Science

Centre plans ₹2,000-crore push for women engineers

The Department of Science and Technology will be leading a ₹2,000-crore initiative to encourage more girls and women to take up careers in the domain of science and engineering, where they are under-represented.

A pilot programme covering 100,000 girls and women, from school-going children to those interested in research, will be launched later this year.

“We hope to be able to raise the percentage of women working in the Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, and other national research labs. We aim to take it from the 10% or so at present, to 33% in the next five years,” Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science and Technology, told The Hindu.

Previous studies have found that when compared to the U.S., European Union, and several Asian countries, India fared reasonably well when it comes to enrolment of women in science and engineering, which stood at around 35%. But the proportion of women in the science and engineering workforce was an abysmal 12%.

Special scholarships

The current initiative, called Vigyan Jyoti, envisages 500 contractual faculty positions for five years in universities and research organisations, and special scholarships for school girls. Alongside mentoring, there would be a concerted effort to expose them to more areas of science and engineering, present role-models to inspire them, and conduct counselling sessions for parents and teachers.

The proposal is a key part of a report, Vigyan 2030: Science and Technology as the Pivot for Jobs, Opportunities and National Transformation, jointly submitted by the secretaries of all the Central science departments. Presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January, the report — parts of which were reported by The Hindu on Saturday— lays out a sweeping plan to rejuvenate science in India.

The report reflects an urgency to improve the participation of women in the transformation of Indian science. Though there are more girls than boys in the life sciences, there are fewer in physics, maths, earth science and chemistry. Enrolment of women is 28% in engineering, and “very low” in the “classical streams” (mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical), it notes.

“You rarely see women forced to give up a career in medicine, but it is frustrating to have women drop out from the IITs and other research organisations,” said Sharma. “We hope to fix this with assured career opportunities, fellowships and guidance.”

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 10:32:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/2000-cr-push-for-women-engineers/article18064578.ece

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