International Women’s Day 2022: How Scholarships for Girls With Scientific Acumen Can Help – Natural Self Esteem

It has been said that gender equality in scientific laboratories and higher education institutions is not just about numbers, but also about many factors at micro and macro levels that exist both at the institutional level and beyond. Gender equality in STEM cannot be an overnight process and must be fostered through scholarship to reach grassroots level with multi-stakeholder interventions.

According to data from the UN Scientific Education and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and only 30% of female students choose STEM-related subjects in higher education. Statistics from the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) published in the 2019-20 academic year further show that the proportion of women in engineering and technology fields in India is less than 30%.


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“Globally, female student enrollment is particularly low in information and communications technology (3%), science, mathematics and statistics (5%), and engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%). Various scholarships could help improve the terrible statistics,” says Amita Dev, Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women (IGDTUW), which offers a Merit cum Means means-tested financial assistance program (for families with an annual income of up to 6 lakh) and merit scholarship for SC/ST/OBC/Minority, apart from research grants for full-time PhD students and financial aid for MTech and MPlan students.

lack of resources

“A majority of the country’s population cannot afford STEM education for their children, particularly those in the rural sector, and almost always a boy’s education is preferred over a girl’s. Therefore, there is a need to provide special scholarships for deserving female students who demonstrate scientific acumen in higher studies,” says Dev.

The scholarships should start as early as the school level, preferably from eighth grade to catch them early, as this plays a symbolic role in encouraging more girls to become engineers and scientists, says Ravinder Kaur, professor of sociology and social anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT-Delhi and founding member of Gender Unit IGES (Initiative for Gender Equity and Sensitization).

Key STEM initiatives
  • KIRAN (knowledge sharing in research progress through care)

includes women-only programs of the DST with the mandate to bring gender
Parity in science and technology through various mechanisms

  • GATI (Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions) – a pilot program

intended in mission mode to promote gender equality in science, technology,
Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) domains

  • The DST Women of Science Program has launched a new initiative

Support for Women PG Colleges within the framework of CURIE (Consolidation of University Research
for Innovation and Excellence) program

  • Pragati Scholarship Program? Saksham Scholarship Scheme? MANF for

PhD students (minorities) ? RGNFSC for doctoral students (SC/ST) ? society of women
Engineers (SWE) grant ? The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Program

“If their merits are recognized, even parents’ attitudes might change, given that they plan their daughters’ careers by considering marriage and motherhood, where engineering often takes a back seat. Even if girls graduate from JEE Advanced, they may not join IITs as engineering (more mechanical and civil) is perceived as a male-driven domain that parents believe is more related to workshop activities, heavy machinery and construction sites may not have been equipped for handling as a girl. This explains a lack of women in the IITs and their flagship BTech. Until recently we only had 8% girls in the IITs and as their numbers did not increase the concept of surplus seats was launched in 2018. A large percentage of PhD students at IIT Delhi are girls, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to their developing IIT faculty, which also leads to a lack of role models,” she adds.
Discussing the STEM leaky pipeline, Krishnashree Achuthan, Director of the Center for Cybersecurity Systems and Networks & Amrita Technology Business Incubator (TBI), emphasizes, “Women make up 43% of STEM graduates, the highest globally, but their share of STEM jobs in India is just 14%. Compared to their male counterparts, female participation in STEM education, particularly from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, is a work in progress.”

Way ahead

Dissemination of information about STEM scholarships is also non-standard, says Achuthan, adding that various NGOs and private institutions that provide such financial aid are doing their part to reach the women’s community and their families. “Besides social media announcements, the dissemination of knowledge through the school or college level across the country needs to be streamlined,” she says, calling for the need to provide full scholarships that allow girls to pursue a variety of interdisciplinary fields.

“What we need is a proactive exchange of information about scholarships, grants, and funding in small towns and villages through flyers, posters, and other collateral materials that highlight the program’s key offerings, rather than an official notification (where the information is difficult to filter out by itself for the initiate, let alone a student). An education department present in every district, town and village is ideally placed to disseminate this information,” says Rudra Pratap, Founding Vice-Chancellor of Plaksha University, which runs the “Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha” fund (named after the first female engineer of the country) to promote the enrollment of girls and women in STEM subjects, especially in higher education.

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