Women in the diaspora: Skilled and Highly Skilled Professionals
WOMEN IN THE DIASPORA:
SKILLED AND HIGHLY SKILLED
At ODIWNET, Jan 10-11, 2014
IIC, New Delhi, India
INDIAN DIASPORA SECOND LARGEST IN THE
The Indian Diaspora is estimated to be second
largest in the world, second to only China and has a
much diversified global presence.
The Diaspora, spread across over 200 countries is
estimated at over 25 million.
High concentration of the Indian diaspora is in
regions such as the Middle East, the United States of
America, Malaysia, South Africa
While the Indian Diaspora in Gulf and other countries
is more of unskilled and semi skilled, the diaspora in
developed countries – USA and UK is skilled and
Source: Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs Report, 2010
DIASPORA THE WINDOW FOR WORLD
TO INDIA’S HERITAGE & PROGRESS
“Post-independence, overseas Indians have served
as a bridge of friendship and cooperation between
India and their adopted homes abroad. Regardless of
whether they are successful professionals, traders
and entrepreneurs, or second generation
Indians, comfortably reconciling their two identities, or
workers toiling hard to build a future for their
families, they are at all times a most effective window
for the world to India’s heritage and its progress”
Dr. Man Mohan Singh, Prime Minister, Government of India
in his speech at the 11thPravasiBhartiya Divas at Kochi
APPROACH ADOPTED IN THIS PAPER
While reliable data is not available on the constituent
share of women Diaspora in the various countries and its
bifurcation of skilled and highly skilled workforce.
Only Web and Desk research has been used and very
little field data has been collected for this paper.
A Case study approach has been taken to highlight some
women of Indian diaspora who have excelled in North
America (USA and Canada).
Some of the known knowledge transfer approaches taken
by Indian women diaspora have been highlighted
Some suggestions to take help of women diaspora to
improve their engagement with India have been
summarised in the end.
APPROACH ADOPTED IN THIS PAPER
The women Diaspora can play a big role to bring
about the reverse “Brain Drain” to their parent
countries and ways and means of augmenting the
same have been highlighted.
Paper tries to document the Diaspora associations
and organizations that could add to enhance the level
of engagement of professional women Diaspora.
Role of Skilled Women Diaspora in using ICT and
Knowledge transfer to parent countries in a
systematic manner has been examined in some
depth. This effort can lead to a possible increase of a
long/medium term engagement of the women
Diaspora to initiatives and interest in the development
of Indian women.
SCOPE OF THIS PAPER
The real world data of women diaspora living in
North America in the category of Skilled and Highly
skilled professionals, have been covered in this
paper, examining some of their unique aspects.
Scope has been restricted to women in
Science and Technology,
Politics & Legal
Human Activists/Social Entrepreneurs.
and Knowledge Professionals/Thought Leaders
INDIAN DIASPORA IN NORTH AMERICA
Diaspora is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary
“as a group of people who live outside the area in which
they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors
In our context, Indian Diaspora could comprise of People of Indian Origin (PIO) – Who have some ancestral roots in
Migrants- People Living Overseas for work or business purposes
Emigrants - people leaving the country to a region with the intent
to settle permanently in the other country.
The Diaspora can also be looked upon from their inherent
nature of their reason of movement and their current status:
The Old Diaspora – before 60‟s
The New Diaspora – after 60‟s, primarily to developed countries
like the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.
UNITED STATE OF AMERICA
Americans of Indian ancestry comprise about 3.18
million people, or about 1.0% of the U.S.
population, the country's third largest ancestry group
after Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans.
The major percentage of the annual immigration of
Indian to America constitutes the Knowledge workers
which are skilled or highly skilled.
The highest concentration of Indian community is in
California followed by New York, New Jersey, Texas
The US Census Bureau estimates that 75% percent of
all ethnic Indians working in the US hold at least a
bachelor's degree, and 69% percent work in
management and professional occupations.
