India tops the world in producing female graduates in STEM but ranks 19th in employing them


  • According to the United Nations, women constitute merely 14% of the total 280,000 scientists, engineers and technologists in research development institutions in India.
  • Despite the ground-breaking research and performance, women in the field of STEM are known to be paid less for their research work compared to men — not progressing as much in their careers.
  • In a bid to ‘recruit, retain and promote’ women in STEM areas, the ministry of science and technology said that it will now rank higher education institutions — on gender equality.
As India is digitally transforming at a rapid pace, the demand for technologically competent employee base is growing. For that, the country could turn inward instead of outward to plug the gap.

As many as 40% of Indians who graduate in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines are women. Neither the graduates nor the country is gaining much from it though, it seems like.

Women constitute merely 14% of the total 280,000 scientists, engineers and technologists in research development institutions in India, according to the United Nations. This is despite their women-centric initiatives.


“While girls enrolling in science for higher studies in India has seen an increase, the number of women entering the workplace is not in the same proportion,” the UN said. This is a global problem. Women represent a minority in the world of science at a mere 30%; and only 35% of the STEM students are women.

India however is a paradox where it has graduates but not researchers.

“We need a dedicated strategy not only for increasing the representation of women in the talent pipeline for STEM jobs, but also for ensuring that they thrive, incentivizing them to remain in these high-paying jobs and institutionalizing organizational cultures that enable women to advance in these fields,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women said on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11.

Less published work, less pay

One of the major reasons for the low participation is the gender pay gap. Despite the ground-breaking research and performance, women in the field of STEM are known to be paid less for their research work compared to men — not progressing as much in their careers thereby.

“Girls are often made to believe they are not smart enough for STEM, or that boys and men have natural affinity for the field,” UN countered.

It also said that the women in the field publish fewer research papers across the world. Here too, India is an exception. A recent study published in ‘ Journal of Informetrics’ said that one in three research papers published in India, was written by a female author — in over 186 fields as per the scopus database.

In fact, in subjects such as dentistry, psychology and humanities, women were almost at par with men with one female author for every two male authors.

India’s push for women in science and research

It is possible that women might be getting little recognition and lesser pay in spite of these achievements - encouraging fewer women to come into the field. Women constitute merely 15% of faculty positions in science. In the research programmes, women account for a third of the PhD awardees.

Not just in STEM but India has a long way to go before they attain gender parity across fields and industries. According to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, it will take 257 years to eliminate the prevailing gender gap in the workforce, globally. India ranks 112th in the Global Gender Gap Index in 2020.

Therefore, the universities are now striving to achieve something that has been taken for granted for long — gender parity. In January 2020, the ministry of science and technology said that it will now rank institutions — on gender equality, according to the Times of India report. And these ranks will be for those offering STEM courses.

As many as 20 Indian institutions — including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Science (NITs) — have joined hands to facilitate it. The government aims to rope in over 90 institutions as a part of the new grading system.

“This will definitely give a much needed thrust to the inclusion of women in academia. However a key challenge will be to define the terms of how institutions will effectively measure gender equality. They should not merely execute gender equality on paper, rather it should ensure inclusion in education and employment,” Neeti Sharma, VP, TeamLease Services told Business Insider.

See also:
IITs and NITs will now be ranked on how many women they educate and employ

Tech Mahindra, Wipro and Dr Reddy’s Labs — only 3 Indian companies made it to Bloomberg Gender Equality Index

India’s IT sector has nearly three times more males than females: Report
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