The representation of women in engineering and other professional careers has been a much-debated evergreen topic since the efforts of various governments, organizations and even social enterprises in this arena are still on the increasing side. Women are still not well represented in the profession, especially in industry. They are dominating in numbers at colleges and universities in the nation, but when it comes to leadership, the number is diminishing and they are still not seeking careers in the field in significant numbers. Apart from this, the number of women leaving the profession is in alarming numbers, contributing to the imbalance in the top positions. The women who leave their careers after three to five years of experience for their family reasons form the major portion. The talent pool thus lost has to be rediscovered if we want to retain this balance on the top. With this in mind, Ramalatha Marimuthu initiated the Returning Mothers Program in 2014 to target women from various backgrounds to come together and discuss the path ahead to create a transition pipeline for women who want to come back to industry. Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology proffered me the “Systers Pass It On Award” in 2014 which comes with a grant of $500, and I decided to use the money for providing a platform for the women, especially to explore the need for second careers. With the support of IEEE Women in Engineering and the “Systers Pass It On Award”, I organized the first Returning Mothers Workshop in Coimbatore, India in 2014. Dr. Netiva Caftori, Retired Professor of Women’s Studies from Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), Chicago interacted with the audience about how to improve their interpersonal skills. Satish Babu, Director, Office of Free and Open Source Software of Kerala Government talked about the various avenues for women to upgrade their technical skills. The outcome of the program was the identification of the most important block in furthering their careers – a lack of confidence in women about their ability to come back. Building up their confidence is the most important task ahead if we wish to bring women back to industry.
Ramalatha Marimuthu has been conducting workshops once a year at various levels for the women who wish to take a break and for the students who will be facing a similar situation where they will have to take a decision on compromising their career for higher priority responsibilities of the family in future. These workshops have now culminated into a national level conference held in Bengaluru, India on the 13th and 14th of November 2019.
The event is held with the goals of bringing together senior women with break experience and early career women and students on a single platform to explore the possibilities on new career paths, to provide an assessment metric for themselves to assess their ability to transition back, to blend and to balance.
The task ahead is not easy. The women themselves are to be sensitized about their importance and the necessity of having a career for themselves. I hope that Returning Mothers will provide a platform for connecting the industry and talented women and contribute to this task. This is a common problem for the whole world and so there is work for every volunteer to pitch in help.
The program can be organized wherever there is a need. Email email@example.com to connect with the organizers.