UNITED STATE OF AMERICA
The highly skilled new Indian diaspora, migrated to the
North America through mainly after 60‟s
the employment route and
the academic route– the „semi–finished human capital‟
A joint Duke - UC Berkeley university study revealed that
Indian immigrants have founded more engineering and
technology companies from 1995 to 2005 than
immigrants from the UK, China, Taiwan and Japan
The Indian-American community serves as a bridge
between the two countries, promoting mutually beneficial
links in education, commerce, culture, and people-topeople exchanges.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2006 there were
962,665 people who classified themselves as being of
Indian origin, including terms of "East Indian", South
Asian or Indo-Canadian.
Out of this population, 42% are Hindu, 39% are Sikh,
and the rest are Muslim, Christian, Jain, Buddhist. The
main Indian ethnic communities are Punjabis (which
account for more than half of population) as well
Gujratis, Tamils, Keralites, Bengalis, Sindhis and
Most Indians choose to immigrate to larger urban
centers like Toronto, and Vancouver, where more than
70% live. Smaller communities are also growing
in Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal.
Indians in Canada are mainly Entrepreneurs, but are
mainly in medicine, academia, management and
engineering (professional workers).
Emigrants from India today enjoy success in all fields
within the economy while there are some
concentration in British Columbia in agriculture and
Since 1960s, many highly skilled workers and
professionals have energized Canada‟s universities,
the civil service, hospitals and high-tech industries
CHARACTERISTICS OF WOMEN DIASPORA IN
1. CHANGE IN IMAGE
While the earlier Indian women diasporas had an
image of “a Docile Sari clad or other desi outfit,
dotted forehead and a religious women"
The image of the new Diaspora which is emerging, is
of a “dynamic, confident and highly educated
women who is ready to take on the world and is
This new image, which comes with globalization and
hyper mobility, modern communication means
(telephone, e-mail, the internet, videos/DVD, TV,
webcam, etc.) and the introduction of dual citizenship
has lend the women a NEW IMAGE.
BETTER FINANCIAL FREEDOM AND WEALTH
A research company, TNS, has unveiled the results of
the biggest global study into the attitudes and
investment priorities of the affluent. Fundamental
social shifts found in the demographics of the world‟s
While men are the primary decision makers among
affluent households in
India is 80 per cent
Central Europe is 79 per cent
In North America it is more even at 45 per cent
(Source: The Global Indian)
CHANGING MARRIAGE PATTERNS
A large influx of Indian immigrants in North America after
1960‟s, resulted in a mixed Caucasian & Indian
Out of 56,497,000 married couples
the overall the percentage of Indian males married to White
females (7.1%) was higher than Indian females marrying with
White males (3.7%);
Whilst for those who were US born the reverse was true with
more Indian females marrying White males (39.1%) than
Indian males married to White females (27.3%).
This changing marriage patterns has brought a change in
their outlook of North American women of Indian origin,
making them more inclusive to the cultures of the host
Source: 2001 U.S. Census Bureau‟s publication
POLITICALLY AWARE AND SOCIALLY ACTIVE
Though women in North America have been
politically active, but they gained recognition and
notice able attention after the formation of Asian
Indian Women in America (AAIWA) in 1980.
AAIWA, is the 1st Indian women's organization in
North America, and was invited to attend the first
White House Briefing for Asian American Women in
In the next slide some of the active women diaspora
have been highlighted who are socially and politically
aware and active.
WOMEN DIASPORA OF INDIAN ORIGIN IN US
POLITICS AND HUMAN RIGHT ACTIVISM
Nikki Haley, an elected governor of South Carolina, is the
first Indian American woman who is also the youngest
governor of any US state.
Maya Harris, the Executive Director of the ACLU of
Northern California is Vice President for Democracy, Rights
and Justice at the Ford Foundation.
Bhairavi Desai, founding member of the Taxi Workers
Alliance in New York, a union representing approximately
15,000 taxi drivers in New York City.
Kavita Ramdas, former President and CEO of Global Fund
for Women. She is currently the Executive Director of the
Program on Social Entrepreneurship at the Freeman Spogli
Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
Urvashi Vaid, gay rights activist advocates for Boston's
WOMEN DIASPORA IN CANADIAN POLITICS
Narinder Kaur "Nina" Grewal is the MP of
the Conservative Party.
