New Delhi based techie and social worker Gayatri Buragohain has been honoured as a “Change Agent” by the Anita Borg Institute of Women and Technology, USA at the Grace Hopper Conference, held at Atlanta, USA. This recognition celebrates the accomplishments of technical women from developing countries who are working in their community to attract and support women in tech.
Techgoss readers may remember Ms. Buragohain as the founder of Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT), a 2007 initiative to empower women through technology. FAT is a not-for-profit organization based in New Delhi, India, working towards empowering women through technology. Their mission is ‘to enhance women’s awareness, interest and participation in technology in order to decrease the gender divide in this field and strengthen the involvement of women in the technical workforce and in policy making.’ The Change Agent awards, underwritten by Google, help bring local efforts to the international stage.
Techgoss had spoken to Gayatri in Jan, 2010, and we are happy to speak to Gayatri again, after she scored this rare achievement.
Techgoss (TG): Gayatri, Congratulations from Techgoss, on winning the Change Agent award. Tell us how you feel about this.
Gayatri Buragohain (GB): It definitely feels nice. This is the first recognition I am receiving for my work. It’s inspiring.
TG: How does the ABI (Anita Borg Institute of Women and Technology, USA) operate and how are the awards chosen. Did you have to apply or was it a nomination?
GB: ABI (anitaborg.org) gives out these wards every year during the Grace Hopper Conference. These awards are given to women from developing countries recognizing their commitment to promote women in technology. One can apply or be nominated for this award. I was nominated by my colleague Lisa Hodges who was then volunteering for FAT.
TG: How do they gather information about the great work you are doing in India?
GB: The nominator has to provide the details about the work and personal life, why he/she thinks the candidate should receive the award. Lisa also had to get references from 2 more people who also wrote about my work.
TG: After the inception of FAT, on which Techgoss has already spoken to you, what achievements have been made? What have been your endeavours regarding women in technology?
GB: It’s really a very short period (just 2 years) to list much achievement. However, I feel I have been able to create some noise about the gap between women and technology. FAT has been able to network with many non-profit organizations and develop some understanding of the issue within the non-profit circle. The fact I am now invited by many organizations to talk about the issue in their meetings shows that they want to know more about the issue and want to know what they can do. Non-profits themselves approach us for various advices on how they can best use technology to reach out to more people. We started our own tech centre for underprivileged girls, which we hope will be an example to show how technology can change lives of many young women. As the ACM-W Ambassador, I have also been able to influence some technical education institutions, students as well as faculty, to work towards promoting women in technology. Recently a very successful conference on women in computing was organized by Amrita University in collaboration with ACM-W. Many students groups to talk about this issue and encourage each other are coming up. Many other colleges are approaching me with interest to do something in their own campus. This is just a very small beginning. A lot is to be done. I won’t call these achievements. Maybe I can call them the road map to achieving something in future.
TG: Tell us more about the Grace Hopper Conference coming up in India, who will it benefit?
GB: It’s called the Grace Hopper Conference. It is to be held in Bangalore from 7 – 9 December 2010. Any woman student or professional in computer science who aspires to be successful in her career can benefit a lot from this conference. The Grace Hopper Conference is organized by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in the US every year since last 10 yrs. This is the first time it is being organized in India, and they plan to make it an annual event here also. The conference provides many wonderful talks and workshops, showcases many role models, and provides many opportunities for women to network with each other and share tips. Their website is gracehopper.in
TG: What are you future plans on the W I T initiative?
GB: In India we do have many women students studying technology, but most of them drop out as they move to the professional world. I plan to reach out to more technical colleges and talk to faculty and students to hold some activities within their premises to inspire their women students to carry on with their careers. A new online platform for women technologists to network and find mentors is also coming up.
TG: Anything more you would like to tell us please?
GB: My concern is not just having more women in technical fields. My concern is to have women participate equally in the making and decision making on technology rather than just being passive users of technology handed down to them. Women should understand technology and how it affects them and their community. And everyone should support women’s entry into the technology domain, and help them make progress along with men.
Techgoss wishes Gayatri all success in her initiative and may more women be technically empowered.