It is no secret that when we were younger we’d have extravagant fantasies of what we’d grow up to be--civil rights activists, Supreme Court Justices, award-winning medical doctors and researchers of cancer, or Grammy-nominated artists. Whether these dreams have fluctuated or remained consistent, we all have a burning hope that we’ll establish our purpose in this world and become the world’s next changemakers, leaders, and role models. We want to be as passionate and fearless as Malala Yousafazi, as kindhearted and charitable as Princess Diana, and as driven and successful as Ruth Bader Ginsburg-- the list goes on and on. With all these empowering and motivating women that we have grown up watching, listening to, and dreaming ourselves to be, the opportunities are absolutely endless. However, even with these wide aspirations and goals we set for ourselves, we are often deterred when we are told no. We believe we can’t. And, often, we put on the brakes right there. We truly are our own worst enemies. Thus, to stop this cycle of self-jeopardization, I think it’s crucial that we are reminded of the influential women right before our eyes. We want to motivate the world’s next scientists, global changemakers, tech leaders, and mathematicians. By learning more about these powerful women and their backstories, we will find that we too can--and are--amongst them.
DR. KIRAN MAZUMDAR-SHAW
Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is India’s first female brewmaster and richest self-made entrepreneur. She was even the first to develop India’s first pharmaceutical company. She founded Biocon in 1978--India’s largest biopharmaceutical company that specializes in insulin production, immunosuppressants, statins, and anti-diabetic drugs. Biocon’s mission is to find new, effective, and affordable ways to treat diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases to achieve health equity. However, Mazumdar-Shaw’s achievements and success story aren’t without their challenges. In fact, she recalls her rise to success and entrepreneurship as “accidental”. After graduating from brewing school in Australia, she returned home and was faced with sexist remarks and discrimination from men--and ultimately, companies--in India that refused to hire a woman in the brewing industry. Instead, Biocon--which has supplied more than two billion biosimilar insulins to individuals globally--was born in a rented out garage. The company’s growth and success were halted when Mazumdar-Shaw struggled to obtain credit and attract employees because of her gender and the risk associated with joining such a small and unknown industry. However, in time, Biocon grew into the major research company and innovator we know today with nearly 10,000 employees and the second Indian company to surpass the US $1 billion mark on its first day. On reflection, Mazumdar-Shaw attributes this success to “affordable innovation”, partnership, and marketing strategies. She encourages women to pursue science-related careers and become leaders in innovation and STEM. After all, she is a prime example to all of us young women that we can prosper and thrive after being told no.
MARJORIE ROJAS RINCÓN
Marjorie Rojas Rincón is a Colombian electronic engineer who is the co-founder of PlusInn, an Identification and Automation technology-based solution company with the goal of advancing efficiency in logistics and administrative spaces. Rincón is also a member of the Smart Building Alliance, which is an organization that promotes the development of Smart Buildings and Smart Cities to improve the environment and ecosystems. Rincón has always had a love for science and technology--especially in the field of engineering. She recalls that she’s always had an appreciation for math and physics and had a deepening “curiosity” for “functional things''. However, this wasn’t always the case. Rincón shares how throughout many points in her life, she has been faced with doubts about being a woman and an individual in the electronic engineering field. She couldn’t help but wonder if there was a more “concrete area” for her to work in an area that was more substantial. She also shares how being both a woman and Latina in STEM has come with many challenges. Specifically, she has been doubted by both colleagues, professors, and classmates and often found it hard to find a job that wasn’t commercial. Thus, she encourages women--especially in STEM--to think of themselves as “empowered confident individuals''. She believes we must view ourselves as strong, will-minded, and determined individuals in order to “seize good opportunities” instead of limiting others based on what others say or believe.
Anu Ylänen is a product specialist at Batmaid, which is the first on-demand cleaning platform in Lausanne, Switzerland. She shares how her interest in digital services led her to explore business studies, the localization industry, and now the tech industry. To Ylänen, one of the most important features of Batmaid, which she worked to create, is the digital services and platform. She prides herself in ensuring the platform and services are accessible and easy to use for everyone. However, Ylänen wasn’t always sure what her purpose was or what she wanted to do. In fact, she joined the tech industry as a product specialist at Batmaid after quitting her previous, stable job. Ylänen explains that while she doesn’t regret this decision, that being a woman in the tech industry at Batmaid does have its challenges. Not so surprisingly, she explains how she is the only woman on the tech team at Batmaid, and how this male-dominated workplace and atmosphere in tech-related fields isn’t unfamiliar. She comments on the importance of having a diverse and mixed team of individuals with different backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and opinions--especially in STEM and digital content. In order to build a strong, inclusive, and collaborative team, she shares how important it is for us to support each other and use our voices and platforms. Ultimately, she encourages young girls and women in tech “to work hard, learn, fail, learn from [your] mistakes and get up again”. She wants young women everywhere to know that they don’t need to change or adapt “just to fit the male-dominated tech industry”; but, instead, to be themselves and to be the ones “to change” the field.
Faviola Dadis is a neuroscientist who completed her Research Master’s in Cognitive Neuropsychology at the VU Amsterdam and the University of Oxford with a specialization in cognitive neurorehabilitation for patients with traumatic brain injuries, stroke, or dementia. She is also the founder and CEO of NeuroReality, a medical technology company that uses Virtual Reality games--called Koji’s Quest-- to screen individuals with brain injuries as well as train cognitive skills such as calculation, memory, or reaction time in individuals with brain injuries. She has even successfully edited and co-authored the book, Aging and Dementia: Neuropsychology, Motor Skills and Pain. However, Dadis’ story isn’t without its challenges and heartbreak. Unfortunately, before founding her company, Dadis was sexually assaulted and suffered from PTSD. For a period of time, Dadis was homeless and lived in her car before receiving the funding to build NeuroReality. Faviola Dadis is the true example of a fighter, and a strong and powerful entrepreneur, scientist, and woman. Her story speaks volumes, and I believe we can all be empowered by her resilience and dedication.