Patty Sahota represented the electoral district
of Burnaby-Edmonds in the Legislative Assembly of
British Columbia from 2001 to 2005.
Ruby Dhalla represented the riding of Brampton Springdale in the Canadian House of
Commons from 2004 to 2011 as a member of
the Liberal Party.
ACQUIRING NEW KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS
As opposed to women in many countries, Indian
women diaspora in North America have equipped
themselves with the right education and skills to not
just acquire another certification but make a mark in
their professional and career work.
Taking sabbatical from work to further their education
or acquire new skills is quite prevalent amongst most
Continuing education has been a planned activity for
most professionals – Bankers, Doctors, Lawyers and
HIGHLY SKILLED WORKFORCE
North American countries feature among the most
competitive economies worldwide, with the United States
occupying the 5th position and Canada the 14th position.
One-third of employed Indian-born women in America
worked in management, business, and finance and in
Among the 384,000 Indian-born female workers age 16
and older employed in the civilian labor force in 2008,
15.7 percent worked in management, business, and finance,
13.6 percent reported working in information technology.
Indian-born women were also concentrated in
administrative-support occupations - 11.8 percent
sales - 10.6 percent.
STRONG BUSINESS ACUMEN
The Indian women diaspora has exhibited great
leadership qualities and strong business acumen in
Indra Nooyi, an Indian-origin American executive who
hails from Chennai is the current Chairman and CEO of
Shefali Duggal, an Indian American was been chosen as
the most powerful woman in California, by National
Renu Khator is the Chancellor and President of University
of Houston, who holds the prestige of being the first
foreign-born President of the University.
Padma Lakshmi is a well-known internationally accepted
personality who has proved her talent in diverse fields,
being an actress, model, Television host and author of
Indian Women Diaspora have not only proved their
mettle as being socially responsible for their
community, but also contributed to the host country
and other countries in their endeavor.
Maya Ajmera - Founder of The Global Fund for Children
and author over 20 children books
MallikaDutt-Founder, President and CEO of Breakthrough
(a global human rights organization) and Co-founder of
Vijaya Lakshmi Emaniwas an Indian American social
activist known for her work against domestic Violence, and
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez,is a lawyer, who is defending
Maya Harris - Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern
Californiais also the Vice President for Democracy, Rights
and Justice at the Ford Foundation
CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN DIASPORA IN
Padmasree Warrior is the CTO of Cisco Systems and past
executive vice president of Motorola.
Rohini Kesavan Srihariis an American computer scientist
and entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Janya Inc.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Sharmila Bhattacharya is the Head of the Biomodel
Performance and Behavior laboratory at NASA Ames
Sunita Williams, a Female NASA astronaut
CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN DIASPORA IN
SangeetaBhatia, is a M.D., Ph.D. Harvard-MIT doctor
& scientist - engineer of artificial liver cells.
Anita Goel, Chairman & CEO, Nanobiosym is a
physicist and physician in the United States.
Sheela Basrur, was a Canadian physician and Ontario
Chief Medical Officer of Health and Assistant Deputy
Minister of Public Health.
ROLE OF ICT AND KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
BY WOMEN DIASPORA
Though, women Diaspora have been transferring
some of their knowledge through direct and indirect
methods, ICT (Information Communication &
Technology) can aid in facilitating the knowledge
transfer in a systematic, strategic and meaningful
ICT also aids in remote engagements through virtual
communities and improving interactions at a more
regular interval in a structured manner.
To show desired results it is vital for all such initiatives
to have a clearly defined strategic intent and
CASE 1 – SRAMANA MITRA- 1MBY1M PROGRAM
Objective: To Create 1 Million Entrepreneurs with 1 Million Turnover
Bio: Sramana Mitra has been an entrepreneur and a strategy consultant in
Silicon Valley since 1994. Her fields of experience span from hard core
technology disciplines like semiconductors to sophisticated consumer
marketing industries including fashion and education.
Use of ICT to help Entrepreneurs
Sramana has developed a well-regarded methodology or positioning which she
has used repeatedly in different situations and across a variety of market
She has authored :
- Entrepreneur Journeys, books focused on demystifying entrepreneurship
- Seed India: How To Navigate The Seed Capital Gap In India.
