Prominent author and engineering teacher, Sudha Murty tells us how a postcard to JRD Tata kick-started her engineering journey.

Women have often been inadequately represented in physically inclined jobs and many have done their bit to fill this prevalent gender gap. One such example of a strong female figure who took a step forward to be employed at the shop floor level she is the renowned engineer and author Sudha Murty. What step did she take? What happened as a result? Did she succeed? Infosys chairperson, Sudha Murty talks to SheThePeople.TV to answer these questions. Watch the video or read below!

Who is Sudha Murty?

Sudha Murty, an eminent writer in English and Kannada languages has worked with many organisations to make society a better place for all to live. She began her professional career as a computer scientist and engineer and is currently the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation as well as a member of public health care initiatives of the Gates Foundation. Apart from this, she has received many awards not only in the field of literature but also for social work. In 2006, she was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

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Murty did well in the interview and was told that she would be given the job. But there was a reason why they did not want any women. As it was a shift job and normally women are not comfortable in such a scenario.

This is why she wrote a postcard to JRD Tata

TELCO’s job application said “Young energetic engineers required. Ladies students need not apply.” This as Sudha says, made her very upset and instead of letting it go she decided to write a postcard to JRD Tata and do something about the gender bias the company was promoting through its recruitment procedure.

Here’s what she wrote on the postcard

Sudha Murty says that she wrote, “What you are doing is wrong because TATA as a company are always ahead of time. If a socially aware company like yours stops recruiting women, then how do you expect society to change?” By questioning the world-renowned company’s recruitment policy, the she resolutely aimed at influencing a decision that could have changed the mind-set of a major section of society that looks down upon the physical and mental abilities of women.

The response she received

When JRD Tata received that letter he called his team and inquired as to why they took such a decision. Further, he asked them to call Sudha Murty for an interview to test her technical knowledge and to be given the job if she seemed appropriate. The team responded by stating that the training was in Jamshedpur which is in Bihar and girls would be unwilling to go there. He asked them to first interview her and make sure if she was capable of the job or not.

Why did they not want women?

Murty did well in the interview and was told that she would be given the job. But there was a reason why they did not want any women. As it was a shift job and normally women are not comfortable in such a scenario. Moreover, the plant where she was to work had no female employees and women hardly have exposure to supervising workers. The only woman who had stepped into the plant was Indira Gandhi during her tenure as the Prime Minister of India. They asked her how they could employ her in that plant. To this Murty said, “You always have to take a step to start something. And if you don’t permit women to work on a shop floor, over a period of time, no woman will come and then how will you improve society?” That’s how Sudha Murty managed to convince them to give her the job.

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This happened later

She decided not to take the job as she was adamant on going abroad to pursue her PhD. She told her father about the entire story of how a postcard to JRD Tata led to a job offer from TELCO which she was now reluctant to join. Her father said to her if she had no intention to join they why did she raise the question of equality. He further made her realise that declining the offer would mean running away from the responsibility of ensuring employment equality. So, she accepted the job and thus she became the first lady technical officer in TELCO.

“What you are doing is wrong because TATA as a company are always ahead of time. If a socially aware company like yours stops recruiting women, then how do you expect society to change?”

Sudha Murty claims, “There is nothing great about me writing a letter to JRD Tata, it is great about JRD reading a postcard sent by a girl who is from a small town like Hubli, who did not have any political connection, who did not have any money connection, who did not know anyone in Mumbai, questioning him what is wrong in hiring a lady engineer. And I value his patience, his time and his thinking more than my letter.”

Saavriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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