Lack of Women’s participation in STEM

Lack of Women’s participation in STEM

It’s shocking to see that STEM suffers from a lack of women’s participation. Their share of participation in STEM jobs in India is a mere 14%.

Science, technology, engineering and medicine are collectively known as STEM. It was introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the US National Science Foundation. Earlier it was termed as SMET which focuses on education in 4 main disciplines- science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. It has gained force in India in the past few years with the highest number of scientists and engineers being Indian.

Women in STEM

STEM suffers from a lack of women’s participation and they constitute about 43% of STEM graduates in India. It is shocking to see that their share of participation in STEM jobs in India is a mere 14%.

In India, the primary concern is the proportion of those who got selected for STEM jobs. Changes can be made to make women comfortable in their work environment. There should be flexible working hours and gender-neutral pay to enhance women’s participation in STEM. This would enhance women’s status overall.

Lack of Women’s participation in STEM
Image Source: Springboard

Why such low participation?

  • Stereotypically Gendered Roles- There is a male bias in the consensus in the STEM fields which has led to women’s lower participation in the same fields.
  • Patriarchy- Women lack support from colleagues and face antagonism from peers and supervisors.
  • Stress- Related to marriage, childbirth and elderly care.
  • Society and Expectations- There is a general belief that women can only be confined to domestic work and hence their role in professional development is less as compared to men.
  • Household Responsibility- Sole responsibilities for running a household and taking care of the elderly.
  • Lack of physical Safety- During their commute to work.
  • Sexual Harassment- In the workplace, exploitation through labour and other means.
  • Lack of Role models and mentors- Due to this women are ill-motivated and face various obstacles in their careers.

Way forward

  • A dual approach has to be taken into consideration at the societal level and the institutional level. At the societal level, a long-term effort is needed. At the institutional level, a short-term effort is needed.
  • Investment in infrastructure (social and economic). Incentives for institutions to promote gender equity, transparency in decision-making, etc.
  • Efforts by schools and educational institutions to break gendered notions of intelligence can help them not only to chase their dreams but also benefit science as a discipline.

Women in STEM must be highlighted more as compared to men. Textbooks discuss Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin but students are less familiar with women who made significant contributions to the field of STEM.

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