Anoushka Sinha: Showing Girls How to Break STEMs Glass Ceiling
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to see how one person’s passion is targeting UN SDG 4 Quality Education and UN SDG 5: Gender Equality! Join me as I welcome Anoushka Sinha, founder of GirlLytical For Girls In STEM! Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Hi, Anoushka! It’s lovely to meet you! Can you tell me what challenge you’re addressing through GirlLytical For Girls In STEM?
Anoushka: Hi Spiffy! Did you know that the gender gap is a grave problem that is present in the field of STEM? Research shows that girls form only 10-15% of STEM researchers and faculty members in prestigious STEM institutes and research and development labs. In India, there are very few women scientists—for instance, in microbiology India’s female-male ratio was 0.57. The gender gap in STEM is increasing every day due to the deep-rooted patriarchal norms that exist in my country and girls are being denied their rights to education, self-independence, and jobs all because of this patriarchal and male-dominated mindset. GirlLytical is an artificial intelligence-based solution to increase the participation of girls in STEM and reduce the gender gap through learning.
Spiffy: Wow, Anoushka, I didn’t realize that! What motivated you to inspire girls to join STEM?
Anoushka: I come from a community that is deeply rooted in patriarchy, inhibiting girls from their rights to education, jobs and so much more. I wanted to change the notion that girls should be subjected to household chores and should not cross boundaries or pre-existing norms defined by society. I experienced firsthand the grave inequality of being questioned if I was good enough to pursue the sciences and I have seen this happen to many other girls in underprivileged communities. I started my journey of activism to curb this injustice. I use social entrepreneurship to provide girls with resources and support so that they can become empowered individuals who are strong, independent, and empowered.
Spiffy: Can you say more about how you are working to make the world a more equitable place?
Anoushka: GirlLytical aims to identify underprivileged girls who are passionate about STEM through partnerships with local NGOs around the country. These girls receive training, using the ACE (aim, create, explore) model, which has been specially formulated by us as a means to help girls learn about career goals, education, and jobs so that they can become empowered STEM professionals. We host GirlLytical boot camps where girls work on AI solutions, and listen and interact to podcasts from successful women STEM aficionados. They also get ‘STEMitivities’(STEM activities) toolkits—a physical kit that has a set of activities that are devised to enhance girls’ motor and sensory skills. We have created the ‘PracSTEM’ scanning system where science can be learned by scanning objects
Spiffy: These sound like very exciting initiatives! Can you talk about any milestones that you’re particularly proud to have reached?
Anoushka: I received the award of top 30 Social Innovators from UNDP Youth Co:Lab and the Government Of India. I was also honored to receive the Diana Award, the most prestigious accolade for a young person. These awards serve as a great example and source of inspiration for many girls around the world and help us spread the message that no matter where you come from and whatever you face if you always have a feeling of strength, courage, and resilience you can become anything you envision yourself to be. These awards provided us with training and helped us to grow as an organization and also helped spread the positive message of never giving up and staying resilient.
Spiffy: I was hoping you could share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Anoushka: Starting work as an activist in a patriarchal society was tough. It came with a lot of highs and lows, especially from people who were not interested in hearing what we had to offer or were not ready to send their daughters to school to get an education. Most of the time I was told not to do advocacy work and that my work wouldn’t make any changes. This made me feel broke and that my efforts to educate people and spread awareness about education were in vain. But these failures were a vital learning experience to be introspective, creative, and stay resilient in times of adversity. Then I introduced people to a program where they could learn, receive an education and gain employable skills to earn.
Spiffy: What is something unexpected you’ve learned recently and what difference has it made in your life and work?
Anoushka: I recently worked with young people from all around the world virtually on an AFS Intercultural Program Ideathon. I worked on GirlLytical and reducing the gender gap In STEM. I was completely awestruck by how people of all ages were so passionate about solving this issue. Though they may not necessarily have experienced the inequality, they all wanted to use their voices and knowledge to advocate for girls who face this problem. Their passion and dedication towards the issue gave me the motivation and drive to never give up and always be ready to act and help. Their simple expression of empathy for underprivileged girls sparked in me the fire to continue spreading awareness among as many people as I can and create tangible change together.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Anoushka: I have a special message for young girls all around the world! I want to let them know that no matter what anyone says, you should always remember how Strong, Talented, Extraordinary, and Marvellous you are! You should never let anybody put you down and you should always be fearless and courageous to pursue your dream. We girls are capable of doing anything we want and we can become anything from a scientist to a noble prize winner! Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your passion!
Spiffy: I’m going to amplify that message all around the world, Anoushka! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and share your mission and vision for girls in STEM. It’s been an honor!
Anoushka Sinha, the founder of GirlLytical For Girls In STEM, is a child rights activist, a STEM enthusiast, and a social entrepreneur working on sustainable development goals. She has impacted more than 5,000 underprivileged children since she was ten. She has also been awarded the Diana Award and is the youngest fellow from her country for the Royal Society of Arts. Anoushka aims to foster positive change through the spirit and power of the community and wants to harness more awareness of the importance of education for children. (Nominated by Action Accelerator. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 19, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.