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Why are women engineers in IITs so low in numbers and gender diversity in industry, skewed?

Why are women engineers in IITs so low in numbers and gender diversity in industry, skewed?

While girl students have been topping most of the competitive exams in the country it is not the scenario in engineering colleges. Currently, women make up just 8% of the student strength at 23 IITs across the country.

Though with the advent of IT / CS or the soft branches of engineering has changed the campus gender ratio to a great extent, it has been observed to be abysmally low when it comes to other streams like mechanical, chemical or architecture with a ratio which can be anything between 1:10 to 1:30. The phenomenon is seen and can be validated from the JEE coaching classes, where the male students outnumber the female students by huge numbers. As per the JEE (advanced) results announced by IITs, 36,566 of the 1.47 lakh aspirants, who appeared for the test held in May 2016, have qualified in the examination, of which 4,570 are girls, which is 12.5 % roughly.

Concerned over the fall in the number of girl students getting admission to the IITs, a meeting of the joint admission board of IITs recommended an increase of 600 seats – a hike of 14%; in the number of seats allotted to women, taking the total quota to 1,440 seats from next year. The quota will be increased every academic year from 2018 till the number of female students touched 20%.

Similar question in Qoura.com had several responses; (including mine) stating mind sets and how stereotype thoughts, beliefs, opinions  about what careers women should choose or rather not choose, were cited. Among all the valid explanations it was also stated that, core engineering is often perceived as a man's profession, while women opt for software development or medicine, commerce and social sciences.

The reasons seemed all very valid. But beyond the details I thought there was something more underlying and deep rooted which still exist and even continues to affect the skewed ratio of women engineers or employees (considering just tech roles here) in the industry. 

Let us have a top down approach. Fact is, today industry (across verticals) is looking forward to more and more women employees (with tech skills) and are trying to encourage their participation in all levels. One can find 15–20% female employees at the junior levels IT or ITeS, tech cos. however the percentage drops drastically to less than 1% when it comes to senior leadership levels.

One of the reason for this gradual decrease of female employees as it goes up the ladder is not ‘glass ceiling’ as it may be perceived, but many women leaving their job after few years or at mid-level, citing - marriage; family issues; taking care of in-laws; parental pressure (The thought process of many parents in today’s date and time still remains – it was the duty of the father to educate his daughter and after he has done that the father would like to get his daughter married. Many cases where father tells daughter to quit and settle, were found).

This was reported in a report, “as societal preferences and biases holding traditional views, parents believing that they are acting in the best interests of the girls and are protecting them from a hostile society by preparing them for a suitable feminine role in life.”

Husband’s transfer was also among one of the reasons for quitting. Males are supposed to be the quintessential earning member or responsible for the livelihood of the family. 

These patriarchal social systems where men in authority will have say on the women’s career or aspirations and influence their decisions or professional choice, has been the ‘elephant in the room’. Mildly acknowledged but generally accepted as a norm.  Women give in to these requests coming from their fathers and husbands, even at a later stage.  

No wonder, till the time the career path is controlled and driven by fathers (or husbands) and parameters are set or limited to just a ‘decent education and a somewhat decent job’, IITs or engineering colleges, will continue to see lower turn outs.

And here it would be unjustified to blame the male member alone. It is the responsibility of the concerned to step back, think twice and take a conscious call before readily agreeing to give up on her career aspirations.

Not sure whether having a quota in IITs as a policy or provisioning of extra marks based on gender will lead to more female students in the campuses of engineering colleges elsewhere. Do girls really need any gender based discrimination in their favour during admissions?

Girl students have proved their merits time and again by being toppers in competitive exams. Competing with boys for cracking a JEE may not be a serious challenge for them. 

What we need is a societal change towards the perceived notions on career options without getting prejudiced by the gender factor. This systemic issue can be addressed only then and probably the desired results achieved, be it in campus or in industry.   

Not having parental pressure and not discouraging the girl students from pursuing an engineering course is the first step, towards that. One can aspire for the IITs of their choice but as the industry demands a much higher number than the IITs alone can produce, more options are up for grabs in private universities, colleges and women engineering colleges spread across the nation.

Leading Engineering Colleges for Women

  1. Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological University for Women (IGDTUW) – Based in New Delhi, Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological University for Women is the first women’s technical university in India.
  2. Banasthali University- Banasthali Vidyapith aims at the synthesis of spiritual values and scientific achievements of both the East and the West. Its educational programme is based on the concept of "Panchmukhi Shiksha" and aims at all round harmonious development of personality.
  3.  Cummins College Of Engineering For Women – Cummins College of engineering for women in Nagpur is one of the most preferred engineering colleges. Its student-centric approach, excellent infrastructure and well-qualified faculty make it one of the colleges for women with a difference.
  4. Mody University – Mody University is a premier women’s university located in Laxmangarh in the state of Rajasthan, India. The institute emphasizes on the power of Yoga and spirituality and yoga classes are conducted regularly.
  5. Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Technology for Women (LBSITW) - L B S Institute of Technology for Women is the first engineering college for women in the state of Kerala on the Malabar Coast of south-western India (Thiruvananthapuram).
  6. Biyani International Institute of Engineering & Technology- Biyani Institute in Rajasthan is affiliated with Rajasthan Technical University and also approved by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). The mission of the college itself speaks women empowerment.
  7. Usha Mittal Institute of Technology (UMIT) - Usha Mittal Institute of Technology is an engineering college in Mumbai. Formerly known as Institute of Technology for Women (ITW).
  8.  Idhaya Engineering College for Women - Idhaya Engineering College for Women is an all-women’s catholic engineering college in Tamil Nadu.
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  10. Bhoj Reddy Engineering College for Women – Established in the year 1997 in Hyderabad, Bhoj Reddy Engineering College for Women is aimed to promote women empowerment.
  11. Genentech College of Engineering for Women - Genentech College of Engineering for Women is located in Attur, Tamil Nadu. Affiliated to Anna University, it is a well-known engineering college.


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