While looking at the colossal picture of 72 percent of scientific researchers across the world constitute men, in the percentage of female engineers by country, India playing a key role in spinning the tiller. Over the years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of women enrolling for studying and working in the engineering field.
India’s astounding realization over the requirement of women coders, engineers, mathematicians, and physicists to vaporize the social barriers would shape a more inclusive workplace for women. Among the famous STEM engineers in India, we have picked four most influential women who have immensely contributed to the field guiding other women along the journey. Here are the current female leaders in STEM who had batten down the hatches to achieve their foremost goals in the career.
Janaki Ammal is not only famed as the first woman botanist in India, but also for her works in the field of cytogenetics, evolution, and phytogeography. Her contribution to the Indian botanical research remains unheard other than from academic circles. She joined the Sugarcane Breeding Station at Coimbatore to work on sugarcane biology. Janaki funneled her efforts to manipulate polyploid cells through cross-breeding of hybrids and developed a high yielding strain of the sugarcane that is mature for Indian conditions.
Fascinated by her work, Royal Horticulture Society invited Janaki to work as a cytologist at Wisley, which was famous for the collection of plants around the world. She was awarded Padma Shri in 1977 for her commendable donations to science in India. An awe-inspiring woman who found pursuit in the field of science, Janaki Ammal believed that she should be remembered through her work. While she passed away on February 1984, her obituary stated “She was devoted to her studies and research until the end of her life.”
Tuning the year to 1953, the Department of Communication Engineering at IISc, Bangalore had their first woman faculty Rajeshwari Chatterjee. Born in the year 1922, Rajeshwari had the privilege to receive higher education. After completing M.Sc, she was given a scholarship to pursue higher education abroad by the Government of Delhi. She enrolled for Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Michigan.
Being a person having active interest in doing research, Rajeshwari had mentored almost 20 PhD students and authored seven books related to microwave engineering and antennae. She was presented with many accolades and recognition for her contribution to the field of microwave engineering, which includes Mountbatten prize from Institute of Electrical and Radio Engineering in UK. She is recognized as “one of the first women achievers” by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. Once Rajeshwari paved the way, other women started choosing it for fulfilling their career goal.
Without batting an eye towards the corporate world or a career in computer engineering, Prerana Sharma placed her hands over a career in pure science. To be more specific, she zeroed in on the study of soft condensed matter physics. “I was interested in knowing more about how fluids interact with each other in a two-dimensional world,” once said Sharma. By specializing in soft matter, she also wallows in her interest in chemistry and biology. Sharma’s area of specialization is alien to the majority who are familiar with popular sciences.
“There exists a social bias, when women have to make most compromises. Gender should not be a factor when it takes to create brilliant research,” Sharma argues. She was called ‘The Scientist of Small Things’ in Forbes 30 under 30 lists.
Often dubbed as the ‘Rocket Woman’ of India, Ritu Karidhal well balances her role as an Aerospace Engineer and a mom. Being an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Science, Karidhal has been involved in the ISRO’s dream projects, including Mangalyaan.
When Karidhal was appointed as the mission director of Chandrayaan 2, it heralded a new era in the history of women scientists in the country and the world. For her, it was not the ten months of painstaking efforts of the launch, but the overwhelming success and the opportunity to create something bigger than her and the team marked a distinct memory in the Chandrayaan 2 mission. For Ritu Karidhal, sky is no longer a limit.