On March 8, the world celebrated 100 years of progress towards gender equality. The United Nations has declared the centenary theme as “Equal Access to Education, Training and Science & Technology: Pathway to decent work for women”.

Women, as a rule, were universally underrepresented in science and technology. India, viewed as a potential powerhouse of innovations, was no exception. True, the subcontinent's institutes of scientific learning are open to all its citizens, but potential female researchers hesitated at the thresholds of laboratories. Was this because they had seen few role models of their gender in such establishments? But today, women's participation is changing the world in which we live by bringing new priorities and perspectives to the political and social processes, as also in education, training and science and technology.

A person who comes to mind, in the field of science and technology as well as business, is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon. When we look back in time, we can see women in pure science: There is Anna Mani, who studied spectroscopy under Dr. C V Raman, and who retired as Deputy Director General of the Indian Meteorological Department. There is Mangala Narlikar, wife of the famous Indian astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar and a mathematician to boot herself; but since family came first, she says she was a part-time scientist. One can cite the current example of Dr. Charusita Chakravarty who left a U.S. citizenship to come back to her roots and IIT Delhi, to do research and disseminate her knowledge.

A lot has changed with the generation of the 1960s-70s, and I am a part of the generation that saw the change happen. I have also had the privilege to interact extensively with Kiran Bedi, Naila Khan of Bangladesh (who works in Multidisciplinary Child Development Centres within government hospitals providing vulnerable children access to diagnostic services, early intervention and improved quality of survival in Bangladesh), Frieda Mangungsong and Mimi Lusli from Indonesia, and Asha Das from the Government of India who have ideas on education and infrastructure setup and are doing their best to have them implemented. I have seen a Gujarati woman farm worker take the lead in putting her and her colleagues' products across the nation's markets and sell them to the highest bidder. Technology at use here? The cell phone.

Today, one can see that women are stepping out and making a difference.

As for “decent work for women” across the globe, much more than that, there are path-breaking changes happening, though most of it is restricted to the urban centres. It is a collaborative effort from people and governments cutting across all dividing lines that have helped bring about these changes. Yes, we need to educate rural women, and yes we need participation from every individual to effect these changes across the country. But that is the next level of alteration to be imbibed. And yes, it feels good to be a part of the process.

(The author is AVP – Quality, in Essar Information Technology Limited. She is also a member of the governing body of The National Abilympics Association of India )

Keywords: Women's Day