Why India Needs Gender Parity For STEM Jobs?

According to the UN, women only constitute 14% of the total 280,000 scientists, engineers and technologists in research and development in India.

Born to a joint family in a small town situated 200 kilometres from Ranchi, Madhu always aspired to be an engineer. However, due to lack of opportunity and guidance, she joined a Tier 3 college for Computer Engineering. Despite her fascination with programming, all the curriculum taught was theoretical. After graduation, she worked through multiple jobs in companies without being able to fulfill her dream. She had multiple obstacles in trying to reach her goal, lack of proper skills being just one of them. 

The story of Madhu is all too familiar. This should not be the case in India, yet this is a reality for many young girls and women dreaming a career in science. More often than never, the common theme in their story is not just about cracking a tough problem or project, but also about overcoming social and professional obstacles because of their gender. This situation was the same for Madhu. In the multiple jobs that she had worked in, some companies felt that she will not give her 100 per cent to her job, purely because of her gender. This was the case even though she was dedicated to her job and was delivering quality work. 

There should not be any shortage of inspiration as women have been playing an important role in building science and technology. The Western world has renowned scientists like Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and more recently Katie Bouman (the woman behind the first picture of the black hole). With the recent success of the Indian space exploration, Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal hope that more Indian women will look forward to building their careers with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs. 

The latest numbers highlight the fact that India is one of the top countries in the world with nearly 40 per cent of Indians graduating from STEM disciplines. Despite this, according to the United Nations, women only constitute 14 per cent of the total 280,000 scientists, engineers and technologists in research and development in India. Hence, bringing in gender parity through equal pay and opportunity is one route but empowering them with skills to ensure that they have a better chance at their place at the workforce is a dimension to be explored. Giving them the right tools through upskilling in STEM will give opportunities for women to carve a path ahead in their careers. Additionally, upskilling and reskilling will also give women who have taken a break to join on par with their male counterparts.  

Madhu’s journey has had a happy turn of events. When she was working in Bangalore, she got the opportunity to upskill herself with a 6-month coding boot camp with an Income Sharing Agreement model. Post that, equipped with the right skillset, she has been able to get her dream job as a Software Developer with a much better salary than what she made previously. She is excited about her role and wants to create an impact with her work. Madhu never stopped looking for an opportunity to fulfil her dreams and we can do more to encourage and support women around us.  

It needs to be remembered that strengthening the number of women in science and technology is not just about utilizing the best talent to tackle business, social and economic challenges in India and across the globe. Science and technology are often the bedrock for well-paid careers that can provide economic security to women, which in turn gives them a greater social and political voice in India and abroad.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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