What I Learned from Google Doodles about smashing the ceiling
.. by celebrating the lives of Indian feminist trailblazers.
In the last 3–4 years, Google’s Doodles are bringing forth a subtle revolution among young Indian women — to dream bigger, to study STEM, to fight for social justice.
This is awe-inducing in two ways:
i) the Doodles are acknowledging home-grown feminist pioneers who are long-forgotten
ii) via drawings, a generation of women is finding courage to shatter the glass ceiling
On a personal level, I gauged few major career takeaways from their lives.
Lesson 1. Whom you marry is important for your career
There is an apt quote by Sheryl Sandberg in “Lean In” which I crush on:
When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious.
Guess what? That’s what propelled Anandi Gopal Joshi (India’s first US-educated female doctor) to opt for a career in medicine, more than 153 years ago.
A victim of regressive system of child-marriage, Anandi Gopal Joshi received relentless support from her husband (who was a postal clerk) to pursue higher studies in USA.
It was unthinkable for a woman in an orthodox Indian society in that era.
Key takeaway: Time to shove the social cliche- ‘A man doesn’t put up with a woman who earns more than him’, down the drain.
Lesson 2. Leaving a dead-weight relationship is rewarding
Rukhmabai Raut was one of first female physicians in colonial India, a staunch supporter of feminist movement and a social reformer.
Another casualty of child marriage, she refused to stay with her husband once hitting puberty (divorce was forbidden in ‘then’ Hindu marriage-law), fought hard, and pushed Indian judiciary to put in place Age of Consent Act 1891.
After slaying this ‘insurmountable’ battle, she sailed for England to study medicine, backed by prominent suffragettes.
Key takeaway: When stuck in a relationship that is hindering your professional, mental, and spiritual growth — getting out is the only option.
“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” anyone?
Lesson 3: It’s time to stop the ‘Girls hate math’ myth
Since my childhood, I have heard (imbibed and now unlearning) that girls lack mathematical acumen.
Thanks to Google Doodles, I discovered Shakuntala Devi, who hit this ‘myth’ out of ballpark.
Termed as ‘human computer’, Shakuntala Devi was trained by her father in arithmetic since age three. In the patriarchal India of 1930s, it was rare.
A noted proponent in decriminalizing homosexuality in India, she also taught others her methods of mental calculation.
Key takeaway: When you wield a power — giving ‘it’ back is a must. It might be in the form of encouraging girls to code, or spearheading a #Metoo.
Lesson 4: There is no universal ‘power suit’
Dr. Asima Chatterjee was the first Indian woman to receive Doctorate in Science.
A life-long student of Organic Chemistry, she did ground-breaking research in developing cure for epilepsy and malaria.
While researching more about Dr. Asima Chatterjee, I stumbled upon an interesting trivia.
One day, during a class lecture, a professor asked her :
“Why don’t you wear ornaments like other girls of your age?”
She retorted (and I’m roughly translating it from her and mine common mother tongue ‘Bengali’)-
“ I’d like to wear the study of chemistry as my only badge and ornament”.
Key takeaway: Google “Power suits for women”, and you’ll find cookie-cutter images of sharp suits. Yet, you can conquer the world of STEM by keeping your uniqueness, too .
From my ‘foremothers’, I’m getting to know that — courage is contagious.
In case you are from a patriarchal set-up and ‘being brave’ is an ongoing process for you, give the lives of these women a read. You may find a way.