Dr. Krithika Muthukumaran
I recently read an article about the importance of having a role model that looks like you. When you can identify with the person, it is easier and more likely for you to emulate your role model. I have two role models who have influenced me greatly - Indra Nooyi and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.
Indra Nooyi was the Chairman CEO of PepsiCo. She is now part of the board of directors of Amazon. She was born and brought up in Chennai, India, studied in one of the popular Arts and Science Colleges in Chennai, and pursued an M.B.A in Indian Institute of Management before moving to the U.S. Growing up in Chennai, learning about Indra Nooyi and her achievements had a huge impact on me. Her interviews were regularly shared in the regional women’s magazine and my mother and grandmother would read them and share every detail of the interview with me. It was inspiring to see her break the glass ceiling and excel in a leadership role.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is from Bengaluru, India. She is the Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon, a leading biotechnology company in India. I was in high school when everyone was talking about how biotechnology is going to be the future and it was gaining popularity. Learning about Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Biocon inspired me to pursue a degree in science and dream of a career in research. I pursued an undergraduate degree in Microbiology and master’s degree in Molecular Genetics. I was very excited when I got the opportunity to work in the Research and Development department at Biocon after getting my master’s.
My role models taught me to dream big!
I wanted to pursue further education. So I moved to Canada for my PhD and like most graduate students, I faced many highs and lows in my research and experiments. The biggest lesson I learnt however was about the importance of inclusion and the need to advocate for diversity and gender equality in STEMM fields. I struggled whenever my colleagues failed to look at me beyond stereotypes. India is a diverse country, with so many languages, history and different types of food. The neighbouring countries have their own history, languages and culture. I wanted my colleagues and friends to get to know me as a person and beyond stereotypes. When I taught labs, the undergraduate students often had a preconceived notion about me once they heard my accent or saw my name. After few labs, some have even confessed to me that they assumed that they would have a tough time working with me and about how they were wrong. It took some time for me to learn how to be more aware of negative stereotypes and misconceptions and speak up when necessary.
Once again it was my role models who helped me gain confidence and lose self-doubt. My goals and career path have changed over the years. But seeing them in leadership roles, successful, overcoming gender and cultural stereotypes, and having their voices heard, reminded me that it might not be an easy path, but it can be done. I want to keep working towards breaking down age, gender and racial stereotypes, as I know it can hold us back from going after our dreams. I talk about the power of inclusion and being in an environment where you feel like you belong, whenever and wherever I get the chance. I talk about it to my colleagues, friends, family and most importantly my little/younger girl cousins. I am most satisfied when I see my little/younger cousins talk so fiercely about gender equality and inclusion. It makes my heart happy!
About the editor:
Dr. Nida Rehmani is the Junior Academy, Global STEM Alliance, NewYork Academy of Sciences. She is the scientific editor for bio-services.org and content editor for Lotus Stories blogs.
Dr. Rehmani completed her B.Sc. & M.Sc. in Biochemistry from Aligarh Muslim University. Her zeal for higher education led her to pursue Ph.D. in molecular biology. Under the auspices of the Obama Singh exchange fellowship, she continued her research in the Department of Radiology, The Ohio State University, USA. During the program, she earned a M.Ed., specialized in STEM higher education.
She is a science communication enthusiast and volunteers for advocating STEM education, especially under-represented communities and minorities. She has a flair for writing & maintains her own personal blog nidarehmani.blogspot.com. She loves cooking and started her own youtube channel: Millenial Recipes. Last but not the least, she is a dedicated mother to an active toddler!
Linkedin: Nida Rehmani