If I could hold my very own “Picture of the Year” contest on my blog, this would be it for 2014. On 23rd September, India became the fourth country in the world to successfully launch a satellite – Mangalyaan – into orbit around Mars.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made history in several ways. Firstly, it is one of three international space agencies (including NASA) to succeed in its mission to Mars. Secondly, the mission’s budget was cheaper than Hollywood film Gravity – $25 million less. In addition, Mangalyaan is the first satellite to have been successfully launched on its first mission.
What impressed me the most was when this image surfaced on social media and various news outlets. The second my grandma saw it, she pointed and shouted: “Oh my God! Look! They’re scientists AND wearing saris! I never thought that I would see this!”
The space agency and programme industries are largely male dominated, but this image proves otherwise. And it makes sense: after all education in the South Asian community is deeply respected and revered. So much so that many South Asian girls grow up into women wanting to be educated and financially independent. One of the system engineers, Minal Sampath, told the BBC :
“I forget I am a woman sometimes, working in such an organisation. Maybe it’s because we spend a lot of time working in clean rooms with full suits on, so you can’t tell who is male or female.”
Isn’t that great to read? The statistics show great signs of promise: approximately 20% of all employees at ISRO are women, with 10% working as engineers. Whilst it doesn’t look great, it is a sign that women are slowly entering STEM industries in different countries. In the UK, it is estimated that only 17% of women currently hold jobs in the technology industry – a sobering figure which also needs to be addressed.
Science, technology and engineering industries, in most countries, rarely see women enter such professions. However, this is on the up, following various campaigns like Little Miss Geek in the UK and other groups who prove to girls that STEM careers are not exclusively for men.
As someone from a creative background, seeing and reading about ISRO’s female scientists hugely inspires me and fills me with hope that more women will enter such industries and build fulfilling, sustainable careers. Whilst it is challenging and very difficult to overcome career obstacles, barriers and break glass ceilings, we must not forget that we are the biggest sources of inspiration for both ourselves and those around us.