This Year, I’ve Been Working With BEMPU Health, A For-Profit Social Enterprise That Develops And Commercializes Medical Technologies For Newborns In Low-Resource Areas. We Are A Tech Startup. Most People Think Of Tech And Startups As Very Male-Dominated Spaces. My Experience At BEMPU Has Been Unique, However, In That Despite Having More Men Than Women On Our Team, I’ve Found That My Female Colleagues Have Been The Most Instrumental In Shaping The Direction And Success Of BEMPU. I Wanted To Shine A Light On Some Of My Colleagues Here; They Are Inspiring, Supportive, And Incredibly Good At What They Do At BEMPU.
Gini Morgan is the Director of Public Health and Partnerships at BEMPU. She is a former AIF Clinton Fellow, and worked with KHAMIR in Bhuj, Gujarat. After her fellowship, she stayed in India and eventually joined the BEMPU team. Gini is my mentor and has become a close friend in Bangalore. I’ve had the pleasure of supporting her work in Public Health and Partnerships, but also in watching her play an instrumental role in the growth and development of BEMPU as a company. Without her efforts, it’s unclear if BEMPU would have such global reach and respect within the public health community. Aside from running our clinical work, developing relationships with partners across India and the globe, and evaluating and articulating our impact, Gini does a bit of everything at BEMPU. She helps with sales, government strategy, presents at conferences around the world, has even helped with packaging, and more. I’ve learned a lot from Gini and feel very grateful to have her as a mentor. I had the chance to interview Gini, which you can read below.
Q: What drew you to India?
A: There wasn’t a specific draw to India the first time I came here. The first time I came it was to study abroad because I was interested in this program here about the intersection of health and human rights. I lived in Delhi – that was kind of a hard place to be. I remember thinking I could never live here. But I loved my professors and people I met; and, I got to do a lot of fieldwork up north, in the Himalayas. I was able to see a lot more of India and kind of fell in love with it. When I was back in the US, I missed things about India. I really liked how you got things done here—you had to go meet someone face to face to get things done, instead of an email culture, which kind of drove me crazy. I really wanted to get back to India to continue health education, so when I got the AIF Clinton Fellowship, it was exactly what I wanted.
Q: What drew you to the public sector/public health?
A: When I was 16, I did Model UN. I was chosen to be a Youth Ambassador and got a trip to China as part of that. Originally, I was supposed to make a documentary on food and culture. But in May, there was the Schezwan Earthquake, and I was supposed to stay in Chengdu, which was close to the epicenter. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go or not. The other Youth Ambassador and I decided we still wanted to go. We went and made a documentary about the relief efforts going on there. Before that, I never really had any relationship to social work or saw anything outside of my suburban upbringing. That was a very impactful trip for me. When I came back to the States, I realized how incredibly lucky I was and was more aware of all the privileges I had. My school had a Service Learning program and I became very involved with that and eventually became the President of that. I worked closely with an organization called Singleton Moms and did a lot of community service. All of this brought me to Tulane, where I had a Community Service Scholarship. There are 10 per year, and you have additional community service hours—you are thrown into the New Orleans community. I ran some of the largest days of service in the country when I was in New Orleans. A lot of the scholars were in public health—it was a natural fit. It was easy to do the work we were doing and tie it to academic learning when you focused on public health. It was a pretty natural path for me based on the community service work I was doing.
Q: How did you end up at BEMPU?
A: When I was an AIF Clinton Fellow in rural Gujarat, I knew that I wanted to stay in India. I had done Delhi, I had done a rural area, and I wanted to do another part of India. I visited Bangalore and I absolutely loved it and I knew it was kind of a perfect place for development work. I reached out to other fellows in Bangalore and I got connected to Ratul before BEMPU even had funding. They barely had a prototype. I had a phone call with him to just have a conversation about the health scene in Bangalore. He really sold me on Bangalore and the startup community here. I moved to Bangalore a couple months later, but I was working with a different company. I was working for a startup that worked on Electronic Medical Records and I was a Product Manager. They offered me a one-year contract and a guaranteed job out in San Francisco. But, I felt really removed and there was nothing that challenging or exciting about it. Then I saw that BEMPU was hiring; I had already talked to Ratul. I met him out at a Social Enterprise happy hour and then came in for an interview and met the whole team the next day. I was really sold on the mission and the type of work BEMPU was doing, and I felt that it was a really good place for me to feel passionate about my work again. I had 2 job offers but I knew BEMPU was the place that was more exciting for me, so I chose to take the job at BEMPU.
Q: What has been your most memorable moment or experience working at BEMPU?
A: The trip that Ratul and I took to Shivpuri [in Madhya Pradesh] is very memorable, I think for both of us. I think it was one of the most low-resource hospitals both of us had ever been to. There were not enough warmers, doctors—not enough of anything. There was a cow running out of the hospital—I vividly remember that. In the car ride back, we were both so excited because we were there for a meeting with UNICEF—that was kind of the dream, to work with an organization like UNICEF and to serve those extremely vulnerable populations.
Q: How do you see yourself at BEMPU—tell me about your role.
A: My original title was Director of Impact, Public Health and Partnerships. I’ve shortened that to Director of Public Health, because I think that encompasses everything. I think a lot of my work is focused on the social mission of BEMPU, the impact, the monitoring and evaluation, and the way to articulate our impact. Being the only public health person in a health startup is challenging but also exciting. Everyone is kind of on the same page—everyone is sold on the mission and wants to impact children’s health. But, being able to put the work that we do into language for the broader global health community has been really fun for me but also very necessary for BEMPU. So, I’ve seen BEMPU grow a lot—from no one knowing our name to be a public health leader in India, and I don’t think that would have happened without the public health focus that we have.
Q: How do you feel about being a woman in the tech space?
A: I never really thought of myself as a “STEM” [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] person. But then, since I’ve been out in the real world, I’ve realized I do actually have a lot of hard skills in math and science that I never really realized I had—I always saw public health as sort of a soft science. But a lot of what we do in our clinical work requires hard math and analytical skills. I remember when I was home in October, I was talking to some of my young girl cousins, and I am the first woman on that side of the family to go to college. I was trying to explain to them what I do, and I was struggling to explain it. My brother said, “She’s a scientist” and I was like—yea I guess I am, but I had never thought of that way. And then, earlier this year I was asked to speak at the Inter-Agency Development Bank Conference on STEM, and I was surprised they wanted me there but so excited to go. There was one day they invited girls from college in STEM to attend the conference. Having the girls ask me questions about the work that I do and how I got to where I am, it was just something I never expected being able to do. I felt like I actually did have responses for them and advice for them about how to break into this field. It was a very touching moment to feel like I was in some way a role model to these girls who wanted to get involved in STEM. For them to listen to my talk and want to talk to me after, and for them to feel that they might want to be involved in health and technology because of my talk—it was just really cool.
Q: Do you have advice for other women who want to be in the tech space or in the social enterprise space?
A: Yes. I know that when I started, I doubted myself a lot. I was just excited to have a seat at the table. Looking back, I wish I owned that seat a little bit more. You know, I always felt lucky or happy to be there—but I never thought I belonged there. But looking back, I definitely belonged there. My advice to young women is to own your spot. Know that you are there for a reason and you’ve done everything to earn your spot and get yourself there. Really just continue to work on making your spot bigger and more dominant until eventually you’re at the head of the table, and you can’t do that unless you are sure of yourself, confident, and sure of the work that you do. Also negotiate your salaries at the beginning! J