Enabling India’s next generation of female technologists through Intel India’s D&I initiative

Saathvika R and Shivkanya Birajdar

Saathvika R, an electronics and communication engineering student from Chennai, has the most interesting response on being asked why she chose to become an engineer.

“I wanted to become a doctor, but I realised that becoming an engineer and creating solutions for the betterment of society has the potential to impact people beyond my lifetime,” she says.

Saathvika, who has a keen interest in AI and IoT, was among the girl students across India who were trained in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), robotics and security through a program led by Intel India.

Intel India is actively driving STEM training for girls in the ecosystem through various diversity and inclusion programs including BeingWISE (Women Innovators, Social Leaders and Entrepreneurs), an industry-wide initiative to accelerate women’s participation in the workforce.

Led by employees and run in collaboration with partners, the programs have positively impacted around 500 girl students in 2021 alone.

Intel employee volunteers train and mentor girl students in STEM by conducting various technical and soft skills workshops, trainings and hackathons in collaboration with training partners like Do-It-Yourself Academy (DIYA).

Saathvika initially came on board the five-day STEM programme thinking that it would be challenging and complex but was pleasantly surprised at how practical and achievable it turned out to be. She particularly loved how the workshop, which instructed the students about advanced technology such as face and object recognition, and coding languages like HTML, JAVA and CSS, was explained through practical everyday solutions, and in an incremental fashion.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me that expanded my knowledge in AI and its applications exponentially,” she shares.

Many miles away in Sangli, a city situated on the banks of the river Krishna in Maharashtra, is Shivkanya Birajdar. A final year BTech Computer Science Engineering student from Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli, Shivkanya is also one of the female college students chosen to be a part of the initiative.

Shivkanya, who is also a mentor at the college’s Linux Users Group, was drawn to technology as a result of wanting to know more about the intelligence behind the mobile apps and hardware that powered everyday conveniences.

During the course of her studies, Shivkanya was drawn to the world of cryptography and network security having witnessed first-hand how vulnerable certain sections of the population were with limited exposure to technology. This prompted her to opt for the cybersecurity course as part of the programme.

“When I joined the cybersecurity course, I truly understood why security was among the most important, yet sometimes overlooked concerns in the field of technology,” she says.

Shivkanya was also pleasantly surprised at how practical the course was. “Learning is often perceived as knowing theoretical concepts. This course was refreshingly different in how it was practical-oriented and also based on real-life scenarios,” she says.

Latika Rangaraj, COO, DIYA (Do-It-Yourself Academy), says, “These Intel-supported initiatives equip students with technical skills for the future through hands-on continuous trainings and also bridge the diversity gap in the STEM workforce. AI (artificial intelligence) is all-pervasive across industries. We are proud to collaborate with Intel and together we aim to reach out to a maximum number of girl students across the country and prepare them for the future.”

Closing the gender gap in STEM education and career

There is a strong business case for diversity and a need for equal representation in the workforce. According to a McKinsey report, India has one of the largest opportunities in the world to boost GDP by advancing women’s equality. The country could add $770 billion to its GDP by 2025 with greater representation of women in the workforce.

With up to 3 million new jobs predicted to be created by 2025 in the IT-BPM sector, it is imperative to grow female talent in technology to optimise our full potential. To this end, Intel India’s BeingWISE initiative, a collaborative industry initiative with key leaders, offers leadership, mentoring, and development opportunities for women entrepreneurs, innovators and students to increase women’s participation in growing India’s economy.

“Diversity and inclusion are prerequisites for accelerating technological and economic progress. At Intel we realized, to achieve true inclusion we need the ecosystem to come together and hence initiated an industry-level movement called BeingWISE,” says Anjali Rao, Head of HR & senior director of HR, Intel India.

“BeingWISE is aimed at building a consortium of organizations, academia and government for women's advancement and inclusion. One of the key pillars is to encourage more girl students to pursue and successfully complete STEM based education thus furthering the pipeline of women talent. The differentiator for us is that we have a sustainable model to train and coach girl students on the disciplines of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics and Security. To amplify the learning experience, we also complement it with soft skills workshops and hackathons led by Intel employee volunteers. We have trained 500 girl students this year as part of this effort. I am proud of our employees who have been driving these trainings in collaboration with our partners,” she says.

One way the BeingWISE initiative is catalysing D&I in the workplace is by working with female students i.e., future participants in the workforce, especially in STEM.

The initiative not only inculcates a passion for STEM but also helps the female students take charge of their future, and work towards breaking harmful cycles of economic, social, and gender inequality in their communities.

This year alone, more than 40 Intel India employees volunteered their time and skills to train and mentor girl students in STEM as part of D&I and BeingWISE programs. “Having seen the significant impact first-hand, we are positive that the programme will grow in scale and quality and broaden its impact,” says Charulatha Varadarajan, a software engineering manager and volunteer coach at Intel.


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