The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras launched the STEM women scholars’ and researchers’ development (STEWARD) programme on Friday.
The declining number of women involved in research in the arena of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has become a concern among reputed academic bodies of India. Only 334 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 616 laureates in Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry. Among these, only 20 have been won by 19 women.
The major reasons behind this deep-routed trouble may include patriarchal society, family pressure, and not getting suitable opportunities in industry after pursuing academic research. However, the most underestimated factor is lack of mentors and proper guidance leading to loss of perseverance in the path of research. It hugely leads to underrepresentation of women in research.
Intending to bring a change in this trend, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras launched the STEM women scholars’ and researchers’ development (STEWARD) on Friday. It is an initiative to mentor women research scholars at all levels. Professor Indumathi Nambi, Department of Civil Engineering is coordinating the initiative.
UNESCO data from 2014-16 tell that just 30 per cent of total female students select STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related fields in higher education. The enrolment of women is particularly low in engineering and allied streams (8 per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 per cent) and information technology (3 per cent).
“Even after getting a PhD from reputed institutions, women scholars often give up on their careers in research. The enrolment is fairly good at the higher education level (PG and PhD), but retaining a research career is always tough for women. The major reason is that there is no set path after education,” said Indumathi Nambi, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras in a statement.
Under this programme, the PhD scholars at IIT Madras are provided academic and industry guidance by alumni working in their domain. These mentors also provide them daily guidance to determine their path while pursuing research.