International Women’s Day is considered a movement to bring equality and we celebrate this day for its righteous cause. Started in 1911, its roots lie in the labour movement. The cause for which women fought against — poor working conditions — has since evolved drastically.
Today, the challenges faced by women across the world range from equal pay to access to quality education. Though significant progress has been made with involvement from the government, academia, industry, and the social sector, a ground-up approach needs to be adopted to help young girls develop as strong women leaders of tomorrow.
Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women, told News18, “Today, India has seen several women trailblazers in virtually every STEM field — from defence research and aeronautical systems to India’s Mars Orbital Mission-2. With women comprising 48% of the Indian population, we clearly need more women engineers, technicians, scientists and researchers, and it is up to all of us to show girls and young women that their contributions, creativity and abilities are of immense value and potential."
A study published by Quest Alliance cites that women constitute only about 14% of the 2,80,000 scientists and engineers in research and development institutes in India.
This alarming number is a clear indication of the low participation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines though education institutes and schools in India clearly outline the need for developing STEM mindsets early on to boost creativity and help develop problem-solving skills.
Dr Rashmi Vij, principal, Police DAV Public School, Jalandhar, said, “Children are curious and question how things happen but, as they grow older, we see that they start to lose curiosity. This is because of our previous education system which has primarily not been able to address creativity, and with the New Education Policy in place, we see the integration of STEM and creative subjects like arts coming forward. I believe that STEM is not just an array of subjects but a way of life, a way of teaching and a way of learning. We are now looking at not just STEM but STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).”
Setting up STEM Labs
But this effort cannot be executed in silos, where a single stakeholder takes the responsibility. Corporates and NGOs need to align efforts to achieve the common goal. Speaking to News18, Himani Gupta, company secretary and legal counsel at Airbus Group India and South Asia, resonated the sentiment. “We as corporates have an important role in investing and developing our future generation. From identifying why girls are not taking science subjects to setting up STEM labs, we are in a position to help young girls understand their true potential and shape the next generation women leaders.”
Santanu Mishra, co-founder and executive trustee, Smile Foundation, also agreed. “There is still a large gap when it comes to equal access and opportunity between boys and girls, men and women — right from primary education, which further amplifies in higher education or while seeking a job. When it comes to subjects like mathematics or science, gender-based preconceptions also play an adverse role in demotivating girls to specialise in the same. These issues must be overcome if we want our daughters to rise to their true potential."
This shows a deep-found resonance among the corporates, academia and NGOs to help young girls grow up as capable individuals, and as we celebrate this women’s day, we hope that through imparting the right set of skills and training in STEM, this becomes the new norm across the country.