisations. Even as a writer, she largely draws from her own experience in working with some wonderful women.

“It’s just easier. Pitching ideas is so much easier. When you’re working in a team of women, you don’t have to justify your ideas. You know your user needs this because you are your user too. I mean if I was growing up with the content that I am creating today, I think I’d be a lot better off.”

Real queens fix each other’s crowns

An idea that Khushboo upholds too. “Technically speaking, I am my user. Which is why I know what I need. I know how I think and I know what kind of functions I would want in a community where women can help build each other up.” And on that we seemed to voraciously agree.

Contrary to popular belief, women can be women’s biggest supporters. But if you do think about it, where does the archaic notion that women are each other’s biggest enemies even stem from? Why have women been pegged as each other’s competitions for so long?

Traditionally, women are conditioned into being competitive because they were pitted against each other, in a race to please figures of external authority, be it men or institutions.

But it’s time we put an end to this belief. It’s time we stop pitting women against each other to fight for the very few positions of power that women can access. It’s time we start reclaiming spaces and not coop ourselves up into metaphorical restrooms.

The Kool Kanya Community

At the core of Kool Kanya is the belief that when one woman completes a journey, she paves the path for several more to complete theirs’. Helping women reclaim both their space, and their agency is the idea behind Kool Kanya. The idea that women can be each other’s biggest supporters. An online community for women, created by women.

The Founder & CEO of Kool Kanya, Vanshika Goenka often reminisces about how the idea of this gender gap first struck her. As a child attending a family gathering, she remembers how a relative happened to comment on the lack of a son or a suitable heir to her parents’ business. She remembers feeling confused and invalidated about her capability to run an organisation, something women in this country are often subjected to.

Vanshika feels glad about having created a platform where women can help encourage other women. Propel each other to greater heights of success and greater depths of connection.

power of sisterhood

This is what happens when women build products for other women. The need for a safe space, sans online bullying, sans judgement and sans feeling threatened is answered when women build products for other women.