In an attempt to get more women to join sectors like engineering, science, technology and mathematics, IIT Bombay’s annual tech fair, Techfest 2016-17, is organising free coding workshops for women college students in 20 cities across the country. At present, women comprise a mere 15 per cent of students at IITs.
Techfest’s media manager Karan Mehta says coding is an important component in today’s world.
“We will empower women by teaching them basic coding skills using Python, and informing them about zonal- and national-level coding competitions.”
While five workshops have been conducted in Mumbai, Pune and Noida, in which over 300 girls participated, the next is scheduled on September 3 at the Fr. Conceicao Rodrigues College of Engineering. Supported by UNICEF, organisers hope to reach out to over 2,000 women. Similar workshops are being planned in Chandigarh, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jammu.
Two-day panel discussions are also on the agenda, during which tech leaders will speak about women role models in the sector. The discussions aim to provide a networking platform for women, and will culminate in a day-long hackathon.
However, the situation on ground paints a different picture. A basic Google search reveals that women who graduate from IITs tend to drop out of associated sectors at a later stage, owing to family and maternal responsibilities.
A researcher in nanotechnology says technology is a difficult field to sustain for a woman. “By the time you complete your PhD, you are almost 28 years. Then, if you wish to go abroad for post-doctoral studies, you are bound to cross 30. By then, pressure to get married builds from the family. When family responsibilities and maternity follow, the absence of good crèches and childcare support forces many highly-educated women to leave the industry. If the government really wants to prevent this, they should provide childcare infrastructure for women,” she says.
The writer is a freelance journalist