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ET EDIT-Unaffordable Shortage Of Women Geeks

November 15, 2019 05:53 AM

The share of women in science, technology and mathematics is low globally, and more so in India. A 2018 study found that in India, women accounted for only 14% of the 2.8 lakh scientists in research and development institutions. India has the largest cohort in the world of those aged less than 30 years, about half of them women. If women keep off science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), India would lose about half its potential firepower in the knowledge economy. This is over and above forgoing the positive social changes that enhanced women’s participation in what is traditionally viewed as a male domain would bring about.

In India, there is no dearth of women teaching science and maths in schools and colleges, the decline in their participation is at the doctoral and professional stages. Social and cultural factors, relating to her ascribed role as chief caretaker of the family and chief caregiver for the aged and the infirm, drive this drop, aided by stereotypes of differential domain capability of the sexes. A study found that 81% of women in STEM reported experiencing gender bias in performance evaluation. Challenging societal and cultural norms takes time and effort. Encouraging girls to take up science and maths, ensuring their participation in innovative ventures, be it the Atal Tinkering Labs in schools or science fairs, can help girls overcome the perception battle. Work spaces need to be redesigned to suit women’s requirements. Institutions can help mentoring programmes at schools and colleges. Greater focus on women role models can help address the perception challenges.

The new education policy must focus not only on getting more girls to opt for STEM but also to retain them through the educational life cycle all the way into research and development.


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