Redefining Women’s Place in History: A Conversation to Bring Them to the Fore 

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Remember India’s space mission? ISRO is the Indian Space Research Organisation, the space agency of India that has successfully completed many space missions and satellite launches including the recent successful launch of Chandrayaan III which sent a rover to the south pole of the moon.

According to a recent documentary on BBC, it employs over 16000 staff. Of which about 20 to 25% are women and it’s rocket missions has a lot of women scientist at the helm of the mission.

Remember this picture?

Image source: scroll.in

When this picture was shared, these women were celebrated as Rocket Women of India. Many people took it as if celebrating these women’s success as professionals somehow downplayed the contribution of the entire team, including many male scientists. Of course, it was a team win, and yes, the team consists of many brilliant male scientists as well, and we celebrate their success as well. But we still need to talk about these women because their journey to where they are today was different from their male colleagues. Women, in general, are expected to be able to juggle their roles as homemakers, wives, and mothers along with their careers. It’s been true for many Asian and more conservative cultures where patriarchy has been the norm.

Women, for centuries, have accepted having a more significant role in homelife and being nurturers as their top priority to everything else they are good at or may want to be good at. I know things are changing and in many cases changing for the better, but most women still don’t have parity, and that’s why we need to celebrate the success of these women and all women who defy societal stereotypes and achieve what is not expected of them.

This brings me to our main topic today, women in history! Once someone asked me if I knew of philosophers/sages of ancient India. Of course, I know of a lot of Vedic scriptures that are written on various topics including medicine, philosophy, economics, astronomy, politics, ethics, and culture and arts.

I could quickly remember the names of many sages like Panini, Bharadwaj, Valmiki, Kashyap, Agastya, Atri, Vashishtha, Bodhayana, Shukracharya… But I couldn’t remember if I was ever told about any ancient Indian women sage or philosopher. It made me curious, and I asked around and searched on the internet; was there no learned women in ancient India? As per some of the scriptures, the Vedic era (1500 BCE to 600 BCE) was kinder to women, and they did have some autonomy. While digging deeper I came across Gargi, who was a scholar and mentioned in Rigveda. She participated in debates and intellectual discussions. Another one was Maitreyi Gautama, who was a philosopher. She is mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishads as someone with profound knowledge about the nature of the self and the ultimate reality. Further digging I found there are other women scholars that are mentioned in Vedas and Upanishads like Romasha, Apala, and Lopamudra with sketchy details of their contribution to arts, culture, and preservation of knowledge of the time through their writing.

It made me think about why we were never made to learn about the important contribution of women in history. This phenomenon is not limited to Indian women; it’s worldwide. We learned in schools and colleges about many Greek philosophers but not about Hypatia of Alexandria who was a leading mathematician. Even in more modern days do we learn about women’s contribution to science and technology? Well, no, not unless we go and seek that knowledge; it’s still not mainstream. So how many of us know of the contributions of Emilie Du Chatelet? Without her, probably Newton wouldn’t have been so famous in France. Or Caroline Herschel from the 18th century who discovered many comets.

Or more recently if you asked anyone to name Indian CEOs heading MNCs or Fortune 500 companies they would start with Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Shiv Nadar, Parag Agarwal (Ex CEO Twitter) and will go on to count a few more but except for the exception of Indira Nuyi not many people will mention Leena Nair, Anjali Sud, Amrapali Gan, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Roshni Nadar, Sharmishtha Dubey, Sonia Syngal, and many more. If you are wondering who are these women, I will encourage you to go online and find out more as there are many more.

There are many women inventors, philosophers, artists, writers, spiritualists, and scientists we were never told about while growing up. It feels like we were robbed of the opportunity to get to know these potential role models who could inspire so many girls and women.

This is why it is important for us to talk about the contribution of women scientists, CEOs, inventors, politicians, philanthropists, and other walks of life so our girls know that they too can do anything they want to.

Let’s find out more about historical women inventors, scientists, philosophers, astronomers, spiritualists, politicians, freedom fighters, suffragists, poetesses, and writers from across the world whose contributions are forgotten and are not mainstream. Please put in comments who are such women who inspire you or could inspire other readers. Let’s talk about them.

-Preeti is a Digital Transformation Professional at NHS in Berkshire, England. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her two kids, fostering their love for travel and exploration.

