Farheen Fauziya, IEEE OES Liaison to WIE
I became the IEEE OES liaison to WIE in October 2018 and have since been looking for an occasion to share the story of WIE in India. The opportunity presented itself in the form of the Annual General Body Meeting (AGM) 2019 of IEEE Delhi section. I had shared the news of my appointment with Prof. Ranjan Mallik, Fellow IEEE and a senior faculty member at IIT Delhi, a couple of days before the event. He made a strong case for my attending the AGM. I had been skeptical before this interaction, but my conversation with him converted me.
I arrived at the event at 6 pm and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Vice-chairman and treasurer of our section were both women. It got even better as the evening progressed. The section elected a woman as the chairman, a very well deserved appointment I may add. Prof. Prerana Gaur, is the new chairperson, and has in her team no less than 5 women members. The vice chairperson, joint secretary and treasurer are women. I was fortunate to spend some time with the incumbent joint secretary Prof. Shabana, recipient of the “R10 2018 education activities outstanding volunteer” award. She is a role model for the vast majority of Indian women engineers, a growing community whose potential is not fully recognized at this time. Another woman researcher, Prof. Bhuvneshwari, Fellow IEEE, won the prestigious “Wanda Reder pioneer in power” award.
The event was attended by six IEEE Fellows, one of whom is a Life Fellow and another is a women. The ratio is skewed but it is encouraging that we do have a woman IEEE Fellow in our section. I took this opportunity to have a brief tete-a-tete with the IEEE Life Fellow and another Fellow. I wanted their views on the position of WIE; in particular about the status in India. Historically, women have enjoyed an exalted status in India. Women Goddesses have been represented as the strongest forces in the universe and ordinary women have enjoyed equal privileges traditionally. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, women lost this status and were marginalized. This perception of women from India is common around the globe, but does not represent the current picture since there has been a recent resurgence. The conversations were an enlightening experience. I include some excerpts of the interviews.
Mr. H. L. Bajaj, Life Fellow, was extremely eulogizing of the role of women in the advance of human civilization. I quote him; “behind every successful man is a woman.” Needless to say, this is not the only role that women play in the progress. He went on to say that the role and status of women in society is on the way up and he welcomes this development. He encouraged women to follow their dreams, work hard and reach the pinnacle of their chosen careers. Prof. Ranjan Mallik opened the conversation with the story of Hedy Lamarr. She was not only a brilliant researcher but also a celebrated actress. In a world where people struggle to be average in one field, she excelled in two. The status of WIE has only gotten better since: Prof. Mallik spoke of many women who have made fundamental contributions in the area of engineering—Prof. Adrea Goldsmith, Prof. Urbashi Mitra, Prof. G. Bhuvneshwari and, Prof. Sneh Anand to name a few. He too shared the opinion of Mr. Bajaj that the status of women in India is headed in the right direction, which is heartening to note. Two of the top brains in the country share the opinion that the role of women in Engineering is set to rise further and both were extremely happy with this situation. He shared one concern though, the number of women in top engineering institutes in India is still low and should be addressed on an urgent basis.
The evening was invigorating, and I was driven to share my experience with fellow members of the WIE community. I am a firm believer of the important role women can play in engineering, and this affair redoubled my faith and enthusiasm to contribute to this cause.