Dr. Shruti Kapoor Featured in Stars of STEM


Original article, Joya Dass, Stars of STEM

When the gang rape incident happened in India in December 2012, it shook Shruti Kapoor to her core.

She was equally disturbed by the data that followed, indicating that a woman is raped in the country every 20 minutes. It didn’t help to learn that the government and the local police often colluded to make matters worse.

“The system was broken. We had a grave issue at hand and I wanted to help,” says Shruti. She had her PhD in economics. She understood the impact incidents like these had on the finances of a country.

A single act of violence against a woman means perhaps she doesn’t come to work. In fact in the aftermath of the Delhi Gang Rape, The Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry in India conducted a survey. It found that the productivity of female workers in India plummeted more than 40 percent in the weeks following. Why? Nearly 82 per cent of the 2500 respondents said they started to leave work early. A woman would scurry to leave before sunset since she travelled by bus or other means of public transportation. Shruti knew that many moons down the road, consistently ‘leaving early’ could impact that same woman’s earning potential. It would affect tax revenue and eventually — —India’s gross national product.

Rather than head down this rabbit hole, Shruti founded an organization to get her own data on the subject —  and hopefully find a solution.

Under the umbrella of an organization called SAYFTY, she surveyed 1206 respondents between April-July, 2013, between Jabalpur, Kanpur & Delhi, employed mostly in the IT industry or working for a multinational. She found that arming women with pepper spray, teaching them WHERE to get it, and how to use it, helped their confidence while taking public transport. About 64% of the respondents considered the use of pepper/chili spray to be “the most affordable, practical and effective” means of warding off danger.

She leveraged the use of modern technology to create a keyring alarm and a pepper spray disguised in a lipstick case to make self protection ‘not so conspicuous.’ The end goal was to still encourage women to take responsibility for their own safety, as opposed to rely on someone else. Through SAYFTY self-defense workshops, women learn to be more aware and alert when walking down a street.

“These products are not ‘THE’ solution but they are “A” solution,” says Shruti.

Today Shruti recommends encouraging girls to play with superhero toys as much as boys. She also thinks a change in attitude is in order. Girls shouldn’t be made to think that STEM field professions are ‘nerdy.’

Shruti and SAYFTY’s study and its solutions are working to make the world a much safer place for women.

Shruti is one of the women walking in the STARS OF STEM show next week. Read more about the other 15 women walking here. http://www.lady-drinks.com/starsofstem/ Better yet, come watch Shruti walk. This is her and the other women’s 15 minutes in the sun. We are celebrating, illuminating, and elevating the women who occupy the jobs of the future. By attending, you also help a young girl from the Boys and Girls Club Newark aspiring to study in a STEM field. Buy your tickets here http://bit.ly/1JOsrcy