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Redefining Women’s Place in History: A Conversation to Bring Them to the Fore 

Remember India’s space mission? ISRO is the Indian Space Research Organisation, the space agency of India that has successfully completed many space missions and satellite launches including the recent successful launch of Chandrayaan III which sent a rover to the south pole of the moon.

According to a recent documentary on BBC, it employs over 16000 staff. Of which about 20 to 25% are women and it’s rocket missions has a lot of women scientist at the helm of the mission.

Remember this picture?

Image source: scroll.in

When this picture was shared, these women were celebrated as Rocket Women of India. Many people took it as if celebrating these women’s success as professionals somehow downplayed the contribution of the entire team, including many male scientists. Of course, it was a team win, and yes, the team consists of many brilliant male scientists as well, and we celebrate their success as well. But we still need to talk about these women because their journey to where they are today was different from their male colleagues. Women, in general, are expected to be able to juggle their roles as homemakers, wives, and mothers along with their careers. It’s been true for many Asian and more conservative cultures where patriarchy has been the norm.

Women, for centuries, have accepted having a more significant role in homelife and being nurturers as their top priority to everything else they are good at or may want to be good at. I know things are changing and in many cases changing for the better, but most women still don’t have parity, and that’s why we need to celebrate the success of these women and all women who defy societal stereotypes and achieve what is not expected of them.

This brings me to our main topic today, women in history! Once someone asked me if I knew of philosophers/sages of ancient India. Of course, I know of a lot of Vedic scriptures that are written on various topics including medicine, philosophy, economics, astronomy, politics, ethics, and culture and arts.

I could quickly remember the names of many sages like Panini, Bharadwaj, Valmiki, Kashyap, Agastya, Atri, Vashishtha, Bodhayana, Shukracharya… But I couldn’t remember if I was ever told about any ancient Indian women sage or philosopher. It made me curious, and I asked around and searched on the internet; was there no learned women in ancient India? As per some of the scriptures, the Vedic era (1500 BCE to 600 BCE) was kinder to women, and they did have some autonomy. While digging deeper I came across Gargi, who was a scholar and mentioned in Rigveda. She participated in debates and intellectual discussions. Another one was Maitreyi Gautama, who was a philosopher. She is mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishads as someone with profound knowledge about the nature of the self and the ultimate reality. Further digging I found there are other women scholars that are mentioned in Vedas and Upanishads like Romasha, Apala, and Lopamudra with sketchy details of their contribution to arts, culture, and preservation of knowledge of the time through their writing.

It made me think about why we were never made to learn about the important contribution of women in history. This phenomenon is not limited to Indian women; it’s worldwide. We learned in schools and colleges about many Greek philosophers but not about Hypatia of Alexandria who was a leading mathematician. Even in more modern days do we learn about women’s contribution to science and technology? Well, no, not unless we go and seek that knowledge; it’s still not mainstream. So how many of us know of the contributions of Emilie Du Chatelet? Without her, probably Newton wouldn’t have been so famous in France. Or Caroline Herschel from the 18th century who discovered many comets.

Or more recently if you asked anyone to name Indian CEOs heading MNCs or Fortune 500 companies they would start with Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Shiv Nadar, Parag Agarwal (Ex CEO Twitter) and will go on to count a few more but except for the exception of Indira Nuyi not many people will mention Leena Nair, Anjali Sud, Amrapali Gan, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Roshni Nadar, Sharmishtha Dubey, Sonia Syngal, and many more. If you are wondering who are these women, I will encourage you to go online and find out more as there are many more.

There are many women inventors, philosophers, artists, writers, spiritualists, and scientists we were never told about while growing up. It feels like we were robbed of the opportunity to get to know these potential role models who could inspire so many girls and women.

This is why it is important for us to talk about the contribution of women scientists, CEOs, inventors, politicians, philanthropists, and other walks of life so our girls know that they too can do anything they want to.

Let’s find out more about historical women inventors, scientists, philosophers, astronomers, spiritualists, politicians, freedom fighters, suffragists, poetesses, and writers from across the world whose contributions are forgotten and are not mainstream. Please put in comments who are such women who inspire you or could inspire other readers. Let’s talk about them.

-Preeti is a Digital Transformation Professional at NHS in Berkshire, England. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her two kids, fostering their love for travel and exploration.