Priyanka Das Rajkakati – 2021 Forbes India 30 Under 30 Winner & Alumni of the Ecole Polytechnique Paris

“The fight for women’s rights has a rich and colourful history: from the right to wear comfortable clothing at work, to being able to work in a comfortable environment, to being able to vote, and now, asking for the selection of more women astronauts. It’s a day to celebrate these moments, and no, it’s not about being the one day in the year when one should be nicer to women.”

Already, there is a big difference between the world my mother grew up in and the world I’ve known, so progress has definitely been made. In the Aerospace industry for example, the recent NASA astronaut selections achieved near gender parity, as compared to the painfully slow start in the early days of space exploration.”

“Human nature needs to change…However, there are also many beautiful instances of support and collaboration between women. For example, I am part of a wonderful community of women thanks to the Homeward Bound Projects initiative, which is a global leadership program for women in STEMM. Apart from a voyage planned to Antarctica with my cohort, we also have regular interactions and we help each other whenever anyone needs any sort of guidance or assistance.”

When asked what do you think helped you get so far in your career? Priyanka Das Rajkakati replied “The first rule is to always “show up” – at the most boring lecture, at a meeting when you’re unprepared, or in a conference where you know no one – an opportunity for a new project or idea can come from anywhere!”

“Having great mentors has also helped me a lot in combating regular enemies of success such as self-doubt, self-censorship, fear of failure, lack of focus, indecision and even, depression.”

In the Aerospace sector, it’s quite easy to encourage women to join the industry – provide a few scholarships, “quotas”, organise motivational events – however, a lot still needs to be done to follow-up and make the work environment more comfortable for women, in order to sustain their dreams and ambitions and help them grow in their career.”

“The problem today, which is not just limited to the Aerospace sector, is that women are expected to be “exceptional” in order to reach the same stage as a typical, competent man.”