Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A NATIONAL RESOURCE GROSSLY UNDERUTILIZED

Recently, there was this news item stating that the Government of India has directed all IITs to increase the number of female students to a significant level. The measure has been widely welcomed. Also for the reason that this can dispel the notion girls are not interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.  Like in the calculation of GDP or in the political decision making level, women’s contribution are either not included or their dues denied.

A recent contribution by columnist Mr. Siddharth Pai in the Mint comes up with lot of interesting data on the contribution that woman technologists are making even in areas like code writing and other branches of technology.

Three women, Beth Holmes, Farah Housion and Michelle Riggen-Ransom, all with liberal arts backgrounds, have been named by Wired as among the 20 technology visionaries who are creating the future. These three women are the brains behind the personality of Amazon inc.’s Alexa, which is an artificial intelligence device already used by millions of customers of the technology behemoth. In fact, Alexa was one of the most popular gifts last Christmas season, and continues to sell heavily.

Wired’s citation includes a brief background on the three women: Riggen-Ransom, who holds Master of Fine-Arts in creative writing composes Alexa’s r aw responses. She leads a group of playwrights, poets, fiction authors, and musicians who complete weekly writing exercises that are incorporated into Alexa’s persona. Housion, a psychology graduate specializing in personality science, ensures that those responses fit customer expectations. Holmes, a mathematician with expertise in natural language processing, decides which current events are women into Alexa’s vocabulary, from current sporting league championships such a the Indian Premier League to the Oscars. The common thread is that all three women have been writers.

Look at our own ISRO and the space programme. Lady scientists and engineers have been carrying our very vital functions and duties. As a matter of fact the project director for the Mars project was a woman scientist, Seetha Somasundarm. Some eight brilliant scientists are powering ISRO. They are Minal Sampath, Anuradha TK, Moumita Dutta, Nandini Harinath, Ritu Karidhal, Kriti Faujdar, N Valarmathi and Tessy Thomas. Hail our women scientist.

BIMTECH, I am happy to state has been enjoying a reasonably good male-female ratio among students. It is hovering around 35 per cent which is way higher than many of the IIMs. Another happy fact is that our top merit positions in all streams have been going to girl students over the years. Glad to state that more or less the same male-female ratio prevails in faculty strength. We hope to improve on the ratios to improve our outcomes.

In the land of Rani Laxmi Bai, Sarojni Naidu and Indira Gandhi we should be doing even better!

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Prof. K. K. Krishnan
Chairperson - CCR &
Prof. Centre for Insurance & Risk Management
Birla Institute of Management Technology

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