Women in technology – “unmarketable product in marriage market?”
I moderated a panel discussion for an in-house ‘Women in Technology’ event in Bangalore this month.
The three women on the panel were an impressive lot — a former defence scientist, a renowned mathematician currently on the Prime Minister’s panel and a former-CEO-turned-entrepreneur.
But there was one common thread that bound them together — their fight against society, among other odds, to gain their glories.
“When I told my family that I wanted to join IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Kharagpur 40 years ago, my relatives said I will be ‘an unmarketable product in the marriage market,'” said Jharna Majumdar, a professor at a technology institute in Bangalore and the retired Head of Aerial Image Exploitation Division (AIED) at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
She has done extensive research on (Sorry, but I just have to mention this acronym too) PPDIESAGRP or Parallel Processing and Development of Image Exploitation System on Aerial and Ground Based Reconnaissance Platforms. Phew! No offence meant but that may have some potential to scare off prospective grooms.
More than half of India’s billion population is below the age of 25, technologically savvy and gender unbiased. Or are they? As a journalism student some years ago, I was never the only girl in a class full of boys.
In fact, there are more girl students in Indian journalism schools than boys. So, what is it about technology and women that men find so intimidating?
“Society is not yet fully ready for women and science,” said Sujatha Ramdorai, awarded for her work on the arithmetic of algebraic varieties and who discovered many years ago “abstract thinking” excited her most.
“Women in India have multiple contextual roles to play and they do it with dexterity and ease,” Ramdorai said. But the onus, they all agreed, lies on the man she marries.
Most working women often source their success stories to a supportive spouse. But then, women can often become obsessive too, said entrepreneur Revathi Kasturi, turning themselves into Type A personalities in their quest to conquer every space they breathe in.
“Super-cook, super-mom and super-employee and they are unable to then juggle it all,” she said. “It’s OK. Just let it be.”
Our technology ladies, the few that attended, said most colleagues in technology let go of their careers after marriage, or at the most when the first kid comes along. This may be either because the spouse was not supportive or she just couldn’t juggle well.
“I would think that a guaranteed nice salary would be an advantage,” said a techie girlfriend of mine who works for Yahoo in India. “Though some guys just looking for comely homely women would be scared off.”
Is this true? Do women in technology appear less comely than say women in medicine or women in journalism? Does the geek in them make them less marketable?