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Women Participation in STEM

  • 27 Nov 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, India-Israel Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) conference was held.

  • The need for introducing flexible work times and gender-neutral pays to enhance women participation in STEM was highlighted.

STEM

  • About
    • The STEM acronym was introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).
    • The organization previously used the acronym SMET when referring to the career fields in those disciplines or a curriculum that integrated knowledge and skills from those fields.
    • It is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in 4 specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.
    • India is one of the countries that produce the highest number of scientists and engineers, the growth of STEM has picked up significantly over the last few years.
      • Under Article 51A of the Constitution of India, it is a duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
  • Significance:
    • A robust STEM education creates critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and next-generation innovators.
    • According to the National Science Foundation, it is predicted that 80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of math and science skills.

Key Points

  • Participation of Women in STEM:
    • About 43% of STEM graduates in India are women, which is the highest in the world, but their share in STEM jobs in India is a mere 14%.
    • In Indian STEM, the primary concern has never been with the number of women graduates, but with the proportion of those who ultimately land STEM jobs.
    • S&T has translated into the economic sphere and institutions are structured so, Science & Technology (S&T) could become a changemaker in society by introducing flexible work times, and gender-neutral pays to enhance women participation in STEM.
    • Greater women’s participation in the tech sector will make women more strong and influential, giving a boost to their socio-economic situation in the society.
  • Reasons for the Low Participation:
    • Stereotypes: The paucity of women in STEM is not merely due to skill inadequacy, but also a result of assigned stereotypical gender roles.
    • Patriarchy: There are patriarchal attitudes in hiring practices or awarding fellowships and grants etc.
    • Society: Lack of role models, pressures to conform to societal norms and trappings of domesticity.
    • Stress: Stressors related to marriage, childbirth etc.
    • Household Responsibility: Responsibility related to running of households and elder care.
    • Physical Safety: Physical safety during the commute to work.
    • Harassment: Sexual and other types of harassment in workplaces, etc.
  • Initiatives to Promote Women Participation:
    • Vigyan Jyoti Scheme:
      • It is launched by the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
      • It is intended to create a level-playing field for the meritorious girls in high school to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in their higher education.
      • It also offers exposure for girl students from the rural background to help to plan their journey from school to a job of their choice in the field of science.
    • GATI Scheme:
    • Knowledge Involvement Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN):
      • Launched in 2014-15, the scheme provides opportunities for women scientists in moving up the academic and administrative ladder.
      • One of the programmes under the KIRAN scheme‘Women Scientist Scheme’ — provides career opportunities to unemployed women scientists and technologists, especially those who had a break in their career.

Way Forward

  • The problem needs to be addressed at two levels – at societal level which requires long term effort and the policy and institutional level, which can be started with immediate effect.
  • There is an immediate need to invest in supporting infrastructure, incentivising institutions to promote gender equity, transparency in decision making etc. to bridge the persisting gender imbalance in STEM majors.
  • As a first step, however, schools need to break the ‘gendered notions of intelligence’ and encourage girls not only to take science at secondary and higher secondary level but also to pursue their career in STEM.
    • This would help not only in women being able to chase their dreams but science itself would be benefitted from other points of view.
  • While the situation is definitely improving, and the increase in numbers of women in STEM is indicative of this, the road is yet long. We have a long way to go.

Source: PIB

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