INTRODUCTION
ON BACKGROUND
The cover of the popular Silicon Valley magazine Wired of Feb-
ruary 2004 features a headshot of a beautiful copper-skinned
woman bedecked in jewels. With her palm concealing the lower
half of her face, she gazes out at the reader from heavily lined
eyes. The palm is covered in the traditional Indian decoration
known as mehndi, usually seen in the abstract designs and floral
patterns that adorn the hands of Indian brides and Bollywood
starlets. ‘‘The New Face of the Silicon Age,’’ declares the headline.
At a closer look, the viewer sees that the mehndi designs are not
what he might expect—the mehndi is software code. The caption
reads, ‘‘Kiss your cubicle good-bye. Tech jobs are fleeing to India
faster than ever. You got a problem with that?’’ (figure 1). The
corresponding story inside the magazine introduces the ‘‘real’’
woman the glamorous model on the cover was meant to refer to:
Aparna Jairam, a thirty-three-year-old project manager in Mum-
bai described in the following passage by the journalist Daniel H.
Pink: ‘‘Her long black hair is clasped with a barrette. Her dark eyes
are deep-set and unusually calm. She has the air of the smartest
girl in class—not the one always raising her hand and shouting
out answers, but the one who sits in back, taking it all in and
responding only when called upon, yet delivering answers that
make the whole class turn around and listen.’’ Pink goes on to cite
Jairam’s practical, yet authentic reading of the ancient Hindu
text, the Gita,∞ and Jairam’s sharp, composed responses to Ameri-
can counterparts accusing her of stealing their jobs. A photograph
of Jairam shows her just as Pink describes her, with simple jew-
elry and a small black bindi (figure 2).
This issue of Wired came out just as I was beginning the re-
search for this project. As I was already interested in the particu-
lar role of female information technology (it) professionals in the
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