If you are looking for stories of courageous women or just some inspiration, then look no further than Indian American engineer and author Shantha Mohan’s book, “Roots and Wings: Inspiring Stories of Indian Women in Engineering.”
This book chronicles the lives and careers of 29 women who graduated from the oldest engineering college in India, College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai, sometime between 1943 and 1971.
This was a difficult time for these pioneering women to pursue their chosen path, yet they all went on to make their mark in their unique ways in various fields of work in India as well as in the U.S., says Mohan in the author’s note, adding that overcoming several obstacles in their careers, these women managed to find a good balance between family and work.
A few were, and are, also great community leaders, she writes, highlighting that their lives are models of courage, initiative, perseverance, innovation, entrepreneurship, resilience and flexibility.
Mohan explains that if anyone wonders whether a woman can pursue a successful career in technical fields while enjoying a satisfying family life and still find a way to make meaningful social contributions, then this book, which chronicles the lives and careers of women who managed to do just that, is the one to read.
Mohan, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is herself a role model. She graduated from CEG with a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering in 1971. After working for few years at Electronics Corporation of India-Hyderabad, she got married, had a child, and moved to the U.S. She went on to receive her doctorate in operations management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Since then, she told The Hindu, she has worked in the field of software product development and engineering, and co-founded a retail analytics company. In 2017, she started mentoring at the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University.
Mohan told the publication that it was while teaching young women that she realized they didn’t have exposure to female role models in technical fields. “Around the same time, the scarcity of female presence in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, was becoming a hot topic in the U.S,” she was quoted as saying. “Attending CEG as one of eight girls in my batch of hundreds sparked the idea of writing the stories of the women who came before me, hoping to inspire girls to take up STEM education, and succeed in engineering careers.”
One of the stories in the book is about R. Sulochana. Her father pushed aside opposition from the extended family and insisted that Sulochana get a professional education. Her ambition was to become an engineer, following in the footsteps of her brother who was four years older than her. She had a very successful career in civil engineering in the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, becoming their first woman chief engineer in civil designs, retiring in 1999 after 37 years of service.
100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of these books will go toward supporting girl education in India through Rotary Club Madras East.