National Technology Day: How Technology Empowers Women
May 11 marks the National Technology Day in India. This day is celebrated to commemorate India’s achievements in technology and innovations as India successfully tested nuclear bombs in Pokharan on May 11, 1998. Today, women are walking hand in hand with men, even when it comes to technology, a field that was considered to be for men solely. Thrashing the cultural barriers and gender bias, women have succeeded in making their mark in the technical field. To celebrate this day, SheThePeople.TV had a twitter chat with Kirthi Jayakumar who is an Indian Social Entrepreneur. She is a Commonwealth Scholar, a VV Lead Fellow, a VV Engage Fellow, a Local Pathways Fellow, and a World Pulse Impact Leader.
How well represented are women in technology in India?
“I am answering this as a consumer of information, without actual hard fact on the statistics of representation. I would say that the representation is still frugal and poor – given that a lot of women are engaged in tech, and are still not “visible.” What happens often is that boardrooms, conferences, panels, and public spaces engaging tech-specific knowledge and intellect comprise all-boys-clubs. Women are neither seen nor heard, and are seldom even spoken of.” says Kirthi.
What role can educational institutions and homes play in helping girls develop an aptitude for science and innovation?
“I think the first step is to nurture interest. If a girl tells you she wants to give tech / coding / STEM a shot, do not stop her. Her interest, skill and passion are not a function of her sex or gender. I remember when I was in Class 10, my Computer Science teacher asked me why I was even in his class. He would gravitate toward the boys and teach them – and I and a handful of other girls were relegated to trying to catch what he was trying to say. I won’t forget the day when I went to the lab one afternoon and he told me I should have just taken arts instead because I didn’t do well in Computer Science. Well, if he had given me a shot at learning equally, I might have done better, yes? It’s interesting to me how I did poorly when I was discouraged, and the same person when I taught myself coding, learnt it in a month’s time – because I was only listening to myself telling me that I had to do it” says Kirthi.
In your experience what are the barriers to girls choosing STEM within homes?
The biggest barrier is encapsulated in this one question: “What are you going to do with a degree in the sciences? You’re going to get married anyway, we cannot afford that much on a degree for you.”
What are the top three reason you feel curtail women climbing the leadership ladder in science?
I suppose it would have to be the presence of a prevailing all-boys club in charge, the attrition in the workspace because of micro aggressions on gender grounds, and the inequality in pay.
How is technology empowering for women?
If a woman (cis, trans) wants to take to technology out of her personal choice, and nothing prevents her from doing so – it is her exercising her personal agency, which is the fundamental baseline for empowerment. By itself, tech is a liberating space given the kind of innovations one can come up with. Coupled with the exercise of personal agency to get into the field, it can be immensely rewarding for a woman (cis, trans) to pursue a career in tech.
What is your advice to young women looking forward to work in the technology sector?
I am frankly not quite “equipped” to give advice – but I’ll definitely share from my journey and say: “Nothing can stop you if you decide you will take to the field. Just be determined, find a woman mentor, and power through.”
Your personal challenges when you entered the tech space as a woman and the learning?
I made a very late entry into the tech field, and on my own terms. I wanted to build a mobile App to help survivors of #GBV find help around the world. My first barrier was the absolute lack of knowledge.