Need Active Push To Motivate Women To Take Charge Of Finances: CFO Aiswarya Ravi

In an interview with SheThePeople, Aiswarya Ravi discusses her journey in Finance, her role as CFO, how she works through challenges leader, and why it's integral to involve women in financial decisions across sectors.

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Aiswarya Ravi
Aiswarya Ravi grew up listening to dinner table conversations around finance which, in turn, shaped her professional choices. She pursued Chartered Accountancy and went on to work with reported multinational firms. Today, she is the Chief Financial Officer of a fintech firm, and although there was a certain pushback to her making it as CFO considering the area is largely male-dominated, she surpassed said challenges paving the way for other women around her to dream of leadership roles in finance.

In an interview with SheThePeople, Aiswarya Ravi discusses her journey in Finance, her role as CFO, how she works through challenges leader, and why it's integral to involve women in financial decisions across sectors.

Aiswarya Ravi Interview

What motivated you to pursue finance?  

I grew up in a banking family, where discussions about all things finance were part of dinner table conversation. Not only was I privy to a lot of information pertaining to the industry from early on, but I was also actively involved in these discussions. That learning has defined me and my career journey, in a way, and was the primary reason I was drawn to taking up a career in finance. I was interested in taking up commerce, to begin with, but I also went for it to debunk the general idea that if you score well, you must do the science way. I was among the toppers in my school, but I opted for commerce and went on to become a CA and pursue a career in finance because I was genuinely interested in it.

What led you to Kinara Capital?

I started my career working for large organisations like GMR and ITC. While it was very enriching, it came with certain limitations to bringing about significant changes from a business point of view as such organisations are already at an advanced stage of growth. I wanted to test my skills by becoming involved in a company's growth story. I desired the chance to build a brand from scratch, adding my own unique touch. Kinara Capital provided the perfect opportunity to do just that. When I made the decision to join the company, it was in its infancy, making it the ideal time for me to take the plunge. Over the past 8 years, I have been closely involved in charting the organisation's growth trajectory, which has been extremely rewarding.


What were the challenges you initially faced when carving your path in such an integral space as a  woman and what are the current challenges?

I would say I have had the privilege of being judged based on my merit and capabilities, rather than my gender, for most of my career. Our CEO, Hardika Shah, took a strong stance on my behalf when she hired me and continued to support me in my role as the CFO of the company. She did face a certain degree of pushback, given that roles like CFO, are largely male-dominated even today. The organisation has set itself apart by being a women-majority management-led organisation that has demonstrated a track record of sustainable growth and profitability.

I had to learn to hold my own in meetings and boardrooms as a young woman, but now it comes naturally to me, and I do my best to pave the way for other women to take up leadership roles through support and mentorship.

Drawing from your experience, how crucial is mentorship, especially at the grassroots level for aspiring women leaders? 

In the Indian context, mentorship plays a critical role in empowering women to become leaders, especially at the grassroots level. India has made significant strides in recent years in increasing the participation of women in leadership positions, but there is still a long way to go to achieve gender parity in leadership.

Mentorship programs can provide aspiring women leaders with access to experienced mentors who can guide them on their career paths, help them navigate challenges, and provide them with valuable insights and advice. These programs can also help women develop their professional networks, which is crucial for career growth. At the grassroots level, mentorship programs can be particularly effective in supporting women who may face additional barriers to leadership, such as limited access to education or cultural biases. By connecting women with mentors who have experience in overcoming similar obstacles, these programs can help to build confidence, resilience, and leadership skills in aspiring women leaders.


What more do you suggest countries and education systems can adopt when it comes to inspiring women in finance?

There is a need for the democratisation of learning environments and an active push to get girls and young women motivated to take up studies and careers in finance. However, I think the real shift needs to begin early, with communities and families giving girls the space to learn, voice their opinions, and take up careers in whichever field they want. But that alone is not enough. Continued support beyond maternity for women is also crucial as the majority of the women just fail to continue their careers due to lack of support and other ecosystem behaviour.

To inspire more women to come into the finance sector, government and education systems can incentivise this move through scholarships, and support women through mentorship programs. The bigger picture is that there is a need for equal opportunities for women to pursue education and careers in finance. This can be done by eliminating gender-based discrimination and biases in the recruitment process and providing equal pay for equal work, automatically motivating more women to join the industry.

You’re one of the youngest CFOs. As a leader in business, how do you suggest the Indian market can empower more women in leadership positions?

Companies in India can actively promote gender diversity by setting targets for hiring women and ensuring equal opportunities for them by implementing policies that provide equal pay, flexible work arrangements, and support for women to advance in their careers and take up leadership roles. There is also a need to remove unconscious bias by providing training and implementing policies that promote diversity and inclusion.

Companies can offer training and development programs to help women learn leadership development, communication, negotiation, and other key skills and knowledge required to succeed in leadership roles. Mentorship programs established by companies, industry associations, and professional networks can also help women to build networks and gain access to opportunities that can help them to advance in their careers.


As someone who holds decades of experience in finance, have you witnessed a gender gap with respect to investments, with women being less involved in their own financial decisions? 

There is definitely a gender gap when it comes to not just investments, but the handling of finances in general, with women being less involved in their own financial decisions. According to a survey conducted by the RBI, only 23% of women in India were found to be making independent investment decisions. This can be attributed to various factors such as a lack of financial literacy, cultural norms, and traditional gender roles. The gender pay gap and career breaks due to family responsibilities also impact women's financial independence and investment decisions, as many of them don’t have a steady income and are kept outside the family’s financial decisions.

What is that one piece of advice you would want to give women with respect to financial independence and investments?

Start early and invest regularly. It's important to educate yourself about various investment options and make informed decisions, but the most important factor is to start investing early to make the most of compounding.

Setting financial goals, creating a budget, and having a diversified investment portfolio can help in achieving financial independence over time. Keep in mind it's also crucial to seek professional advice as needed and not hesitate to ask questions to make the most of investment opportunities.

What advice would you give women on their path to leadership and entrepreneurship in the field as yours?

Perhaps the most valuable advice for women looking to pursue entrepreneurship or take up a leadership role in the field of finance is to build a network and seek out mentors. This can help you connect with other professionals in the industry, learn about new opportunities, and gain valuable insights and advice.

Look for mentors who have experience in areas that you're interested in and who can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. Also, consider joining professional organisations and attending industry events to expand your network and learn from other successful women in the field. Remember that building a strong support system is key to achieving success as a woman in finance.

Suggested reading: How Lakshmi V. Venkatesan Empowers Grampreneurs With A Unique Mentorship Model

women in finance women CFOs Aiswarya Ravi