Ritu Favre

The Woman Changing the Future of the Fingerprint
September 13 - Sarah Ashlock
STEM
 

FIRST THOUGHT: The Next Step in Tech

So, ladies, raise your hand if you don’t know how to use some techy thing you have. I can’t be the only one that’s notoriously bad at learning how to actually use something, right? I’ve had this Bluetooth speaker for months and still can’t figure out how to turn the volume up or down without a verbal command. It frustrates me every single dang time, and every single dang time, I remind myself to figure it out. Honestly, even as I’m telling you this story, I thought I should quickly Google how to use it. Instead, I said to myself, “Nah, maybe tomorrow.” (Spoiler: It probably won’t happen.)

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 11 Percent

The idea that women aren’t good at tech is silly. Some of us just have a ton of other stuff to do! If you’re looking for a career path, though, we need you in the tech industry. Maybe if a woman were at the helm of creating my Bluetooth speaker, it’d be intuitive enough for me to figure out. Women make up 50 percent of the American workforce, but only about 11 percent of them are in technology-focused executive positions. We know having a female CEO often leads to more diverse hiring practices, so increasing the number of women in tech would be a win-win.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Ritu Favre, CEO of Next Biometrics

When you were 15 and fumbling with your locker combination, today’s Woman to Watch, Ritu Favre, was graduating high school. Ritu makes tech look cool and makes being smart look even cooler. To say Ritu has been surrounded by dudes is an understatement: They were in her master’s program in electrical engineering. They were there as she climbed the ranks at a few large tech companies.

But Ritu can’t complain, as her challenges haven’t stopped her from her most recent and esteemed gig of them all: becoming the first woman to head a fingerprint-sensor company. Ritu studied at Arizona State University, where she got her bachelor’s degree in science and electrical engineering. She then kick-started her career by putting in 15 years at Motorola. Ritu now spends her days as CEO of Next Biometrics, where she focuses particularly on revenues, volumes and markets.

Tech may not be full of women, but one reason Ritu didn’t let her gender deter her from pursuing it professionally is her upbringing. Her family prioritized education above all, instilling in Ritu a sense that pursuing tech would be challenging and might even seem impossible, but that she could do it. So, she did.

Let’s explain one thing from the get-go: biometrics. Simply put, biometrics measures and analyzes what makes us individually unique through technology like fingerprinting. (Think of those fingerprints we give after too many speeding tickets, or the iris recognition that helps you avoid long passport lines.) This fingerprinting is particularly valuable in governmental applications, access control, smart cards and PCs. It’s a growing avenue of research and design that must continually evolve to remain cutting-edge. Recently, the company’s sensors were certified for compliance by the FBI’s Personal Identity Verification standards, a big boost that’ll help Ritu reach a larger market.

Ritu doesn’t regret choosing a male-dominated field one bit. She says every day of her life, she’s happy to be an engineer, despite the fact girls and women are often “subtly discouraged” to pursue that kind of job. Her hope is that girls won’t look at engineering as some nerdy occupation, but as fun and stimulating.

QUITE THE QUOTE

Being open to exploring more than one career avenue might just lead you to become the next big thing. Who would say no to that? Here’s a quote from Muhammad Ali to finish our story:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”

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