Sudha Murty Reflects on the Challenges and Triumphs of Being a Pioneer Female Engineer

Sudha Murty, the notable educator, author, philanthropist, and current Rajya Sabha MP, recently opened up about her trailblazing journey in a candid interview on the Sparx podcast. Speaking with Mukesh Bansal, founder of Myntra and Cult, Murty shared the many hurdles she faced as a woman pursuing an engineering degree, a path almost unthinkable for girls at the time.

Reflecting on her ambitious decision at the tender age of seventeen and a half, Murty chuckled as she recalled the skepticism she encountered in her conservative town. According to her, societal norms dictated that women excel in domestic skills like cooking but rarely ventured into adventurous or academically rigorous fields such as engineering. “People thought there’s something wrong with my brain,” she recounted humorously, emphasizing the disbelief that shrouded her aspirations. “How can a girl do engineering? Everybody had their own reasoning.”

Murty earned her MEng in computer science from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science and her BEng in electrical and electronics engineering from BVB College of Engineering and Technology, now known as KLE Technological University. She vividly remembered how even her grandmother and mother had differing opinions about her career choice. “My grandmother said you should not do engineering because nobody will marry you in our community, in our area. My mother said you should become a mathematics professor so that you can manage your house as well as your career,” Murty shared. Both were concerned about her future marital prospects rather than her academic dreams.

The societal expectations didn’t stop there. Murty highlighted the prevailing sentiment that girls only went to college to find suitable husbands rather than to earn degrees. This belief was so entrenched that her college did not even have female restrooms. “They did not build toilets. I said it does not matter. I will not drink water from 7am-12pm. Then I would walk back home, use the restroom, have lunch and then would be in the lab from 2pm to 5pm,” Murty stated, showcasing her extraordinary determination.

Despite these obstacles, Murty excelled academically, becoming the top student at her university. She believed fervently in personal responsibility and the importance of self-reliance. “I also understood something at a very young age—maybe 19 or 20—that later became my mantra and I realized was a great philosophy: ‘You want to do anything in life? You are all alone, and you must do it all alone.

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. If you want to do bad in life, you are responsible. You have bad habits, you are responsible. Good things? You are responsible.’ And later on in life, I realized it is the essence of Bhagavad Gita. You are your best friend and your worst enemy,” she elaborated.

Murty’s dedication was unwavering. Throughout her four years in engineering school, she did not take a single day off. “I never took one day off in four years because I didn’t want to ask for notes from anybody. Then I thought if I don’t put 100 per cent, nobody would put any per cent in me. I have to work very hard. So the great philosophy in life is that if I want something, I should work for it. I should not depend on anyone,” she asserted.

Her story of perseverance didn’t stop with her education. Murty’s father was among her few supporters, standing by her every decision. “My father said come what may, I will support you as long as you are legally and ethically right,” she acknowledged, highlighting the invaluable role of parental encouragement in her journey.

In the end, Sudha Murty broke several barriers and stereotypes. She became the first female engineer to be employed by Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO), applying for the job as a bold response to a job posting that explicitly discouraged women from applying. Her career trajectory reached another milestone in 1996 when she founded the Infosys Foundation, adding another layer to her diverse achievements. Notably, she is also the wife of NR Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys.

Sudha Murty’s life story, enriched with trials and triumphs, continues to inspire many. Her resilience and unwavering faith in self-reliance have made her a role model for women aspiring to break free from societal constraints and pursue their true passions.

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