On its own, Rotimatic’s success is a great story: Tens of thousands of products sold. $40 million in revenue. A new round of funding for the company aimed at helping to bring the flat-bread robot to new markets.
But one of the things that makes the Rotimatic story so cool is it was invented by a woman by the name of Pranoti Israni.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you the world of tech is a tough place for women. Gender bias has become so institutionalized at this point that even our AI has it when it comes to hiring women. So when a story like the Rotimatic’s inventor comes along, not only should we celebrate it, but we should look to founders like Israni for lessons that could benefit others.
So this week when I saw Israni had shared an anecdote on Linkedin about the challenge of being a female in tech, I thought it was worth re-sharing. In the post, Israni recalled an answer she had given at a conference when asked how she had dealt with bias.
During the early days, the suppliers I wanted to partner with thought I was the salesperson for the company, not the heavy lifter behind the product. Or perhaps, I made good rotis by hand so I was included in the team for that. They didn’t take me seriously. To fight the stereotype, one of the small things I did was to start riding a large cruiser motorbike when I went to meet them. This had them see me in a different light and made for a huge perception change.
Like other guys, I don’t face these same challenges, so I don’t have to worry about implicit bias when going to a meeting. For Israni and other women, it’s just different.
I am sure there were many more challenges like this for Israni along the way, which is part of what makes her story so inspiring. For me, I often think of these issues as a dad. My daughter, who just entered high school, has considered joining her high school robotics team which, despite a strong recruiting effort, is still predominantly male. With more stories like that of Israni’s, I hope she and more of her classmates will be inspired to see robotics as a path to explore.