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At VigyanShaala, we equip youth with quality STEM skills through project-based learning to enable social and transformational change. Our goal is to facilitate the creation of innovative, youth lead ecosystems for mentoring and STEM skilling at the community level.

Indian Women, Global Journeys in Engineering

– By Himanshi Bahl, Communication Intern VigyanShaala

On the occasion of International Women in Engineering Day (23rd June 2020), VigyanShaala hosted a live session with two talented young engineers who are making their mark on the global technology and engineering platform – Dr. Nikita Hari and Dr. Megha Agrawal.

The session was conducted with the idea to galvanize the younger generation, under  VigyanShaala International’s flagship Program Kalpana to inspire more girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines. VigyanShaala is bringing stories of inspiring Women in STEM, scientists, researchers and professionals from around the globe to the students in India.

Indian females make up 48.02 % of the population (as in 2018) but women constitute merely 14% of the total 280,000 scientists, engineers and technologists in research development institutions in India. These numbers clearly display the gender gap in STEM that VigyanShaala seeks to bridge. Increasing visibility of role models is imperative for designing comprehensive solutions for countering this challenge of our times. 

Dr. Megha shared her inspiring journey that spans several continents. She highlighted parts of her journey that inspired the young audience greatly. In her words, “My journey is a drop in the ocean, there are many others” that students can draw encouragement from. She highlighted how her work and research has been interdisciplinary and how disciplines working in tandem should be the norm today.

She also shared career highlights and life lessons that served as turning points. One should not be afraid to be first and only one, in any place. Women in engineering are rare. Dr Aggarwal aspires that this would not be a norm in future. She beseeched the youth to not be afraid to ask anyone anything but to always speak your mind as others are willing to help. Her family inspired her to observe and absorb things around. This led to making the right connections and joining the dots in her career. Her career choices were driven by her affinity for  Maths, Physics and Biology.

She feels that Science itself is totally interdisciplinary. Her interest in Engineering ,medicine and Art all converged when she specialised in Biomedical Engineering. Her project on Circadian Ambulatory BP Monitoring at the end of her 4 years undergraduate degree  gave her beneficial insights into how research is conducted. Her going to IIT Bombay was nothing short of a dream to advance her opportunities in Biomedical Engineering. Getting a chance to explore her interests to make healthcare affordable for marginalised communities. She went on to work on Hole in Heart and Blue Baby Syndrome that led her to design a cheap and effective Stent (patent 2013) inspired by badminton shuttle. Her role as a Design Engineer at Stryker Global Tech Center was multifaceted and focussed on implants and bone plates for fracture or trauma.

Her decisions were based on the answer to How does one define need and which problems need to be solved. She encouraged students not to limit thinking as these are incremental solutions, not out of box. She combined the roles of a mother and a scientist skillfully and asked others out there to not let uncertainty drive their decisions.   

Following Dr Megha Agrawal’s talk, Dr. Nikita Hari who already has two startups to her credit was introduced. Dr Hari started by thanking CoViD-19 warriors and mentioned that women are affected disproportionately and unjustly by Covid, but asserted that CoViD-19 has clearly highlighted that women are the working heros, especially as frontline workers. She was hopeful that now more girls would be attending and completing STEM courses in schools and colleges.

Dr Hari mentioned that she sees Engineering as a tool that improves the quality of life, contains seeds of future productivity and growth and makes things work better in general. She stressed that it’s time for us to change the the tragic representation of women in STEM disciplines to envision a better future.

She shared that throughout her career trajectory as an engineer, transitions were not smooth sailing. Looking back and looking forward she sees gender specific growth obstacles that affect a woman’s journey in Engineering.

Early on in school, her mother served as encouragement to march on and later she broke away from the stereotypical idea of education as a hindrance to marital aspects. She then decided not to allow her future to be dictated by anyone. Thus started her inspiring journey to become the pioneer she is today. A topper of the class throughout her school and gold medalist for both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Engineering, she advised the youth to be disciplined and dedicated to their goal.s Dr. Hari also emphasised that students should not hesitate in reaching out for help. As she realised her aptitude for research and teaching, her dreams got bigger. A decision to study abroad broadened her view of the world. Her only mantra was to never give up as she had come this far, after rebelling, tearing social set up, and stereotypes that tried to contain her dreams. With a belief to bridge the digital divide and help youth come out of poverty, she co-founded two social tech startups – Favalley and Wudi. She was later placed in the Top 50 women in Engineering.

She stressed that its important to not give up in the face of adversity. Citing personal example, she used challenges in her life as an opportunity to help others. Her personal experiences as a graduate student at the University of Cambridge persuaded her to get involved with student leadership and policy at the University, bringing many long term changes. Her personal journey inspired her to mentor and pay forward to help girls while contributing to policy and diplomacy. Her moto, Engage, Educate and Inspire youngsters to engineer society for good!! 

The session was a grand success with a very enthusiastic audiences. The speakers inspired many to break out of their shells via their arduous journeys and motivated others. The feedback received was extremely positive as the audience not only gained insights but also knowledge. 

Some Feedback from the audience 

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