- Vision India 2020, a futuristic retrospective on India
In 2010, she founded the One Million by One Million initiative to help a
million entrepreneurs globally to reach a million dollars in annual revenue,
build $1 trillion in global GDP and create 10 million jobs.
In 1M/1M, she teaches the Entrepreneur Journeys (EJ) methodology to
entrepreneurs around the world.
CASE 2 – NALINI SALIGRAM -MDIABETES
Objective: To create awareness for1 Million people on
Diabetes in India
Bio: Nalini Saligram. Phd., is a global health advocate and
founder & CEO of Arogya World. Her broad work
experience in leading pharmaceutical companies and
nonprofits solidified her personal desire to make a
meaningful contribution to global health and led to the
formation of Arogya World.
Use of ICT to help spread awareness on Diabetes
Sixty-plus million Indians live with diabetes and 1 million die from
it each year. Moreover, Indians get the disease 10 years earlier
than counterparts in the West, often in their 30s and 40s.
In 2012, Nokia Life helped Arogya World recruit 1,052,633
persons who opted-in to receive mDiabetes text messages.
The participants came from all over India and a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.
CASE 3 - DR. ANNAPURNA PANDEY - ODISHA
DEVELOPMENT THROUGH VIRTUAL NETWORKS
Objective: To create a strategic framework on how to
effectively use OSA voluntary systems and resources in
support of Odisha Development through virtual networks.
Bio: Dr. Annapurna Pandey is a trained
sociologist, anthropologist and teaches Cultural
Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz as
well as at San Jose State University.
Orissa Society of the Americas
The Orissa Society of the Americas (OSA) in Chicago has
recently conducted one of its biggest convention from 5th -7th
July 2013 bringing together about 1300 participants from
different parts of North America as well as Odisha.
During calmaties like the Orissa cyclone the diaspora helped to
rehabilitate and reconstruct the structures caused by the
damages in a very efficient manner
ROLE OF ASSOCIATIONS & CONVENTIONS
A successful, prosperous and politically influential
Diaspora is an asset to India, for it acts as a vibrant bridge
between two countries, adding sustenance to their bilateral
Both India and the Diaspora have something to gain from
the connection, in real as well as intangible terms.
To channelize the efforts of bringing the Indian Diaspora to
connect with India and contribute to its development, many
efforts have been made by organizing conventions with the
help of associations through global conventions and
Some of them have been illustrated here.
PROMINENT INDIAN DIASPORA ASSOCIATIONS
Samband, Assam Association of North America, Telugu Association of
North America, American Telugu Association (ATA), World Malayali
Council, Bengali Cultural Association, Kenada Koota, Gujarati Samaj,
Mayur at the Carnegie Mellon University; Sangam at MIT; Ashoka at
California University; Diya at Duke University; SASA at Brown
University; Boston University, India Club, Friends of India, IGSA
(Houston University)and Indian Students Associations at various
MITHAS, Manavi, Sakhi, Asian Indian Women in America (AIWA),
Maitri, Narika, IBAW (Indian Business and Professional Women), etc.
AAPI, SIPA, NetIP, TiE, EPPIC, SISAB, WIN, AIIMSONIANS, AIPNA,
ASEI, IPACA, IFORI, SABHA, and IACEF,etc.
Association for India‟s Development (AID), AIA, American India
General/ Umbrella Network
GOPIO, NFIA, The Indian American Forum for Political Education
(IAFPE), The National Association of Americans of Asian Indian
Descent (NAAAID), and Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), etc.
Source: India: Skilled migration to developed countries, labour migration to the gulf (Khadaria
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)
The PBD Convention is the flagship event of the
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, organized every
year since January, 2003, with a view to connecting
India to its vast Indian Diaspora and bring their
knowledge, expertise and skills on a common
In 2013, the PBD Convention at Kochi
Had four plenary sessions on- India's Growth: Greater
Opportunities, Heritage and Diaspora, Engaging Young
Overseas Indians and Investment opportunities in States;
Four concurrent sessions on - Innovation and Technology,
Meeting of Diaspora Organizations, India's Growing Soft
Power and Overseas Indians and India.
