This blogpost summarizes Syna Sharma’s perspective as she attended and wrote up about the leadership panel with Piyush Malik, Surbhi Paul, Rebecca Caleb and Surbhi Kaul.
March is International Women’s Month and should be spent celebrating women and their allies. Previously this month ASEI celebrated Women’s Day with this social media post recognizing all women board members of ASEI on March 8th and organized a partnership event in Michigan on March 11th and a partner event in Silicon Valley on 24th March
On March 18th, ASEI hosted its Leadership Panel to recognize International Women’s Day, which occurred on March 8th. Opening up the session, ASEI National and Silicon Valley President Piyush Malik outlined how ASEI is a large advocate for women in leadership positions, with 35% of their chapter board being women. However it was not always so. Through conscious choices and nurturing of chapter boards, women are now increasingly getting involved with ASEI. Ally’s & advocates such as these are strongly needed during these times, as society is becoming increasingly regressive regarding women’s rights, especially in countries in the Middle East where women’s freedom has been reduced to less than it was in the 1950s. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Embracing equity” (not to be confused with equality). Equality is the belief that everyone should have the same opportunities from the beginning for a happy life. Equity, on the other hand, recognizes people’s different circumstances and works to create resources catering to those needs in order to reach equal opportunities. Gender equality is a very important and essential aspect that needs to be achieved in our society. The speakers in this panel provided insightful and helpful stories and advice to women regarding education, careers, and lifestyle.
Our moderator for this panel, Surbhi Paul is a board member at ASEI Silicon Valley and started her career in engineering and technology at Cisco. The next speaker, Surbhi Kaul, is also a fellow board member at ASEI National and worked at various companies: Cisco, Google, Netflix, Youtube and her current company, Juniper. Becky Caleb, our next speaker, served on the ASEI Dallas board and studied programming and engineering during her college years and worked at Bank of America for 15 years, where she is still working currently. Becky puts a strong emphasis on learning different skills and lessons through jobs and experiences over the years and is constantly trying to evolve and test out different things.
When asked about past experiences or struggles with being a woman in a male-dominated field, Surbhi Kaul spoke about her struggles being a minority during her undergrad at IIT, displaying a staggering statistic of 350 boys and a mere 8 girls. Women were not as encouraged to pursue tech and as a result the few that did felt like they didn’t belong. Becky Caleb also had a unique story to share. Her parents were very supportive of her and her choices and held her to the same pedestal as her brothers, although her relatives were not as supportive. She came to a minimally diverse school to become more independent and focus on her career and worked to be a trusted advocate for people.
After hearing the backgrounds of these panel speakers, Surbhi Paul brought attention to the struggle that women face having to be the primary caregiver of the household which increases the burden of having to juggle their career and home life. Women need support systems to climb the ladder in their careers and organizations need to provide those resources. As well as organizations, women themselves can also have certain mindsets to help them achieve their goals. Surbhi Kaul emphasized the importance of acknowledging that you can’t be perfect. Taking help and learning from others is encouraged and setting boundaries and limits in the workplace can also help decrease burdens and stress for women. Although women are held to higher standards, there is no need to have a perfectionist mindset, which will only prove harmful in the long run. Expanding on Surbhi’s ideas, Becky explains how it is important to aim for excellence but also recognize when to “drop the ball” if it becomes too stressful. Her personal method to be her best self in the workplace and life, in general, are the 5 P’s: make a Plan, be Proactive, Prioritize, be Persistent, and be Punctual. She believes it is important to instill these values in children as that is the crucial time when they are influenced most.
Although women can take many steps to insure the most productive and safe environment for them, companies need to take action as well. Surbhi Kaul proposes that companies create groups or cohorts where women can take about their challenges in the workplace and some ideas to overcome them. She also talks about implementing programs where company leaders can become more aware and supportive of women.
Wrapping up the panel, the final speaker, Lily Mei, the mayor of Fremont, brings up the importance of reaching out to younger generations and building an interest in STEM in middle and elementary schools, as any time after that is too late. Her final message to not only women, but every one is that failure is not bad, but a way to learn.
Syna Sharma is a San Jose, CA based high schooler who spent her last summer break productively by interning and getting involved with ASEI activities. She continues to be part of our content team as and when time permits during the school year earning volunteer services hours that will count towards her college admission. She also participates in volleyball, tennis, and different forms of dances.