Engineered to excel

WOMAN POWER

Engineered to excel

For the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed fresher eager to learn trade secrets from seniors, this is a forum to build career and character. For the mid-career woman, grappling with the challenges of handling demanding projects and bringing up kids, this is a forum to learn survival strategies. And, for the woman engaged with breaking the glass ceiling, this is the place to share wisdom and find inspiration to scale greater professional heights.

Whichever way you look at Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), the largest forum for women engineers in the world, it’s a welcome opportunity for women to network with fellow professionals.

“Computer science and engineering are no longer male bastions. Yet, women remain a minority in the engineering workspace,” said Yolanda, global head of diversity for Google, who was here at the first-ever GHC in India recently.

“We are working our way up and proving our worth in a team of innovators, whose work changes the way people look at technology. At the same time, we recognise that there are constraints that limit women engineers from taking that crucial step ahead in their careers and moving forward with conviction and confidence,” she added.

“There are issues men cannot understand and women cannot share with them,” said Jayshri Ramamurthi, head of Google India’s People Operations, Engineering and Products. “GHC would provide a connect, where women professionals can discuss things that are strictly technological to things that constrain them at work. It’s not about workplace diversity or the usual ‘women-in-IT’ issues, but a bit more specific to the engineering work place.”

The two-day session saw nearly 600 women engineers network with fellow professionals.

“Back in the United States, GHC is a hugely popular event for women engineers,” said Deanna Kosaraju, Vice President (Programmes) from the Anita Borg Institute, who organised the forum.

“We’ve been holding this programme for 15 years and we have seen issues evolve. There have been discussions on how technology that we work on impacts society. This forum is all about getting the perspective of women engineers,” Deanna added.

“The tracks revolved around new careers, and manager- and entrepreneur issues. We discussed a range of topics from mentoring, networking, negotiating and the challenges of being entrepreneurs,” said Jayshri.

The session on ‘How to make your voice heard in a room full of men’ drew many delegates. “Culturally, women have been discouraged from escalating things that bother them. They are dissuaded from discussing issues like discrepancies in compensation or need for elevation to the next level in their career. The tracks here were designed to address such issues,” she explained.

GHC in India was a pilot event, but the overwhelming response from women engineers has encouraged the institute to make it a regular event in the country.

“Connecting women would create an environment where they can learn from each other’s experience and think about how technology can impact the society, while weighing the options of starting independent work or turning entrepreneurs. GHC is really a celebration of women’s contribution to technology,” Kosaraju said.

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