Global Healthcare Summit : Channelising Diaspora
expertise in healthcare
Healthcare industry forms the backbone of any nation‟s
India with its 1.2 billion population is expected to have a
robust medical sector with a $100 billion industry by 2015
from the current $65 billion, growing 20 percent annually.
However, the challenge facing the industry is to make
healthcare affordable, accessible to all and efficient.
Physicians of Indian origin are much sought after by
patients and medical facilities around the world for their
expertise, compassion and the quality of care they are
known to provide to their patients.
Association of Asian Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI)
conducts the annual Global Healthcare summit, where a
record number of doctors participate in a 2-3 day event.
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
India is a program of the Anita Borg Institute and is copresented with the Association for Computing MachineryIndia.
It is the only annual conference exclusively for women
technologists in India, and brings the research and career
interests of women in computing in India to the forefront.
Presenters are leaders in their respective fields representing
industrial, academic and government communities.
Anita Borg Institute seeks to:
Connect women in computing and concerned companies
Inspire through our goal to increase the impact of women on
Guide women technologists and companies in hopes of increasing
the positive impact of technology on the world‟s women
S&T Professionals of Indian Diaspora – Website
"S&T Professionals of Indian Diaspora - Website" is
Ministry of Science & Technology (Department of
Science & Technology - DST) platform and is an
integral part of the overall Indian Diaspora initiative of
Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs.
This Website is aimed at capturing willingness and
harnessing contributions of STIOs abroad in:
Human Resources & Research Capacity Development
India in international mega-science
India as Global R&D Platform
SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSION
IT & HEALTHCARE
IT and Healthcare professionals constitute strong professional
Healthcare professional diaspora is over three lakhs doctors and
many more paramedical professionals. However, transferring the
expertise has been a huge challenge.
It is thus suggested to explore ICT driven or ICT supported
mechanisms to define a series of programs to overcome specific
challenges faced by India in the development process.
Use of eLearning, Continuing Medical Education, Knowledge
exchanges, etc. may be explored for knowledge transfer, which is
driven by Women diaspora.
The women wing of associations like AAPI may collaborate with
an Indian counterpart or an IT firm that specializes in
Professional Education and Workplace learning.
OTHER PROFESSIONAL WOMEN DIASPORA
Women Diaspora should be encouraged to actively
engage with their Alumina Networks and contribute their
time and philanthropy to upgrade the infrastructure and
standard of the alma mater and the new students.
The returning Women Diaspora can help and support
Indian startups by mentoring and angel funding them.
A few successful Women Diaspora who have returned
have setup global benchmarks in both innovation as well
as nurturing talent to provide risk capital to grow their
startups, leveraging their contact and knowledge
Vani Kola of Kallari Capital, who was earlier in Silicon Valley for
ZipDial CEO Valerie Rozycki Wagoner created a Mobile
Rashmi Sinha, CEO of SlideShare. She focuses on product
strategy and design to lead to acquisition by Linkedin .
SUGGESTIONS TO INCREASE THE ENGAGEMENT OF
SKILLED WOMEN DIASPORA
To bring a strategic dimension to India‟s engagement;
Channelize efforts of skilled and highly skilled professionals
of Overseas Indian community to India in a systematic
Assist the transfer from the investible Diaspora communities
in terms of knowledge & resources in diversified –
economic, social and cultural areas through strategic
Anchor women Diaspora and their skills for overseas
employment initiatives in India.
Leverage ICT to aid knowledge transfer; by creating
knowledge networks, virtual communities
Encourage Women Diaspora to remain connected to the
alumina and home states, through virtual networks.
The Professional Women Diasporas‟ greatest
achievement is to be able to discover their „Self Identity‟.
“Professional IT women, whether or not they love their work,
associate their ability to work with a sense of development of an
individual self, whether in Bangalore or in Silicon Valley. This
individual self is often understood to be a part of their global
identity, while Indian-ness is associated more with collectivity
and family solidarity”
Smita Radha krishnan
The professional women diaspora, have
found their self-identity, it is time for them
to help the Indian Women to find theirs!
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