According to the UN, women all over the world continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still underrepresented in these fields.
There is a need for enhanced diversification in today’s workplace. While the number of women with tech careers is on the rise, it is not enough to balance out the male domination in the field. Diversity in the workforce is a desirable goal for multiple reasons in any organization. Not only does it help in building the enterprise’s business reputation, it also allows for increased skills diversity, alternate perspectives and builds an environment of mutual respect.
The challenges for women in tech or any other industry for that matter used to be quite pronounced for women in India. Societal pressures tended to discourage a woman from working in a demanding job as it was seen as taking away from her all-important function of looking after her family. Meeting the demands of her family, could sometimes force a woman not to pursue a challenging career. That is however changing as families now encourage their daughters to take up tech as a career path. Added to this is the growing number of Indian women leaders who act as role models/ aspiration builders for the next generation.
Large corporates have understood the need for and the importance of, a gender diverse employee base and have put into place various programs which are conducive to their women employees. Various initiatives such as mentoring programs, solutions to welcome women back into the workforce after they take a break to raise children, flexible work hours, upskilling training modules, career charting and even creches/ day care centers at the workplace are being increasingly implemented by corporates. In fact, these initiatives are a given with most organizations.
While the onus to drive an inclusive culture is on the enterprise, women should take control over their own narratives and drive their career path. The ability to see past society’s judgment on women as being selfish for choosing to focus on their careers, is also the woman’s imperative. This, however, could prove to be hard especially for women who come into the workforce from tier 2 cities, as the education pedagogy itself, is skewed towards the male child. It is imperative that change is brought in from the grass root level and technology infrastructure and knowledge are the right platforms to enable this. This is where the introduction of indigenous government initiatives such as the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana’ and ‘Digital India, Digi Gaon’ can come into play.
Another key element to help drive women into STEM fields is the education methodology and its quality aspects. STEM subjects need to be taught in an engaging manner in the formative years of the girl child to get them take a keen interest in them. Quality education could be made possible if government initiatives, corporates and academia come together to further this cause. For example, STEM education could be made as one of the key focus areas for corporate CSR campaigns. Advocacy for girls to study STEM subjects should be made a high priority on corporate India’s agenda. The more exposure girl students have with women achievers from STEM fields their aspirational value also increases- real life role models that they can imbibe from. Albeit the current trend is that more men outnumber women when it comes to enrolling in STEM subjects, there is hope that too will change in the coming decades.