Three very different women, in three very different fields, one question posed to all of them: How do you relate to technology? Their replies, directly and indirectly, point towards one thing: the stereotype that women are tech-challenged just isn’t true.
“When I started my company in 1976, I faced a lot of resistance. Being a woman from a minority community, it was assumed that the right job for me was either that of a secretary’s or an air hostess’s,” says Andrea Menezes, 57, owner of Media Center, a company that provides audio-visual solutions.
Menezes, who did not have any background in AV equipment, began with 35 mm slide projectors and tape recorders, from a one-room photo studio. In the ’90s, she expanded her business and opened up a post-production editing studio. Today, her niche is providing complete AV solutions for corporate events in hotels. The key, she states, is to be in step with changing technology. “Back then, the biggest challenge was importing the technology to India. Today, it’s keeping yourself updated,” she says.
Another woman who has kept the beat is Kamla Bhatt, touted as India’s first podcaster. Bhatt runs a radio-podcast called The Kamla Bhatt Show (http://kamlabhattshow .com) in which she interviews people from all walks of life, including technologists and entrepreneurs.
She also podcasts for PodTech.net, where she’s interviewed some big names, including Vishal Maheshwari, director, Yahoo Mobile, MSN India’s executive producer Krishna Prasad, Quentin Staes-Polet, CEO of Kreeda, which is billed to be India’s first dedicated massive multiplayer online game operator, and Professor John Canny of the University of California, Berkeley, who’s working with colleagues to provide context-specific mobile solutions to developing countries.
She’s also interviewed home-grown entrepreneurs like Suresh Narsimha, whose Bangalore-based start-up, TELi-Bramha, provided Bluetooth solutions to Bangalore police.
Bhatt is fascinated by the way different forms of technology intersect and interact with each other to provide context specific solutions. “For me technology is about ‘what can it do for me?’ Can it help me discover new ways of working or communicating with others, or accessing information, or improving my productivity?” says Bhatt in an e-mail interview.
In a conversation with Tim O’Reilly (founder of O’Reilly Media; he helped coin the term Web 2.0) she explored the Web 2.0 phenomenon and found how “harnessing the intelligence of the users” (to use O’Reilly’s words) led to its development.
The gadget junkie
Sakshi Juneja, 28, is a textbook example of the Internet user that O’Reilly was referring to. A self-confessed gadget freak, she is at present, “living in her (8 GB) iPhone,” which she bought over eBay. Her earlier phones included an HTC PDA, bought off Craig’s List, and the Sony Ericsson W900i (that never released in India). Dig into her bag a bit more and out comes the Sony PSP, on which she plays her favourites: Wipeout Pure, Dynasty Warriors, Luminous and Twisted Metal. But since she bought the iPhone, there’s been really no time for the rest (which also includes a Zune and a portable DVD player).
Sakshi, primarily a blogger, sees technology as a “necessity”, which explains why her interest has been around since she was little. Today she’s a one-stop solution to gadget or blog-related problems for many of her friends. Unabashedly magpie-like, Sakshi’s next on the wishlist is the Sony PSP phone.
Technology has very little to do with age and even lesser to do with gender. Whether it’s a matter of “encouragement and initiative” (according to Bhatt) or that of gendered stereotypes, technology is both an effective tool and an area where such stereotypes die a natural death.