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By Shubha Maudgal
Mrs. Shubha Maudgal one of the senior most members in our Association talks about women and career narrating her story from the days as a student at IIT to where she is today.
I got my MS in Chemistry from IIT Delhi in 1979 and was awarded the Director’s silver medal for standing first in my discipline. Throughout my education I held the National Science Talent Scholarship right up to my PhD, which I completed in 1983 from IIT Bombay. Subsequently, I worked for 15 years in the field I had trained in, namely high temperature resistant polymers. I worked at NASA, Langley Research Centre, USA; at Johnson & Johnson, Mumbai; at the Aeronautical Development Establishment (DRDO, Ministry of Defence), Bangalore and finally at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK where I helped create standards for the materials I had done my research on. I had 20+ publications in international journals, 2 US patents and several measurement notes to my credit.
In 1998, when we returned to India, I felt I had done everything I wanted to do in the field. I then switched tracks and joined Cancer Patients Aid Association, one of the most respected cancer related NGOs in India. From 1999-2012, when we moved to Seoul, I helped take the organisation to higher levels. I introduced many unique, innovative patient focused programmes, initiated research work on issues related to cancer, started training programmes leveraging CPAA’s core strengths.
While not directly related to the field I had done my PhD in, I depended on my knowledge of chemistry and my research oriented skills. I still work long distance answering queries that come in to our website and my advice is sought on treatment issues. This May, with the help of my CPAA colleagues, I organised a cancer detection camp for 300 people in Malvan, my mother’s native town in Maharashtra, to commemorate what would have been my parents 60th wedding anniversary.
In Korea, I carried out psychosocial research on trauma faced by sisters of breast cancer patients under the aegis of the Seoul National University’s Breast Cancer Surgical Department.
But I do not consider myself a role model for women coming out of the IIT today. My colleagues and classmates are at senior levels in the organisations I worked at during my earlier career. In my defence, every boss I have worked for has given me only the very highest of references. My colleagues at CPAA constantly ask when I am returning and recommencing my work there.
While my husband accompanied me as my dependent during my time at NASA when we were just married, each of the moves thereafter has been due to the compulsions of his career graph. In the interim we brought up two amazing daughters. I have the luxury of being able to choose not to work.
I have been asked to write an article to guide and provide insights for women graduating today. I feel myself unqualified to do so. I find it hard to guide even my own daughters. Today is a very different time from 1983 when I set sail from IIT. Today’s women are so much smarter and more confident than our generation was. At a time when couples strive to get luxuries we could only dream of much later in life, and yet where job security is low, women must share equally the burden of bringing home the bacon. Just being a product of IIT sets a responsibility on your shoulders to make the best use of the education you have denied someone lower in the JEE ranking.
I could advise todays women graduates to concentrate on their career to the exclusion of all else. Or I could tell them to concentrate on growing their family. Each woman has to find a point in between these extremes which best suits her. I thank IIT not just for the knowledge I gained but for the ability it gave me to search and find the knowledge I require on a day to day basis and share it with others. And I believe that this marks the true calling of a product of IIT.