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Gender Discrimination in STEM Related Jobs (6 January 2021)

Gender Discrimination in STEM Related Jobs (6 January 2021)

Context:

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has expressed concern over under-representation of women in science and technology jobs. He also spoke about the trends in STEM and how we can tap the potential of the data science revolution in job creation.

Background:

The number of girl students in IITs, which was eight per cent in 2016, has increased to 20 per cent.

While about 40% of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates comprise women in the country, which is the highest in the world, women's share in science and technology jobs is a mere 14%.

Summary of the Debate

Challenges faced by the Women:

  • Underrepresentation: In certain areas like technology and in the top-ranking Institutes like IITs, NITs, in Mechanical Engineering, the underrepresentation of women is huge.
  • Gender fixation: Gender fixation or role fixation of women, the stereotype are the main issues in the society. People are not changing with place, with time and with environment.
  • Child rearing: Child bearing and rearing phase is one of the biggest factors where women who are professionally trained sort of discourage to take STEM jobs which are more hierarchical and more competitive.
  • Digital divide: In digital divide even in the state like Karnataka, 62 percent of men have internet access but only 35 percent women use internet.
  • Rural divide: In many rural villages after 10 km-15 km, there are new colleges have come up, but those colleges are teaching social sciences, humanities. So, girls are not getting chance to study science once they enter in to that.
  • Personal hesitancy: There is a kind of personal hesitancy by the women also to take the challenges and opportunity.
  • Carrier break: Often women have to relocate in her job because of marriage, break in the carrier due to child rearing, etc. and after the break in the carrier, it becomes so harder for women to find a new job.
  • Cultural aspect: There are so few women in engineering not because of biological aspect but because of cultural aspect, the socio-economic aspect, the misconception, etc.

How to get rid of this stereotype?

There is need to work at the different levels starting from individual and reaching to the state:

  • Individual: Girls and women have to work on their attitude, perspective and the gender roles. It is not that stereotypes are coming from men, sometimes women themselves are captivated by this stereotype.
  • Family: It is important to understand that how the household responsibility will be shared. At the family level, we must start defining the role of girls and boys from the beginning.
  • Community: Community also put lots of pressure on girls so the community has to be sensitized.
  • Public system: What are the demands, what is the life quality, support system we provide, it is very important.
  • Institution: We need to have a clear metrics for evaluating the parameters for gender equality, which mean that we need a rating, ranking framework.
  • State: Which allies with civil society movements, by way of campaign, for instance, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign has made a remarkable difference in the girls education.

Way Forward:

  • One strategy for encouraging more women to enter STEM careers is to start teaching STEM subjects early.
  • Each girls, women have to fight their own battle, it could at family level, societal level, personal level.
  • Providing interactions to women in the institutes with their role model from corporate world, ISRO, DRDO, etc.
  • We need to systematically understand that what is stopping women from reaching the higher positions in studies and jobs.
  • Without 50 percent of Indian population contributing to the Indian economy equally as the other 50 percent, India will never be a developed country. So, we need to bring women to mainstream.

Important points made by the Guests

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India

  • In all areas of STEM including biological sciences and medicine, the underrepresentation is not so great.
  • It is important to understand that how to get women in top colleges in underrepresented areas.
  • It is necessary to have science camps which would enroll the top 50,000 performing girls in high schools. So, the training needs, financial needs and cultural needs are addressed at the same time.

Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi 

  • The actual number of girls in IITS is in single digit that is 7 to 8 percent. Girls are qualifying the examination but still not joining the IITs because of cultural issues, for instance, if a girl student gets admission in IIT Guwahati, the parents do not want to send the girl to Guwahati, instead they admit the girl in some local engineering college.
  • So, to make sure that girls who are qualifying these examinations are able to come to IITs, we created some super numerary seats that is in every IITs we will have some number of reserve seats for girls so that the girls find admission in nearby IITS.
  • According to a study by IIT Delhi regarding the performance of the girls in IITs after the admission, it has been found that the girls may have entered with slightly lower rank when it comes to seeking admission but when once they enter the IIT, they have outperformed the boys by one grade point average.

Dr. Ranjana Aggarwal, Director, CSIR-NISTADS

  • India is number 1 when it comes to science education and percentage of women in science education is 40 percent. It indicates that government’s policies are women friendly which are encouraging women to take science as a discipline to study.
  • It also makes us to think that where we are losing this manpower which is being trained in best of the institutes which are going to the higher education but not reflected in the workplace.
  • Amartya Sen has said that there are 7 levels of inequalities when it comes to gender, starting from mortality, natality and basic and special opportunities.

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