Overcoming Bias: Women’s Fight for Equity in the Corporate World

Purvi Bhavsar  
Director, KIFS Housing Finance

Purvi Bhavsar is an Ahmedabad-based trailblazer, who co-founded Pahal Financial Services, a leading microfinance and enterprise lending NBFC-MFI with assets of ₹2000 crores, over 300 branches, and a workforce of 3000+ impacting over a million women. With 30 years in BFSI and Telecom, including stints at Kotak Mahindra and Vodafone, she's a recognised leader, awarded in telecom and finance, and an Indian Achievers awardee. A scholar of prestigious programs, she's also a board member, startup mentor, and an advocate for climate action and CSR initiatives.

As a female entrepreneur and leader working in male-dominated industries like BFSI and telecommunications, I believe the most important battlefront for women in overcoming gender biases in the corporate world is our minds.


I say this because, as I reflect on my career, I can’t help but wonder if my success or survival can be attributed mainly to luck or if there were other factors at play. And the answer is the latter. Before I delve into these reasons, I’d like to preface with the disclaimer that my thoughts likely diverge from the usual discourse surrounding this subject.


So, how did I overcome the biases to create an equity for myself in the corporate world-


  • Not having preconceived notions about professional opportunities

While I understood that gender discrimination was a challenge I had to confront, I didn’t allow my brain to form any preconceived notions about how it would limit or dictate the opportunities I would have access to. This mindset helped me tremendously because it opened me up to opportunities in male-dominated industries that I might not have considered otherwise.


  • Not doubting my capability as a result of internalising gender stereotypes

I’ve found that women can be their worst enemies when they allow others to define their capabilities and let self-doubt win. This is extremely dangerous because I believe anything happens in your mind before it happens in the real world. For example, I ignored the stereotype that women are better suited to desk jobs and deliberately chose a front-line, target-driven position instead. It was a role that I thrived in. Even though it took me longer to get promoted compared to my male colleagues, once I moved on from the position, the company sought to hire another woman to replace me.


  • Leaning into challenges instead of giving up

Professional journeys are full of obstacles, but I didn’t surrender and kept challenging myself. This also meant I cried a thousand times, sometimes publicly, when I couldn’t handle the pressure or felt clueless. But the important thing is to not give up.


Despite what we’re often told as women, having professional aspirations is not only good but crucial. If these aspirations are not encouraged and cultivated, gender equity in the corporate world will remain a pipe dream. This, in turn, will have consequences that reach far beyond the corporate workplace. 


Currently, women contribute only 18% to our country’s GDP despite constituting 48% of the population. If we want to achieve our goal of becoming a 5 trillion economy by 2027, we have no choice but to harness the untapped potential of women.