[Women in STEM] Foram Rajdev, Chair – Women In Engineering, & Young Professionals – IEEE, Gujarat

By : |July 7, 2021 3

With more than a decade of experience in teaching Mathematics, Foram Rajdev is a professor working for Marwadi University at Rajkot – Gujarat. She is doing her research work on Mathematical Modelling on liquid electronics, and currently serving as Chair – Women In Engineering and Chair – Young Professionals for IEEE – Gujarat Section. She is also a Committee Member at WIE – IEEE Asia Pacific Region for 2021-2022 and taking care of the Young Indians Thalir, Rajkot Chapter as a Chair and helping the School Children in their academic and social growth.

Foram has worked on several projects for the upliftment of students, young professionals, women, and hence the Society; and she believes that this has helped widen her network and stay connected with the world. The empowerment of women will result in the overall development of the society both at the micro and macro level, so she is actively involved with WIE IEEE to give more women the strong roots that will enable them to grow strong wings and chalk out a path towards fulfilling their life and career goals. Foram firmly believes in giving back to society!

Read her exclusive interaction in the ongoing series on CiOL – Women in STEM.

What got you interested in technology?

We live in an age where technology is deep-rooted into our social cultures. I cannot fathom a day when I’m not actively using technology. Characteristically, I am not someone who can sit in one place and relax. Each moment, I aim to grab every opportunity, and technology gives me that push to grow and advance. I believe each one of us is a lifelong learner. If you are a good learner, you will always be driven to know, unlearn and re-learn, and impart your knowledge to others. I belong to the “good learners” community and my curiosity of learning and spreading knowledge is fulfilled by the world of technology – where every moment we are witnessing change. The more I study technology, the more I believe that anything is possible.

As a research scholar, my role is to bring advancement to technology and spread knowledge to the next generation, who can continue educating others.

Has the inclusion of Women in STEM changed over the years? How can the change be snowballed?

The scenario is improving, but still, we have miles to go. There is a noticeable difference in the gender gap in STEM fields, but I would also mention that it has been reduced significantly in recent years due to the efforts taken by governments globally. While there has been great progress, in many countries, women still succumb to societal pressures and hide behind a wall of anonymity and silence.

In my opinion, change should come from a woman herself, with every woman supporting one another. And above all, there should be a change in mindset. Take a pause and think – why is a female child always gifted a doll or a kitchen set or a pink frock? Why not gift her a robot or a toy car? Why are girls trained for kitchen work and not for repairing machines or circuits? Through such a stereotypical mindset, we are hindering their research abilities and skills from childhood. But it is not impossible to change this scenario. There are millions of women who are successful in their STEM careers, women who can be mentors and a source of inspiration to many girls.

These women should be identified, and more girls should be encouraged to work with them for collaborative research projects. I am sure that if we take these little steps, a big change is sure to come. Together, if organizations, community leaders, and school teachers encourage women in STEM education, and consider this the top priority, we can begin to bring in the winds of change.

In the new normal, how are the roles of women in tech changing? What are the new challenges for women in tech?

There are always two sides to a coin. The pandemic may have forced some women to choose between their career and family, but this new normal has redefined the possibilities of remote working and opened new doors for women in tech. The concept of ‘Work from home’ has encouraged and empowered many women and thus, more women are now looking at reframing and reshaping their careers. This is the time for women to step up and work towards upskilling themselves, staying updated with the latest technology. This can be a unique opportunity for women who have always aspired to do something more.

I would also like to share my own experience of this new normal. Before the pandemic, I had many opportunities to visit other countries for research projects, panel discussions/conferences, expert talks, etc., but most of the time I’ve had to decline, because of my family responsibilities. We, as women, are jugglers who juggle work, family, society, health, and culture – and all these balls are glass. Once dropped, they would never be the same. Thanks to the new virtual world, I could visit several countries without any hurdles – albeit virtually. I won’t be surprised if the future unfolds with a hybrid model that will enable women to pursue their dreams without disturbing their responsibilities. So, yes, there are challenges, but I see them coming as disguised opportunities.

