By Rani Borkar | Corporate Vice President, Azure Hardware Systems & Infrastructure | Microsoft
Although much progress has been made to improve the representation of women in engineering over the years, there’s no question that centuries of social conditioning and unconscious bias have presented challenges in achieving true gender parity in technical workplaces. I still remember my early days as a project engineer, when I was frequently the only woman in the room architecting and designing processors. Another experience that will stick with me for the rest of my life came later in my career, once I had progressed into senior leadership. One day, I was getting ready to lead an important presentation – only to be mistaken for an assistant by a kind and well-meaning, but unassuming male colleague.
The technology sector has come a long way, even just in the past few years – but one thing is clear: there is still much more work to do when it comes to advancing gender equality. Specifically, in semiconductor and hardware engineering, the data speaks volumes: Research from the Global Semiconductor Alliance and Accenture found that the median for women representation in the total semiconductor workforce lies in the 20-25% range, but that this falls to under 10% as roles progress from individual contributor to managers to board level roles.
Each year, June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED21) – and for those of us in the technology sector, a moment in time that presents us with the opportunity to pause and take stock of why this day exists in the first place, acknowledge the progress made, and look to the future for solutions. Meanwhile – it’s also a time for us to honor, recognize and celebrate the very individuals making an impact – both for their incredible engineering work as well as for their efforts to advance the worthy cause of uplifting fellow female engineers.
When I reflect on the journey that my career has taken since those early days as a project engineer, it was the simple act of being supported by allies and champions that helped propel me to the position I am in today. To honor #INWED21, it’s my privilege to spotlight a few of the outstanding women engineers who sit in critical roles, working day in and day out to build the most scalable, secure, and efficient hardware technologies and systems to power the world’s most advanced computing platform, Azure.
Darpana Munjal Loodu, Principal Software Engineering Manager, Cloud Hardware and Infrastructure Engineering
With more than 15 years of industry experience, Darpana has been instrumental in leading firmware teams that own E2E DevOps, driving forward groundbreaking work for Azure Security. She’s also an active mentor to women engineers on the Cloud Hardware and Infrastructure Engineering team, regularly leading and hosting tech talks to share new technology investments while leading the charge on her team to raise awareness for underrepresented communities.
Donna Patterson, Senior Program Manager, Cloud Supply Chain and Provisioning
Donna Patterson has been a role model and leader on her team, both as a strong technical talent and as a community leader for Microsoft. On top of her years of expertise across multiple teams in our Cloud Provisioning & Decommissioning Engineering organization, Donna is an active community impact champion, serving roles across Microsoft’s Cloud + AI Blacks at Microsoft Employee Resource Group as well as the Microsoft Stakeholders Voluntary Political Action Committee (MSVPAC). She’s an active mentor for organizations promoting female representation in STEM, whose own STEM story has influenced many to go into engineering or math professions.
Elyse Ge Hylander, Principal Strategic Hardware Planner, Hardware Strategy and Planning
Elyse has played a pivotal role in shaping the Azure hardware strategy, leading important initiatives and efforts to make the hardware planning process more customer-focused. She has created new centralized analyses that have transformed her team’s planning processes, driving value in our quest to plan and develop next-generation technology. On top of this, Elyse has served as a mentor to other members on her team, setting a strong example for junior colleagues.
Frances Tibble, Software Engineer, Microsoft Quantum
Frances is a quantum software engineer whose contributions have been instrumental in advancing Microsoft’s Quantum program. She has led developer workshops and built important bridges across the industry with her effective communication skills, outreach, and keen ability to connect meaningfully with the business ecosystem and forge lasting customer relationships.
Martha Peterson, Principal Hardware Engineer, Azure Hardware Architecture
Martha brings a strong acumen for mechanical design to her work as a principal hardware engineer, where she leads mechanical design for racks, cabling, packaging, and interconnects on various cloud hardware platforms. She’s also been a longtime champion for diversity in Microsoft’s hiring process.
Sukhadha Viswanathan, Electrical Engineer, Silicon Engineering and Solutions
Sukhadha is an electrical engineer who has made significant contributions in the areas of power and signal integrity within our Silicon Engineering and Solutions team. She has designed critical portions of the highest speed interconnects at Microsoft and has played a vital role in physical layout and electrical analysis work.
Let’s champion our women colleagues, together
I am proud to lead a team supported by so many strong female engineers. After all – these are just six of the many outstanding women on our teams, working together to design and build a vertically integrated hardware and software stack from the systems to the servers to the rackers and clusters, up through the datacenter infrastructure into the operating system. As I look back on my own experiences and think about how much the powerful work of women has contributed to the strength of my teams, I know that the future for female engineers is bright. What’s important now is that we can all recognize, celebrate, and uplift the women on our teams who are making an impact, while also continuing to champion and support our female counterparts.
After reading about the incredible stories above, I’d like to ask about your story – and how can you be a mentor, coach, or advocate for another woman?
About Rani Borkar
Rani Borkar is the Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure (AHSI) and a member of Azure’s Senior Leadership Team. In her role, Borkar leads the core organizations building Microsoft’s leading cloud computing platform—from silicon, systems, to supply chain.
Throughout her career, Borkar has established herself as a pioneering hardware engineer in the semiconductor industry, a technology executive, product visionary, and trusted leader with decades of experience in the computing industry. She is passionate about delivering end-to-end solutions to empower customers to achieve more.
Since joining Microsoft, Borkar has been instrumental in strengthening Azure’s place as the industry-leading cloud computing platform. Currently, Azure is the global leader in enterprise cloud computing, as it serves more than 95% of the Fortune 500.
As the head of Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure, she strengthens Microsoft’s deeply integrated Azure cloud services, technology roadmap, research and development efforts, and quantum computing. She is responsible for the vision, strategy, and architecture of silicon development as well as global capacity deployment for Microsoft’s cloud data center infrastructure. Under her leadership, Microsoft’s brightest engineering minds focus on developing technologies that will solve the world’s toughest problems and drive end-to-end business value for Azure’s products and solutions.
Before joining Microsoft, Borkar served as the Vice President of OpenPOWER Development at IBM. Prior to IBM, Borkar spent most of her career at Intel. As Corporate Vice President, she led Intel’s silicon product development strategy while leading large, complex, and diverse global engineering organizations that developed world-class microprocessors for Intel servers, PCs, phones, tablets, and the Internet of Things.
Leading with the philosophy of “mission first, people always,” Borkar has inspired and transformed organizations by building close-knit communities. To produce great technology, Borkar believes in the power of combining technology assets and engineering talent with the values of collaboration and mentorship to empower teams to achieve more and move the industry forward.
Borkar has keynoted at industry-leading engineering leadership events and conferences that empower women in technical fields. She is a member of the board for the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA), a member of the GSA Women’s Leadership Council, and she serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Oregon State University to help guide the state’s effort to advance economic development and innovation.
Borkar earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree—both in physics—from the University of Mumbai, India. She went on to earn a second master’s degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University. Borkar also holds an Executive Program in Leadership (LEAD) certificate from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Originally from Mumbai, Borkar calls both Portland, OR and Seattle home. She is married with two sons.