A whopping 40% of India's women engineers don't have jobs because of 'rampant' sexism at workplace


  • Nearly 85% of the surveyed people in India believed that employers end up contacting men instead of women when there is the scarcity of jobs in the market.
  • Socio-economic pressures have forced women to stay away from the engineering field in India.
  • India can increase its gross domestic product by 27% if the employment rate of women matches the employment rate of men engineers, says the report.
India’s skewed gender balance in its workforce has been a huge drag on the country’s economy. But more worryingly, an increasing number of its qualified women engineers are out of work, according to a recent survey.

In the last few years, the employment rate of women engineers has worsened from 35% in 2005 to 26% in 2018, said a survey by the Society of Women Engineers and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law (WLL).

The survey, which interviewed 423 women and 270 men, cites multiple reasons behind the trend including social pressures, but gender discrimination during hiring decisions and bias faced at workplace is a major factor behind the poor showing.

For example, employers tend to choose a male engineer over a woman engineer, especially during economic downturns, according to the survey. Nearly 85% of the surveyed respondents said they believed that employers end up hiring men instead of women when there is the scarcity of jobs in the market.

Workplace bias

The engineers surveyed in India believe that more than half the women do not know ‘what it takes to succeed as an engineer’.

Less than 50% of the women and 30% of men also reported biases but arguments made by women were considered inappropriate even when it was related to work.

Additionally, 76% of women engineers reported having to prove themselves repeatedly to get the same level of respect as their colleagues; 77% of said they were confined to a narrower range of acceptable behaviors. As many as 40% of women engineers reported bias against mothers in their workplaces.

The incidences of sexual harassment at the workplaces is also a big concern. Out of the total respondents, 11% of women engineers were struggling with unwanted sexual attention, said the survey.

Another headwind for women engineers was ‘maternal wall’ bias -- 40% of the men believed that women should not work more after having children.

Like many other countries, engineering has traditionally been a male-dominated field in India with women being mostly under-represented. That’s partly due to the perceived long hours of the profession as well as socio-economic pressures.

However, even with the advances in technology that have enabled better remote working opportunities, the rate of employment for Indian women engineers remains significantly low.

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