An astrophysicist, a Padma Shri awardee in science and technology, a top scientist at Tata Consultancy Services, the first woman commercial pilot of India and a BAFTA award winning actor were among the women achievers roped in by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to share their experiences on a virtual platform to encourage women in their career paths, especially in science.
Officials of NEERI, hosts of the Women Scientists’ and Entrepreneurs’ Conclave, said the aim of the conclave was to promote “awareness on the importance of the role of women in sustainable growth of the country, via science and technology”.
Gender parity and increasing women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine subjects and having them choose careers in science is being pushed by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The conclave is being held in light of this gender-parity impetus. “The programme will address issues that can accelerate gender equality by including more women in science, technology and innovation, addressing grass root application of science to society and empowering women both in the rural and urban sectors,’’ said an official.
Addressing the conclave, Dr Urmila Mitra Kraev, a plasma physicist at University of Cambridge, said that as a young mother she was aware of the issues related to pursuing a science career. “But the rewards of science discovery are far greater than the difficulties and with planning and determination, things do work out if one is confident of one’s goal,” she said.
Indian physicist and Padma Shri recipient Prof Rohini Godbole talked about her journey from studying physics in Pune to her current position as a particle physicist best known for her work at CERN. Her work on high energy photons could form the basis for the next generation of particle colliders, used to study the fabric and composition of the universe. She said she came from a middle-class family that was supportive of her decision to pursue a career in science.
Harpreet Singh is the first woman to be selected by Air India as the first woman commercial pilot of India in 1988. However, due to health reasons, she had to quit her flying job. Since then, she has been active in other areas of aviation, including flight safety. She has been appointed CEO of the state-run airline’s subsidiary Alliance Air, becoming the first-ever woman to head an Indian carrier.
Dr. Sharmila Mande, Chief Scientist and Head of Bio Sciences R&D in TCS, said she is a strong supporter of women in science, especially in leadership positions.
Dr Mande is one of the first who worked on computational biology. She suggested to follow one’s heart to take up any challenges in life.
Renowned actor Rohini Hattangadi recounted her journey. “One of the most difficult roles was playing middle aged Kasturba Gandhi in Gandhi opposite Ben Kingsley at the age of 27,” said the actor, who has received several awards, including the prestigious BAFTA for the role.
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