The state of women engineers in India
Women have been fighting for their rights for decades, be it in society, at home or in their professional lives. And, though the world has come a long way from where it was back then, there is still a long way to go before the two genders are truly given equal treatment in all spheres, especially the professional realm. But there are some ways to keep working towards this goal across our daily lives, one step at a time. The technology space is one of many domains which has traditionally been associated with male-led organizations, however, some of the most well-known tech leaders around the globe today are women – but this doesn’t come to them easily.
The landscape at large:
Women are still largely underrepresented across the domain, as well as compensated inadequately, relative to their male counterparts. There are several biases that are rooted in organizational culture, but, amongst these, those against women have been widespread. This inhibits women employees from progressing further and is also detrimental to the organization’s overall output. However, the fact is that this challenge isn’t solely stemming from the work environment.
As per the 2011 Census, the male-to-female ratio in India is 1.06, with 940 females for every 1000 males. However, research by Aspiring Minds states that at 1.79, the ratio imbalance is greater in engineering colleges. This points to the fact that there are a lower number of females vs. males joining engineering courses.
As per a report by McKinsey, if brought to the same level as that of males, female workforce participation in the country has the potential to contribute an additional USD 770 bn to its GDP by 2025. With technology being one of the most fast-growing sectors, the scope for unlocking new opportunities is huge and can be propelled by focusing more on inclusion for women in the space. There needs to be more emphasis on the creation of opportunities for women to be part of decision making and value addition, to go much beyond the surface level.
Practical skill-gaps stemming from traditional education:
One of the major hurdles for women engineers in terms of confidence, skill development and, consequently, growth in an organization also comes from a lack of access to practical engineering education. A recent study conducted with over 1000 engineers across India revealed that ‘low confidence’ was cited as the primary reason for not being able to secure a job in the emerging tech space. 60% of these women attributed it to a lack of hands-on experience in basic coding skills.
Additionally, ‘low knowledge’ was cited as a hurdle by only 28% of females vs. 41% males who stated the same. This suggests that, even though women are well-versed with theoretical knowledge, their confidence suffers when it comes to practical application. Both women and men were found to be equally passionate about coding. However, 11% of women stated that they give less importance to salaries, while almost half the number of men stated the same (6%). These figures are indicative of the still-prominent inconsistencies in pay, what comes through is a great passion for technology, coding and associated drivers of innovation amongst women.
Getting the fundamentals right with experiential learning:
To fuel this, academic courses and training need to be delivered with the right facilities and immersive experiences. This will equip them with the right skills, enabling them to contribute towards meaningful impact, resulting in better confidence to navigate the dynamic demands of the professional world.
The right mix of hands-on, experiential learning, DIY industry-centric projects, along with guidance from expert mentors makes for the right environment to facilitate this holistic learning. It helps to give engineers a feel of the real-world impact of their coding skills and can ensure that the learning is as per the latest, most relevant requirements in the field.
This approach towards training will ensure greater employability amongst the existing talent pool as well as prepare a larger number of aspirants to be effective contributors from day one on the job. It will strengthen their skills to effectively deal with ambiguity and think on their feet. However, companies will also need to make a conscious shift towards focusing on removing gender biases at the workplace, by implementing practices and policies that enforce corrective measures. This will help reduce the gap and result in equal opportunities for all, and is linked to how well the organization can retain, support and facilitate growth amongst their talent – and that of the business – for the long run.