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Govt Push Towards Gender Equality Leads to Rise in Girl Students in IITs’ ‘Male-Dominated’ Streams

The numbers have started rising in fields like mechanical, civil, electrical and mining. Teachers said this is also because the nature of the streams itself is changing as they are becoming computer integrated.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:August 21, 2019, 6:16 PM IST
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Govt Push Towards Gender Equality Leads to Rise in Girl Students in IITs’ ‘Male-Dominated’ Streams
Representative image.

New Delhi: With admissions to IIT-JEE 2019-20 coming to an end, data revealed that a more number of girls joined streams usually dominated by boys in engineering — mechanical, civil, electrical, mining and so on. As News18 went through data from a few Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), it seemed the government's introduction of “supernumerary seats” for girls at the premier technology institutes played a role in this new trend.

IIT Kharagpur: The number of girls in civil engineering for the current academic session is 17 — a jump from last year’s 12. Similarly, in mechanical engineering, that figure is 33, three more than last year. The mining department saw a two-digit rise with enrolment of 19 girls from eight last year.

IIT Madras: In this academic session, there are 34 girls in mechanical engineering as compared to 23 last time, while in electrical, 23 girls got admitted (20 girls were admitted last year. There are 19 girls in the civil engineering department — up from last year’s 16.

IIT Delhi: A report said, “With restriction of minimum 17% females in each branch, IIT Delhi admitted 189 girls in 2019 (18.05%).” For the last year, it said, “With restriction of at least 14% in each branch, 144 (15.78%) girls were allotted seats in JEE (Advanced) 2018 for IIT Delhi.” This year, 29 girls have taken admission in mechanical engineering, 28 in chemical, 27 in electrical, 24 in computer and 20 have joined the textile department.

IIT-Delhi’s sociology professor Ravinder Kaur, who is also a member of the institute’s Initiative for Gender Equity and Sensitisation (IGES), said, “The association of masculinity with civil and mechanical is somewhat breaking down. However, the idea that these departments are more suitable for men still persists in the minds of parents.”

IGES that was launched by IIT-Delhi on March 8, 2018, works for encouraging gender dialogues in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It also advocates a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and is committed to creating an equal, inclusive and gender-just educational environment.

Moving Towards Change

According to professors involved with IGES, over the years, the nature of male-dominated disciplines has changed. For one, less manual work is involved with the advent of computer-based learning. Fewer students, after getting a degree from an IIT in any particular branch, are entering their core areas for employment. The students are joining consulting, finance and so on.

Kaur said, “As we know, a degree in any branch of engineering equips students for work in these areas. Hence, girls in these branches can avoid employment in core areas of civil or mechanical if it is not found suitable in terms of maintaining work-life balance.”

Change in Streams

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) chairman Anil Sahasrabuddhe said that at one point, girls were not given admission to mining department. “It is heartening to see the change and the numbers grow,” he said.

The numbers have started rising in fields like mechanical, civil and electrical, as well. He said this is because the nature of the streams itself is changing as they are becoming computer integrated. Further, he said though the trend was visible in other affiliated colleges for quite some time, it’s new in IITs. The introduction of supernumerary seats also helped. “There were misconceptions like ‘boys can, but girls can’t’. We are moving away from it gradually in the IITs,” he added.

IIT Delhi director V Ramagopal Rao the industry would benefit from the gender diversity. “The industry 4.0 is all about automation. Today, mechanical engineering is mechatronics with the role of automation increasing and civil engineering comes with diversified understanding of development and environment. The approach has become broad and it is appealing to girls as well.”

The Open House Experience

The government took an initiative to start supernumerary seats for girls in IITs to check the gender imbalance. Until now, at the B. Tech. level, IITs had a dismal sex ratio. This is slowly changing for good. A study had revealed that many girls who had cleared the JEE advanced ended up not joining the IITs. Hence, it was decided that counselling sessions would be introduced for girls to encourage them to join IITs.

According to teachers and counsellors involved with the counselling programme in the open house, there were parents who wanted to know if their daughter’s rank could get her a ‘good stream’ (ones that are usually male dominated). “Many of them believe these ‘good streams’ would open up more career opportunities with better pay packages for their wards,” said Kaur.

A newly formed group on gender balance found the percentage of queries and interests for so-called male-dominated streams were much higher this time — mechanical: 48%, chemical: 65%, maths: 72% and electrical and computer science: Around 85%.

Streams Popular among Girls

The new session will see presence of 18% girls in all the streams of IIT Madras though mechanical and civil engineering saw a rise in the number of their admissions from last year. Though what remains popular with girls are computer science, electrical, bioscience and bioengineering. According to Rabibrata Mukherjee from IIT Kharagpur, this is the general trend among both boys and girls. “Most rankers opt for computer science, followed by electronics, electrical and mechanical.”

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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