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'Women in STEM' shine at Ideas of India Summit 3.0
Wed, 28th Feb 2024

At the Ideas of India Summit 3.0, India's leading women achievers stole the spotlight. Nandini Harinath, the Deputy Director of the Spacecraft Operations Area at the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network, shared the details of her upbringing, attributing her accomplishments to a childhood enriched with education and curiosity. "Growing up with techno-bureaucrat and mathematician parents, education was ingrained as a priority in my life from the start," Harinath said. She also discussed her journey of climbing the ranks from a Junior Engineer to leading seminal space missions such as Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan-2.

The summit's inaugural day, hosted by ABP Network, saw leading women intellectuals and achievers in STEM fields discuss the theme 'Women in STEM: Working in the Trenches, Reaching for the Stars'. Throughout this session, these women shared their experiences of overcoming hurdles in the modern-day workforce, shedding light on their paths to success.

Expounding on the value of support systems, Harinath stressed the importance of seeking assistance: "No accomplishment is achieved in isolation, and leaning on my family and society for assistance has been crucial during times of need." She also expressed her belief in the boundless potential for space exploration, particularly given the industry's influx of private players. "I envision India taking a leading role in space travel, for scientific advancement and its profound impact on shaping our future as a society," she commented.

Dr Nigar Shaji, Project Director of Aditya L-1 Mission at ISRO, reflected on her own experiences, emphasising the absence of a glass ceiling at ISRO and the importance of work-life balance. "Since school, I have believed in pursuing the uncommon path. My parents, particularly my father, a math graduate turned agricultural specialist, encouraged me. At ISRO, there is no glass ceiling; passion is supported. For women, balancing work, family, and personal life becomes essential, with health as a priority."

"As far as the space industry is concerned, the Aditya mission is crucial for understanding the sun and space weather, ensuring Earth's protection. Leading the world in the space industry should be our aim. Visibility for women in STEM is vital; education must be engaging and inclusive from grassroots," remarked Dr Nigar Shaji. 

Adding to this, Prof. Annapurni Subramaniam, Director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, underscored the necessity of maintaining one's personal health and happiness. "It is important to create a framework at home, where support can be sought from the family and traditional roles can be pushed back," she noted. Prof. Subramaniam shared her pride in India's well-established capabilities in astronomy and its involvement in major projects such as LIGO and Square Kilometer Array.

The Ideas of India Summit 3.0, shining the spotlight on 'The People's Agenda', brought together a myriad of ideas and ideators on a shared platform. This year's two-day event convened a variety of experts, from policymakers and business leaders to cultural ambassadors and economists, sparking conversations around India's essential values of liberty, justice, equality, and diversity. These stimulating dialogues underscored India's journey towards becoming a 'Viksit Bharat'.