November 4, 2022

Let's Hear From the Women of KGP

IITKGP Foundation 

A couple of months back we did a story on the missing women in STEM. Every week we seek stories about our alumna. Until then we will try to bring you stories from girls on campus. This week we have with us Devaki Nandana Vardhineedi, the first female student Vice President of Technology Students Gymkhana, who found her way to IIT KGP from Hyderabad Telangana. While we bring you their stories, you can connect with us to support the initiatives to promote gender equity in STEM and IIT KGP.


1. What motivated you to join STEM education?

Since my childhood, I had a great curiosity for the latest technologies and had a knack for problem-solving. Also, having one of my parents and my elder brother in STEM helped me a lot to pursue the same. Moreover, the passion and dedication my brother had towards math surely did rub off onto me.


2. Did you experience roadblocks in your journey to STEM education?

I have been privileged to be given the opportunity of education without worry about finances or familial pressure. While other people’s struggles cannot be compared to mine, I found coping with stress and time management to be one of the most challenging parts of my journey. I still struggle with this today but have found a few productive outlets to vent my frustrations and have learned how to organize my tasks efficiently.


3. Please tell us about your educational interests at IIT KGP.

To me, KGP has been an amazing place in terms of resources and opportunities. In my freshmen year, I explored different fields to find my interest. During my quest, I took up various fields but nothing challenged me more than software development I love to be challenged, thus software got my undivided attention. This interest led me to learn new frameworks and develop complex self-projects. At this point, I am also trying to explore the various possibilities in my department specializing in vision and intelligent systems which has left a great impression on me. 


5. How could more female students be encouraged to pursue STEM education?

STEM especially Engineering has and is still a male dominating industry with very few known female role models. Having good female mentors (like I did) will always make female students feel a lot more secure in their choice and not feel the disadvantage of not being part of the ‘boys’ club’. 


6. What role can primary and secondary school teachers play in inspiring female students to pursue STEM education?

A big factor as to why I’ve seen female students shy away from entering STEM is the preconceived notion that girls are poor in math. I have heard teachers say that it was fine if girls were poor at math because they are not ‘tuned’ towards it. They are also not encouraged to work on it since ‘they can choose arts anyways’. While it might not be open discrimination, such intrinsic biases eventually do build up a solid opinion on career options. A more gender-neutral approach to mathematics and science, in general, would definitely pipe up the interest of girls in STEM.


7. What role can IITs, and IITians play to facilitate more female students in STEM?

IITs could offer internship or mentorship programs aimed specifically at female students to widen the opportunities available. Having female scientists speak in workshops and Tedx talks would definitely encourage women to pursue STEM.