Kamini Sharma and Empowerment in Male-Dominated Domains

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Kamini Sharma, CEO of Lovability, a women led sexual health and wellness company that offers body safe, eco-friendly, and revolutionary products for the vulva, has already changed a male-oriented sports industry. In her 20-year sports executive career in the sports and entertainment industry, she has been director of international marketing for the National Hockey League (NHL) and ESPN (Europe, Middle East and Africa), and vice president of global marketing at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

“I am a big city girl. So, being brought up in a small town in upstate New York, I always itched to go to places where I could do more,” Sharma says, reminiscing about her early days. She says that being brought up by immigrant parents who juggled work and school at the same time gave her the grounding for her work ethic.

“I ended up working through most of law school,” she says, adding, “Not through necessity, but through opportunity.”

A dyed-in-the-wool sports enthusiast and sportsperson, Sharma wanted to work in the sports industry, even when there were very few women executives there.

“An Ernst and Young study proves that when young women participate in sports they learn how to compete, handle loss, win, collaborate and be healthy,” Sharma says. There is evidence that many women leaders of companies played a lot of sport growing up. In my undergrad years I read an article about sports representation, sports agencies and the business of sports. That sounded like what I really wanted to do. For that I would not even need to be a sports doctor as I had originally thought as being my only way of getting onto the field. I discreetly chose to go to Washington, D.C., for law school only because two of the biggest sports agencies were located there.”

After umpteen cold calls and visits to various agencies, Sharma finally bagged a summer internship that eventually resulted in a part-time job at a reputed agency. All this, while studying law full time.

“I didn’t want to give up the opportunity as it may not present itself again,” Sharma said.

But being a woman, and a brown one at that, in a male-dominated industry involved its own problems.

“It was hard,” Sharma admitted. “There was no representation, no role models to look up to. When you have someone like that, it gives you an opportunity to envision and gives you a sense that things can happen. For me, I had to make that happen and chart out my own path. I can tell you the number of times I was the only female in meetings.

“But I was laser focused on making it happen and seeking an opportunity. I did not allow myself to be seen differently or show weakness. It taught me that you need to work twice as hard, be twice as knowledgeable. But if you really have a passion and want to make a difference, you can rise above the challenging obstacles. There is, of course, a growing acceptance of brown women now than there was when I started.”

As a high-ranking female executive and a board member for several organizations Sharma fights to empower women in the industry. She is part of Women in Sports and Events (WISE), Women’s Sports Network, and Women in Cable Telecommunications UK (WICT).

As CEO of Lovability, with her business partners Maureen Pollack and John Paul Basile, Sharma has combined two of her passions – building global brands and empowering women.

“I want to destigmatize the conversation around female sexual health and hygiene and give women access to body-safe and environmentally friendly products,” Sharma said.

Talking about the lack of such conversations in most cultures, she explained, “It’s about women being smart and conscientious about their bodies and understanding that sexual health is part of your overall health. Its OK to feel good about yourself. We want to be an entry point and an understanding environment for women who feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the conversation and provide them with an agency. A way towards that is to get coverage of women’s sports.”

Since the symbolism surrounding sexual health is also male-dominated, Sharma says Lovability’s tries to design products that are discreet and can be placed anywhere in a store, thereby giving women the opportunity to pick them comfortably. The company’s products are now endorsed by retail giants such as Nordstrom, Sephora, etc.

Apart from an ardent love for live music, yoga and ensuring meditation makes it to her daily routine, Sharma loves spending time over champagne with friends. She also volunteers mentor young women and to rescue pets.

“Women tend to put themselves last, particularly when it comes to self-love,” Sharma said. “Do things that fulfill you and carve your identity outside work.”

Looking to read about more such inspiring pioneers? Check out Nandini Menon’s Got Learning on the Brain