In recent years, job opportunities in all fields are shifting to automation. The current job market keeps switching according to this trend. The prerequisites of these jobs are to understand the skills, training, and education in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). So, to keep up with this trend, the young generation should develop the required skills. But due to lack of opportunities and gender stereotypes, women, in particular, are missing out on the skills required.
Reasons behind the gender gap in STEM
STEM jobs are related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. According to the Union Education Ministry, India has the highest percentage of female STEM graduates (43%) leaving behind countries like the USA and UK. But sadly, when you see the number of women actually working in those fields, India seriously lags behind.
As per studies conducted over the years, women show similar cognitive skills to men in the digital world. But when it comes to advanced skills, women are lagging when compared to men. Factors like low self-confidence and aspirations could be part of the reason
STEM is also a strongly male-dominated field due to which women have fewer female role models. Girls see limited examples of female scientists and engineers, which curbs their interests and inspiration. There is also the fact that women often face discrimination in workplaces which further demotivates them to participate more to get a promotion or seek more career opportunities in their fields.
Career opportunities for women in STEM
According to a study in 2020, India ranked second for having the highest number of female CEOs among the world’s top 20 countries. However, the percentage of women as CEOs of tech companies is only about 5%. The majority of women work as social science workers, but they haven’t made their mark in computer and engineering occupations. Here are some potential career paths that women can opt for:
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
- Software Engineers
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
- Computer Network Architects
- Financial Analysts
- Engineers in other fields like Mechanical, Electrical, Civil etc
Also, STEM degrees are highly versatile, for which universities have now started many programmes for both men and women. Participating in a few of these programmes can help women get an insight into the field, which might inspire them to take them up as a career.
If women want to go into a tech company but do not have the required knowledge and skills, they can opt for customer service roles. Working for such roles can give women a deeper understanding of the products and user experience. High product knowledge is desirable for career growth in the field.
Women can also participate more in the infrastructure sector, which has the potential to provide them with a substantial income. Not only this but, providing more opportunities in designing infrastructure is crucial for the development of countries.
How to reduce gender disparities
There is a need to dive deeper into the root causes of this issue. The education system must provide inspiration, interest, enjoyment and shape the career by minimal gender bias, norms, and stereotypes. By doing so, we can achieve equality in STEM jobs. If there is equality in STEM jobs, this will lead to high productivity, creativity, and innovation in jobs. By opting for STEM jobs, professionals can work in many fields such as office, laboratory, research facilities, and classrooms.
Also, NGOs can play a major role in sensitizing society about bridging the gender gap in offices through IEC (Information, Communication & Education) campaigns. Corporates must promote gender neutrality and boost women participation in STEM. Many interviewers prefer men for mathematical job roles if a woman candidate has similar skills. Therefore, companies must create an inclusive culture for women to participate in such roles and put efforts into retention.
Teaching courses related to maths and science in elementary schools can prepare students to pursue their careers in computers and engineering. Encouraging girls’ interest at an early age can improve gender disparity in the field.
The need of the hour is a multi-pronged approach supported not only by the Government but also corporates and other parties to inspire and inculcate scientific temperament in women and encourage them to opt for these fields. Not just for education but as a job. When they have an eco-system in which they can thrive, only then will women be able to bridge the gender gap in STEM.
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