First Story Positive: Award-winning author Sudha Murty’s inspiring march towards gender equality

The Award-winning and beloved author, Sudha Murty, has written critically acclaimed fiction and non-fiction books in multiple languages but she also pioneered gender-equality for engineers in India, here's how

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There are countless chronicles of brave activists fighting for righteous beliefs, battling the orthodox societal evils like patriarchy, fascism and supremacy to bring about positive change in the society. They fight for equality, giving voice to the subdued people, and making the world a better place to live for us all. One activist, whose efforts to make gender equality the status quo cannot be disputed, is the prolific author and philanthropist, Sudha Murty.


Ms. Murty has penned down countless critically acclaimed novels which are translated to all major Indian Languages. She has also received numerous awards including the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri throughout her career. She is regarded as one of the most prolific writers of India, but did you know she actually started her career as an engineer at the esteemed Tata Group of Companies. Not only that, she was the first woman engineer at TELCO (Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company Ltd.) and subsequently paved the way for future female engineering aspirants by changing the company’s hiring policy. She did so by writing a letter to JRD Tata himself. Here’s her inspirational story:


Sudha Murty completed her Bachelor’s of Engineering in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the B.V.B. College of Engineering & Technology (now known as KLE Technological University). She was a young aspiring graduate looking for jobs in Karnataka. She saw a job opportunity at Tata group, but the listing said, 'Woman Candidates need not apply'.


This angered Ms. Murthy and she subsequently wrote a letter addressed directly to the head of Tata Group, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata. In the letter, she wrote, “The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India, such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives. They have cared for higher education in India since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating based on gender.”


About 10 days after penning the letter, she got a call for an interview for the job in the company’s Pune facility. This call and her trip to Pune led to her being the first female engineer at TELCO. Following her stint at TELCO, she joined Walchand Group of Industries at Pune as Senior Systems Analyst. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Ms. Murty’s efforts were acknowledged by the country as she was awarded the Padma Shri, which is the 3rd highest civilian award in India, in 2006. Most recently she was awarded Padma Bhushan, the second highest civilian award on the eve of 76th Republic day of India in 2023. She has written award winning books, both fiction and non-fiction in English and her native language of Kannada, which have subsequently been translated to all major Indian Languages. She is also the chairperson of the Infosys foundation, which she established in 1996 to help the underprivileged sections of society.  The foundation supports programs in the areas of education, rural development, healthcare, arts and culture, and destitute care in remote regions of India. It is funded by Infosys, which was founded by her husband Narayan Murthy in 1981 after borrowing INR 10,000 from Ms. Murty.


Alleviating her stories from the pages and to enlighten the young budding minds of the country, she along with her daughter-in-law Aparna Krishna also run a Youtube channel named Story Time with Sudha Amma. It features her stories in child friendly animations for the budding minds to interactively learn from her vast knowledge and wisdom. This innovative idea helps to enlighten the young minds of the country, ultimately brightening up our future.