The impact of women in technology is undeniable. What do you think should be the ways to keep women engaged and appreciated in the workforce?

Yes, the impact of women in technology is undeniable. A woman in tech sets the purpose of life and living, and thus the foundation for a society. We have a huge force of strong, independent women putting their best efforts forward to bring technological advancements through focused research work. But the sad truth, as shown in recent research, is that women in tech are 4X more likely than men to see gender bias as an obstacle to promotion. When we see the ratio of women in leadership, men are more likely to be hired for managerial roles than women.

I personally believe women have the best negotiation and managing skills. They manage a lot of things at one time including, family, friends, work, expenses, and much more. These are different pieces of a jigsaw, and every woman knows how to make it a whole. These women are so involved and capable and I strongly believe they should be promoted to leadership positions. No one has to take extra efforts to engage women – as many women are already engaged.

What should organizations do to further advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the new hybrid workplace?

The pandemic has pushed us all into a new work model – a hybrid model – and we can envision a future where hybrid workplaces will thrive. We witnessed during the disruptive crisis that diversity, equality, and inclusion can boost productivity. When you have a workforce with diverse cultures, diverse places, and diverse religions, it becomes crucial to know their needs, and that is possible if you have a core team that can facilitate an inclusive work culture. For many organizations, a hybrid workplace has become the focus that can be advanced by designing a ‘win-win’ plan for all the stakeholders.

As this evolves, the implementation plans may change. To bring that change, to reframe and redesign the model, feedback of stakeholders must be taken and implemented regularly to embrace transformation.

How can India Inc attract more women to STEM careers?

We must build a culture of STEM interest in women at an early age. Project-based Learning, Industrial Visits, Research lab visits, technical talks, career guidance seminars, collaborative experiments, research reading, educational workshops, and mentoring sessions are just a few examples of programs that should be started at the school level to build interest in STEM.

As per the latest “Research and Development Statistics, 2019-20” of DST, India has 16.6% women researchers directly engaged in R&D activities. There are several reasons for the lower participation of women in R&D. This includes familial issues like marriage, family responsibility, relocation due to transferable job of the spouse, etc. The government of India has already taken some steps to attract more women to STEM careers.

The “Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN)” Scheme of DST had been instituted to encourage women scientists through various programs in the field of Science and Technology (S&T). ‘Women Scientist Scheme (WOS)’ under KIRAN provides career opportunities, including fellowships to unemployed women scientists and technologists, especially those who had a career break, for pursuing research in frontier areas of science and engineering. Under the ‘Consolidation of University Research through Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities (CURIE)’ Programme, only women Universities are being supported for the development of research infrastructure and creation of state-of-the-art research laboratories to enhance women’s participation in the S&T domain.

Mobility Scheme under KIRAN addresses relocation issues of working women scientists and provides support in project mode for 2-5 years. To recognize the contribution of women scientists in the field of Earth System Sciences, the Ministry of Earth Sciences has initiated a special award called the “National Award for woman scientist” and is being conferred to one woman scientist each year on Foundation Day. Multifaceted initiatives have been launched by DST to encourage women entrepreneurship under Start-up India-Stand up India.

Therefore, it is important to spread awareness regarding these schemes and programs – propagating these programs is the key factor benefiting the maximum number of women.

3 Comments so far

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  1. Shilpa
    #1 Shilpa 17 July, 2021, 04:15


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  2. Milan
    #2 Milan 17 July, 2021, 06:12

    This is one of the most important ways you can empower women. Young women are deeply influenced by their role models, and you are the one who setting the example ,so make sure you’re a good one. Celebrate different types of beauty, empower women with kindness and strength, and encourage women to make their aspirations a reality.

    Reply this comment
  3. Milan
    #3 Milan 17 July, 2021, 06:18

    This is one of the most important ways you can empower women. Young women are deeply influenced by their role models and you are the one who setting the example, so make sure you’re a good one. Celebrate different types of beauty, empower women with kindness and strength, and encourage women to make their aspirations a reality.

    Reply this comment