PanIIT Panel Highlights Skewed Sex Ratio in Engineering, Science Streams

Kiran Malhotra (extreme right) chairing the panel discussion

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Kolkata, India – It is often joked that you would need a microscope to locate women in the engineering colleges, especially in the elite ones. Various researches have often been undertaken that mathematics and science are not really a woman’s cup of tea, though to much debate.

 But beating all stereotypes and prejudices, a lot of women actually enter the prestigious engineering colleges and do quite well for themselves despite the skewed gender ratios in the campuses.

 On Day 3 (Dec. 9) of the PanIIT Global Conference 2012 also saw a packed auditorium with a skewed sex ratio. For, more men than women attended a session on IITian women: sharing experiences chaired by Kiran Malhotra. Men cheered on the speakers as they shared their experiences and the discriminations they have had to face.  

 The speakers were Purnima Gupta, Kiran Pandey, Susmita Sur Koley and Anuradha Acharya. Purnima spoke about the hardships she went through and the discrimination she had to endure to reach where she has.

 Given the fact that the number of women in engineering — especially in the IITs — has gone down, how does the panel plan to motivate more women to take up engineering?

“It is a global phenomenon. But there are a lot of students who would like to get into science and technology but are not very confident. We have programs every year called Catch them young where we go to girls of mid-level schools who do not come from a privileged background and take them to labs and make them meet top professors,” said educationist Sur Koley. This, she felt, is something that should be done across India.

 They also did a survey that once again pointed out that even in the India of 2012, sons are given first preference when it comes to education. So while the family is willing to spend money to make the son an engineer, the daughter is being asked to study some other subject even though she might also want to become an engineer.

  She also raised one valid question about the recent practice of engineering graduates going for an MBA. “Who are you going to manage if there are no technologists?” she asked.

 Sur Koley also highlighted how her organization tries to bring in parents, especially mothers under a program called “Bridging the digital divide” to come and get updated.

 So is there anything Pan IIT can do in the field of women’s basic education? “Difficulties are a part of learning. It was very positive for me and that is why I am here today,” pointed out Purnima.

 Sur Koley felt that if science and technology was so lucrative then women would naturally come to it. So the need is to make the subjects appealing. She shared her experience to prove how lots of high school students with no clear idea about engineering are being manipulated to take up the subject.

“Science is an extremely important subject everyone should learn,” added Kiran Malhotra. Pande felt that there is a need to look into the quality of education. “Engineering as a field is not attractive. You need to improve quality of students,” she said.

“The way women are brought up, we are very self critical. We need someone to be our cheerleader, especially at the undergraduate level,” pointed out Pande. 

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