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Women in STEM in India


Dr Nandana Sengupta, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy, IIT Delhi, joined us on Jan 11, 2023to discuss the status of women in STEM in India. She talked about her personal journey, enveloping literature related to top women in STEM and discussions about the supernumerary seats scheme.




  • She talked about the stereotypes that she faced in school, the rampant gender divide in educational and professional settings citing an example of how women’s roles even in liberal institutions are often limited to “academic housekeeping”
  • She highlighted certain statistics: India’s 135 (out of 146 countries) in Gender Parity Index (WEF, 2022); 14% base rate of STEM faculty; 43% female STEM graduates; 29% worldwide average; no female head of IIT, ISER, IISc and other decision making bodies like JEE, GATE etc.
  • The literature review concerning what women had to face in STEM can be divided into four areas:
    • Entry: investment in women’s education is less prominent; certain disciplines being considered masculine; parents are less favorable to send daughters to far away institutes and nature of exam
    • Experience: lack of role models; absence of infrastructure like toilets; norms around socializing; women’s tendency to apply for jobs that they are 100% certain about
    • Retention: nature of roles assigned to women in organizations not at par with skills and qualifications; dual burden of managing home and work;
    • Leadership: Lack of networking, mentorship and leadership opportunities
  • There is a reason to look at engineering field and the gender gaps in this field because
    • Engineering field is the future of the job market
    • The scope of engineering graduates occupying higher administrative positions, thereby encouraging women in STEM will lead to more women in administration

Deep Dive: Supernumerary Seats

  • She spoke about the Supernumerary scheme i.e. Increase in female representation in IIT classrooms at least by 20% by 2020 without substantially affecting seats for male students
  • Further, she threw light on the proportion of women in BTech being low as compared to other courses with ST candidates remain low overall across the courses
  • The important findings from the study is that the supernumerary scheme has increased the number of females admitted to IIT with IIT Madras receiving the highest number of female students; regional variation with South India admitting more female students even in non-zonal IITs and few recommendations including reporting of data should be improved; clarification of algorithms; break the narrative of lower standards and seat stealing; support for beneficiary students, adoption of intersectional lens

Policy implications and other efforts

She further covered some policy level action that can contribute to making STEM fields accessible for women-

  • Fellowships: Rukhmabai grants and short film grants on women in STEM
  • Publications to educate people about the situation of women in STEM

The seminar ended with a fruitful discussion among the audience and speaker along with sharing of personal experiences.

Watch the recording of the seminar here


Please find the full presentation here.