Employers think males are more capable than them
Despite graduating from engineering and technology colleges in large numbers, few girls get employment in them, say women professionals.
Isha Doshi, an associate consultant from Mumbai, informed The Observer: “I don’t know the reason, but there is a trend I see; with each level of seniority, the number of female employees is less.”
A study titled ‘Women and Skills Report’ by Coursera, released earlier this year, said India has the highest female learners across the world, with two major courses being computer programming and machine learning.
Champa Napses, a software architect from Bengaluru agrees the gender ratio is skewed. “I have seen more men in the field than women. Though I have not faced any rejection, I have heard about it happening to other women. Usually, if the working conditions demand night hours, then men are preferred. But there are some women who do take on such roles as well,” she said.
The perception is that men are more capable of practical and technical thinking, Napses added.
Shylaja R, a former COO of a software company, concurs. “Definitely there is a bias. The perception of people in coding is that of highly intelligent men who only think in certain ways. No one relates such occupations with women. And especially if the boss is a woman, she is perceived to be ‘bossy’ or someone with an attitude.”
Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan, in a written response in the Lok Sabha in July 2021, said the percentage of female graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at the tertiary level is higher compared to developed nations like the US, UK, Germany and France.
However, several news reports since then have reported that only 14 per cent women hold STEM jobs. A similar statistic was quoted by Smriti Irani, minister of women and child development in 2019, at the Women’s Science Congress.
Even small facilities placed in support of women help them in their careers, Shylaja said. “My former organisation had a daycare in their campus. And the office was near my house. such facilities helped me manage having a family and a satisfying career. These are small things, but they reduce the pressure of having to balance the two by a lot.”
While multiple reports talk about the increase in number of female graduates, the gender ratio is still rather imbalanced.
According to the All India Survey of Higher Education by Ministry of Education, the share of male students enrolled in engineering and technology is 70.8 per cent, whereas female enrolment is 29.2 per cent. While there are 73 women to 100 men in Bachelors in Computer Engineering, there are only 42 women per 100 men in Bachelor of Technology.
Shreya Grover, a student of Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, told The Observer: “My batch is of 30 students and I am the only girl. The teachers are often sexist; they think a girl can’t think analytically and practically. There are boys in my class who don’t even know how to code, but you will almost never find girls who are like that.”
Asked about her peers’ attitude, she said: “Sometimes, due to perks like diversity hiring for females, they think that we get an advantage.”
Debangi Mukherjee, an electronic and communication engineering student from Kolkata, said while her teachers and peers have been supportive, the placement process was problematic. “In some of interviews, employers pointed out to me that I needed guidance from a proper mentor because coding is a sector where majority of men have qualified.”
Meghna S, a computer science and engineering student from Tezpur University, however, thinks that such hindrances does not bother her. “In a class of around 60, we are only four girls. So this causes a lot of inconveniences; like our hostel in-times don’t let us collaborate with the boys and brainstorm. But corporate culture has evolved over the years so such things overtime don’t make a difference,” she said.
Dr Ritu Dewan, Vice President at the Indian Society for Labour Economics, says that this gender parity is a result of not only the existing systemic patriarchy, but also because of increased unemployment. “In the current economy, where everything is a pre and post pandemic situation, it is obvious that unemployment is high, especially amongst the youth. So when there so few jobs, there will be an increased competition, which leaves women at a disadvantage. The attitude that women aren’t as technically capable, and they might have familial responsibilities in the future, affect their possibility of getting hired. And problems like sexual harassment make it more difficult to hold onto jobs,” she said.
But these issues might have been increased further, Dewan further added. “In recent times, we are seeing an increased level of intolerance towards any progress. So the progress that was somewhat being made in terms of gender equality, one can it slipping back; something that is called as the de-equalisation trend. So be it food, clothes or holding STEM jobs, one can see the situation not getting better, if not worse”, she said.