Sheelika Ravi Shankar, head of Team Indus, India’s private mission to the moon spoke at the Elevate 100 conference, to which SheThePeople.TV was a partner.  “When I reach out to people, I forget I am a woman,” she says.

Though she doesn’t have a technology background, her company is building a spacecraft from scratch which is to land on the moon in December 2017.

The key part of the competition is fund-raising, says Sheelika. Raising money for a space mission, without having money in your pocket, was a special challenge she says. It has been a been 7-year long journey. 30 teams had registered initially, and now only five are left, including Team Indus.

She employs 100 employees, 20 of which are women. This is a high number in a field which is known not to have too many women.

“STEM is a male bastion but aerospace, in particular, is male dominated she said. Women face issues of credibility.”

That is why in her organisation ideas are taken on the basis of merit and equality. Everyone at every level is encouraged to speak out.

“When I reach out to people, I forget I am a woman – we are all human beings – when you treat yourself differently, then problems start seeping in. Just be what you are, and be strong in your ideas and communication,” she advises.

She strives to make her organisation gender neutral –  “There is a conditioning we have in our society and that has to change,” she says.

On the dropout rate: 

She says that she sees many women dropping out because of family pressure. The conditioning starts early and has to be addressed at the roots of society, she says.

“Women are prone to be able to take risk, otherwise you wouldn’t see them coming up,” she says. She also says that women are always shown as achieving through adversity.  We don’t show men achieving through adversity, and this needs to change.

On learning:

She is the only non-science person in her team.

She is the only non-science person in her team. At first she was scared “I had to talk and walk the technology,” she says. But it was a great opportunity which she grabbed with both hands.

“I learnt the technology, studied every day, and found my passion after 40! she says.

She encourages everyone to take up impossible challenges!

Also Read: Will Spend $20 Million on Women Led Businesses: Nivruti Rai of Intel