UN Women has declared October 11th 2012 to be the International Day of the Girl. It is wonderful to read the blogs and opinions with a wide range of issues girls face around the world. Issues regarding health, child marriage, education, poverty and my favorite topic, girls in STEM. It makes me happy to see so much focus on the girl child who is often overlooked and undervalued. I wanted to write something personal on this day. Something that has had a deep impact on my work. Here is my story.
Since 2008 I have been traveling to India on a quarterly basis, spending 3-4 months each year in this wonderful country. Technical women in India have made great advances in the last 10-15 years. Their numbers are growing and they are reaching areas never seen before, but the reality remains, half of all technical women leave the field every 5 years leaving a very small percentage in the senior roles. These women struggle. A day in the life of a technical woman in India is a day filled with conflicted feelings and huge obstacles that are both systemic and societal. For many women, they are the first generation to work outside the home. More often than not, their mothers were not career women and neither was their mother in law. The women in their immediate circle don't understand the complexities of being a career woman in India much less a technical woman.
My admiration and support for these women is immense. Hearing their stories often brings me emotional hurt. Their trials become mine.
Here is my point...these women are the role models for their daughters and their sons. If they walk away from technology, if they decide the pressure is too much, they leave this role for the next generation of girls to break through this barrier.
It is time we, as technical women, work together and support one another and make this breakthrough together. Technical women in India and around the world are critical to innovation, to new ways of thinking and their potential contributions to society are beyond measurement. We must be committed to breaking this cycle. Women leaving tech is just passing this challenge to our girls and we are not providing our boys with the role models they need to be supportive of their future wives, their sisters and their future female colleagues in technology - where we need them most!
When women leave tech, we all lose. But most of all, on this day, our girls lose a footing they could have if we serve as their example and make it happen. Together, we can do this. I am committed to you in doing this. For you, and for our girls. We are the example.
- Deanna Kosaraju