Crack the glass ceiling

Be inspired by these six women who made their mark in male-dominated professions. Santana Fell has their stories

  • Published 4.09.18
Leading ladies: Ishita rides the waves

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), only 28.5 per cent women in India join the workforce compared to 82 per cent men. ILO's Global Employment Trends for Youth 2017: Paths to a Better Working Future says that reaching gender parity would have a bigger impact in India than anywhere else in the world. The Indian woman is still breaking the mould and excelling in professions long thought to be the preserve of men.

Fighter pilot

The sky may be the limit but for women pilots of the Indian Air Force, the sky was limited. They could not fly fighter jets till 2015, when Avani Chaturvedi, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth became the first women fighter pilots. Chaturvedi, 24, went on to make history again by becoming the first Indian woman fighter pilot to fly solo.

Professional surfer

Surfing is not even a common hobby in India, forget profession. Yet Ishita Malaviya is India's first professional woman surfer. "The thing I love most about surfing is that it makes me feel like a child again. I feel that as a woman in India, you're sometimes forced to grow up too soon," says Ishita, who co-owns a surf school called The Shaka Surf Club in Kodi Bengre near Udupi in Karnataka. "I had no coach or other women surfers to learn from," says the young woman who taught herself surfing from YouTube videos. "As someone who is doing what she loves, I know it is not easy to swim against the current. There are always people telling you what you can, or cannot, do. It is up to you to follow your heart," is her advice.

Anam doing a wheelie

Private investigator 

The image we have of a private investigator - inspired by Sherlock Holmes and our own Feluda - is always that of a man. That is bound to change if you meet Rajni Pandit, the first woman private investigator in Maharashtra and possibly the most famous detective in India. She solved her first case while still in college and, with her family's support, started Rajni Pandit Detective Services in 1991. Recently, she has started to train and hire other women to work as detectives.

Traffic cop

With Calcutta welcoming women into its traffic police, white-clad women constables on scooterettes have become a common sight. They handle different assignments, including manning important crossings late at night, but their main work is helping the woman on the street and nabbing female rule breakers.

Yogita at the wheel


At 23, Anam Hashim is the youngest, female, professional bike stunt performer and the only Indian to win a stunt competition. "I came across a group of female riders performing stunts while I was still in school and that inspired me." Her advice to girls in an unconventional profession is, "You have to have strong willpower. Don't let anything deter you."

Truck driver

While trucks are a common sight, a woman in the driver's seat is not. Yet driving a truck is just another day's work for Yogita Raghuvanshi. The 48-year-old started driving a ten-wheeler truck after losing her husband in an accident in 2003. "The need for an income and the fact that I can earn enough to sustain my family from only one trip a month was the driving factor behind my becoming a truck driver," says India's first female truck driver.