How Ankita Thakur Overcame Challenges To Make Breakthroughs In AI

Ankita Thakur reflected on her journey as a woman in STEM, from facing sexist interviewers to enduring the gender pay gap. She shared how her upbringing encouraged her to face challenges and begin her entrepreneurial journey in artificial intelligence.

Tanya Savkoor
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ankita thakur

Ankita Thakur

Artificial intelligence has become a cornerstone of modern innovation, permeating every facet of our lives from healthcare to finance, transportation to entertainment. Behind the algorithms and breakthroughs, exists a diverse cadre of creative minds shaping the future of our world. Among these visionaries is Ankita Thakur, the founder of GeoIQ, a ‘location intelligence’ B2B platform that can streamline the right sites for business success. Inspired by her physicist mother, Thakur had always been a nerd for numbers and science. She leveraged this passion to make big waves in the AI industry, despite the barriers imposed on women in STEM.


Speaking to SheThePeople, Thakur narrated her journey as a woman in the tech industry, from facing sexist interviewers to enduring the gender pay gap. She described how her family and upbringing encouraged her to overcome these challenges and embark on her AI entrepreneurial journey.

Excerpts From The Interview

What role did your childhood play in choosing your career path?

I grew up in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. I have a younger sister and my mother is a physics teacher. My mother has been my role model in many ways. She’s a gold medalist in Physics and has been teaching for over 3 decades now. The inclination towards STEM thus was inculcated from a very early age. My environment was of course relatively conservative and there is usually subtle conditioning for girls and women on what they should prioritize in life. However fortunately for me, that wasn’t the case. My mother always emphasized the importance of being financially independent and raised me to prioritize that in life.

When I look back at my childhood today, I realize that even my father never treated me differently because of my gender. He endeavoured to teach me and my sister every life skill he considered important for an adult to be self-sufficient irrespective of their gender, whether it was teaching us how to change a lightbulb or the basics of electrical appliances at home. He never conveyed a gender-specific role for us in life and raised us to be capable of running our households on our own when we grew up. I am cognizant of what a huge privilege my upbringing has been for me and how empowering the lack of conditioning can be for women. 

What piqued your interest in the field of data science and artificial intelligence? 


Numbers have always attracted my interest and mathematics has been my go-to from a young age. The more I delved into the world of numbers I recognized a knack for identifying patterns in numbers and understood that this is where I would like to dig deeper in my career. After becoming a data scientist myself, I developed entrepreneurial ambitions and wanted to solve problems at scale with data. With GeoIQ, I have co-founded a startup that is revolutionizing retail space with location intelligence and ML-led analysis. 

What has your experience as a woman in a STEM career been?

I never faced obvious, in my face discrimination at workplaces but I was always aware of the pay gap that existed between me and my male peers. One incident I recall very vividly is an interview I took when I was around 25. It was the final round of my interview process and the CTO of a large platform startup asked me if I had any plans to get married. While I didn’t see how that question was relevant to my qualifications for the job, I responded with a no. To my surprise, he insisted that it doesn’t matter what I think, since I am 25 my dad is bound to get me married anytime now. The perception around the agency of women or the lens through which we look at women is determined way before we enter the workplace because of societal conditioning from both men and women.

Throughout my journey, I have always taken the initiative to take the lead and communicate what I can deliver in my role and own responsibility instead of waiting for it to be assigned to me and that has changed how people assessed me. When women own their ambitions and show conviction in their values, we change the narrative from our gender to what we bring to the table. 

When I initially climbed up the corporate ladder to gain managerial and team lead positions, I would almost always be the only woman in meeting rooms and strategic discussions. In those days it made me feel proud of myself for being able to make a place for myself at the table but today I question it. When we prefix gender as a label for having a 'woman CDO' or 'female Co-founder' it makes it sound like an exception when it should be the norm. We are in 2024 and well aware that leadership roles are agnostic of gender and about time we normalize the fact that women can be CDOs and CEOs and more without inserting the token gender moniker.

Share a story from any time in your journey, when you felt proud of yourself. Is there a particular moment in your career that you look back to whenever you want to feel confident?


My journey has been gratifying and full of moments of pride. Right from leaping betting on myself to leave a well-paying job to start my venture to choosing the mission of building a category from scratch in the B2B space has been daunting yet exhilarating. I continue to have moments of self-doubt through the course of this journey but every time we deliver to a client, it’s an insanely satisfying feeling. Knowing that we are making a sizable difference in Indian retail and reinventing the offline expansion playbook, innovating for a space that hasn’t seen disruption for half a century is what keeps me driven and motivated.

When not working, what are your favourite activities to feel rejuvenated? Describe how important downtime and personal care are to people in leadership.

I love to travel and make time for it a few times a year. There is a unique joy in discovering new terrains, and cultures, witnessing sunsets and exploring. I think it's very important to disconnect and pause every once in a while to recharge your senses and rediscover your purpose.

In addition to that, I practice mindfulness in my daily life very religiously. By no means am I a fitness enthusiast but what being mindful means is that I am very intentional about my body, the food that I intake, the products I use, and the daily activities I do. Mindfulness towards your body ensures you are making the same efforts for your body that it makes for you day on day to keep you going.

women in STEM artificial intelligence ankita thakur