With fast-paced digital transformation, the need for a technologically-skilled workforce is the biggest priority. Several Indian women are leading the game with their tech innovations in India and abroad, and the trend is most likely to continue. As per research by Mastercard, STEM-related jobs have grown by 44 percent in the last three years in India, and the country’s digital sectors are expected to create 60-65 million jobs by 2025.
What’s noteworthy is that although 93 percent of girls (aged between 12 and 14) are interested in STEM, according to a survey conducted by Mastercard, 38 percent may not take up this position as the sector is male-dominated.
Let’s take a look at some of the accomplished women who are role models for the younger generation.
Right after the COVID-19 outbreak, India decided to import its diagnostic tool kits. The country was caught unawares, and there was a lack of preparedness to tackle the situation. It was around this time that Sasikala Devi, a researcher and academician at SASTRA Deemed-to-be-University in Tamil Nadu, leveraged her expertise in deep learning and artificial intelligence, and developed her solution – LungXpert. For this, she sourced a dataset of five lakh X-ray images from Stanford University, and studied them closely before she made the prototype.
LungXpert is a simple and affordable tool that helps in the early detection of cardiovascular and pulmonary illnesses, including COVID-19. The solution, which claims to have an accuracy of 90 percent, also earned her accolades at the MyGov COVID-19 Shri Shakti Challenge – a contest to develop solutions to tackle COVID-19. What’s more, it also won an award in the special category of RAISE 2020, a global AI summit organised by the Ministry of Electronics and IT.
A prominent name in STEM, Jaya Jagadish holds the position of the Corporate Vice President of Design Engineering at Advanced Micro Devices. Armed with Master’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas in 1994, she joined AMD in the US, where she held various roles, including that of a Consultant and Design Engineer.
In 2005, she returned to India, and was one of the first team members at AMD India’s development centre in Bengaluru. Jaya took on the important role and built a team of over 400 skilled people who were in charge of designing AMD CPUs.
She has always been a true advocate of women empowerment, emphasising on how the right workplace environment helps women unleash their true potential. Jaya has also introduced several programmes at AMD for women to return to work post a maternity break.
Apple’s Aaksha Meghawat has always had a keen eye for big trends in technology. She works as a Machine Learning Engineer at Apple, and also holds the position of Tech Lead (DRI) for Global Expansion of Hyper-Local Language Models.
A computer science graduate from BITS Pilani, she received an opportunity to be a part of the Graduate Research Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University to do further research in machine learning and data science. To be abreast of the developments in the field, she advised aspiring techies to keep an eye out for online tech courses, and spend 20 percent of their time to figure what the next big problem would be.
She’s well-read, and likes spending her time understanding everything that intersects technology, society, history, and philosophy.
Supriya Rathi Bagri
Another woman leader in STEM worth mentioning is Supriya Rathi Bagri, who is the Founder of the robotic startup RoboVR. Sports has always been a part of her life, and she believes it is what has made her so disciplined, organised, and a team player.
Making the most of her two interests – robotics and sports – Supriya has been organising the annual robotic sports championship with IIT-Bombay, giving a futuristic spin to 30 sports, including basketball, football, archery, boxing, cricket, golf, tug of war, skating, arm wrestling, cycling, and relay race. The startup also offers water sports like rowing, swimming as well as Quidditch – a sport only Potterheads will know about!
In 2019, the championship was sponsored by Microsoft and the government programme National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
The Head of AAU Products at Automation Anywhere, Rashmi is also the Founder of eWOW, a women empowerment platform. She dons several hats – that of an influencer, startup adviser, and a global keynote speaker.
It was years ago when Rashmi entered the world of technology, thanks to a scholarship she received for a three-year computer course at NIIT. There has been no looking back since. A recipient of Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley last year, she is keen on empowering women in her professional capacity and is vocal about discriminations at the workplace.
Also read: COVID-19 Impact Led to 24% Decline in Funding Amount in H1 2020 for Women Tech Entrepreneurs: MAKERS India Report
Padma Priya Gaggara
As Principal Group Engineer Manager at Microsoft, Padma firmly believes that machine learning and artificial intelligence can change the world. A BTech graduate in Computer Science from JNTU in Hyderabad, and Master’s from the University of Arizona, Padma, for the last 18 years, has leveraged her capabilities to build solutions for tech giants like Outlook, Hotmail, ecommerce sector, tech, health, and travel, among others.
As a child, Padma was keenly interested in Maths, which is what made her take a career leap towards tech. The techie believes exposing girls to subjects like maths, science, and analytics in their childhood take up careers in STEM fields.
The Managing Director of AnitaB.org India, Maggie has always believed in encouraging women to follow their dreams in STEM. A computer engineering graduate from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Tiruchirappalli, she was one of nine girls in the engineering class of 40, and since then, she has always wanted to bridge this gender gap in STEM.
After completing her education, she started as a Software Engineer at Infosys. It was in 1996 that she founded Optimus Prime Solutions to make technology tools available for entrepreneurs. Her other venture is a non-profit organisation called Mandram that makes information available in vernacular languages.
She has always felt that women must break the glass ceiling, and not be held back by their domestic responsibilities. The leader is now working towards achieving a target of 50/50 Tech Equity by 2025.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)
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