Women in STEM


    In News

    • Women are still an under-represented population globally in hardcore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

    Women in STEM

    • Global achievers:
      • Countries with a fairly good ratio in terms of an equal number of female and male researchers are:
        • South Africa and Egypt, with 45% female researchers each, and Cuba, at 49%. 
      • The highest number of female researchers are in:
        • Tunisia, Africa (55%) followed by Argentina (53%) and New Zealand (52%).
    • India’s position:
      • Global position:
        • According to available UNESCO data on some selected countries, India is at the lowest position, having only 14% female researchers working in STEM areas. 
        • But India is not very far behind many advanced countries in this aspect. 
          • For example, Japan has only 16% female researchers, the Netherlands 26%, the United States 27% and the United Kingdom 39%. 
      • Women graduates in STEM:
        • In India, about 43% of women constitute the graduate population in STEM, which is one of the highest in the world, but only 14% of women join academic institutions and universities. 
      • Women in research & faculty:
        • The participation of women in research has dropped significantly (27% female as compared to 73% male). 
        • Thus, the visibility of female faculty in universities and research institutes is significantly lower. 
          • Percentage of women in faculty positions begins to shrink with each step up the ladder.
      • Women in academic decision making:
        • The number of female participants in decision-making bodies such as the board of governors or council of institutes of higher education of repute is abysmally low.

    Women in the corporate sector in India

    • Participation of women in leadership and decision-making positions in private enterprises (the corporate sector) is startling when compared to the reality in academics
      • The number of women in senior management positions in the corporate sector in India is 39%, which is higher than the global average. 
      • Number of women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies is 15%.
    • If this trend continues, near parity will be reached by 2045, according to a forecast made by Deloitte.

    Reasons for discrepancy in female participation in academics and corporate sector

    • Merit-based and market-oriented industry:
      • It is worth reflecting on the reasons for this discrepancy in female participation in higher positions in these two sectors. 
      • The mechanism of selection and promoting personnel in the private sector is mostly based on competence or merit because it is more result (market) oriented with a definite matrix than what it is in the academic institutes. 
    • Various schemes:
      • Encouraging the participation of women in the workforce in the private sector with the adoption of various schemes for women began long ago when compared to the initiatives taken by the Government of India in recent years. 
        • Various schemes such as flexi-hour worktime, rejoining the workforce after an interim break, sections operated only by women, etc. were introduced in private enterprises as early as the 1990s with the benefits being reaped now.

    Government’s initiatives

    • Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI):
      • It is a pilot project under the Department of Science and Technology to promote gender equity in science and technology.
      • In the first phase of GATI, 30 educational and research institutes have been selected by DST, with a focus on women’s participation in leadership roles, faculty, and the number of women students and researchers. 
    • Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN): 
      • It a plan under the Department of Science and Technology to encourage women scientists and also prevent women scientists from giving up research due to family reasons, are noteworthy. 
    • SERB-POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research):
      • SERB – POWER provides structured support in research to ensure equal access and weighted opportunities for Indian women scientists engaged in R&D activities. 
        • The R&D support to women scientists is provided through two components, namely: SERB POWER Fellowships & SERB POWER Research Grants.
    • Consolidation of University Research through Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities (CURIE) Programme:
      • Only women Universities are being supported for the development of research infrastructure and the creation of state-of-the-art research laboratories to enhance women’s participation in the S & T domain.
    • Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics & Medicine):
      • It encourages Indian women scientists and technologists to undertake international collaborative research in premier institutions in the USA for a duration of 3-6 months.
    • Vigyan Jyoti Scheme:
      • It encourages girl students of Class 9 to 12 to pursue education and career in S&T, particularly in the areas where women are underrepresented.
    • National Award for woman scientist:
      • To recognize the contribution of women scientists in the field of Earth System Sciences, Ministry of Earth Sciences has initiated a special award called “National Award for woman scientist” which is conferred to one-woman scientist each year on the Foundation Day.
    • Setting up of creches:
      • Some institutions are setting up creches so that the scientist mothers can carry on with their research work uninterrupted. 

    Way Ahead

    • It is hoped the programmes that have been initiated by the Government to empower women in the workforce will usher in gender parity by 2047, which would mark the centenary of India’s Independence
    • Most importantly, gender equality or parity will happen only when there is a change in mindset and institutions consider women as assets rather than simply a diversity rectification issue.

    Source: IE


    Mains Practice Question 


    [Q] Women are still under-represented in hardcore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field, in this context, examine the efforts needed to ensure gender equity in the STEM field.