When I joined the College of Engineering, Guindy, India, in 1966, I was one of a handful of women in a class of hundreds of men. I was singularly focused on getting an engineering education, and it never occurred to me that I didn’t belong there. I did not pause to question what it was like for women who entered the engineering field long before me and paved the way for me. Today, my alma mater boasts an almost 50/50 split of men and women.
I learned all about the women who came before me when researching and writing my book Roots and Wings. Their inspirational life stories demonstrate academic excellence, courage, perseverance, and resilience.
They broke many biases against women to do what they set out to do in their lives.
Let us celebrate these trailblazers today on # InternationalWomen’sDay.
Narayani graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), Chennai, India, in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. She received a Ph.D. in structural engineering from Imperial College, London, in 1971. She has the honor of being the first woman from CEG to receive a doctorate.
I had the opportunity to talk about Roots and Wings with Hari, my fellow alum from College of Engineering, Guindy. I am thrilled to have four of the women from Roots and Wings provide their takes on what it meant to them to study engineering. Thank you, Nalini, Radha, Kalpa, and Indira! You can click on specific links (in the video description) to hear them talk.
Recently I was invited to give a talk on Women’s Empowerment at the San Francisco Tamil Manram. This article is based on the webinar I delivered in Tamil. One of my mentees who is currently doing her engineering undergraduate was surprised by some of the challenges I mention. That comes from belonging to the privileged class of women. Keep in mind that when I talk about women, I am talking about all women in the world and my frame of reference is the Indian culture. Challenges unique to women in technical professions are also discussed.
In the early twentieth century, we considered engineering education a man’s prerogative. Civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering were the main engineering disciplines. Today, engineering encompasses many more specializations such as computer engineering, software engineering, and computer science. Many women have successful careers in these disciplines, and the future looks bright for Indian women in engineering.