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Ensure More Women in Technology

Context:

With the Lok Sabha elections approaching and political parties preparing to choose candidates, it is essential to acknowledge the longstanding issue of inadequate representation of women in the National Parliament, state legislatures, and positions of power. This problem is not exclusive to India; it persists, and in some cases worsens, in many other countries, including western democracies. Women face challenges not only in politics but also in various sectors globally.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2

  • Salient Features of Indian Society
  • Women’s Issues
  • Issues Related to Women

Mains Question:                 

Women’s participation in the technology sector presents a mixed scenario. While some women have been important players in the technology sector in India and the world, the general progress of women has been disappointing. Comment. (15 Marks, 250 Words)

Nobel Prize and Women:

  • Between 1901 and 2023, the Nobel Prize was awarded to 965 individuals and 27 organizations, some receiving it twice. However, only 64 recipients were women, with Marie Curie being the only woman to receive it twice (in 1903 and 1911).
  • The gender disparity is particularly striking in fields such as physics (5 out of 225 recipients), medicine (13 out of 214), chemistry (8 out of 186), and economics (3 out of 90).
  • Even in fields where more women have received recognition, the numbers remain relatively low, such as 19 out of 92 in peace and 17 out of 103 in literature.
  • While there has been some improvement in recent years, achieving gender parity is still a considerable challenge for women.

Women and Technology:

  • The under-representation of women is not limited to the Nobel Prize; it extends to every domain of human activity beyond domesticity.
  • While it is impossible to analyze every sector in a single column, focusing on one, like the technology sector, can provide a rough picture of the broader situation.
  • The technology sector, being at the forefront of global and national progress, exemplifies the challenges women face in achieving equal representation in influential fields.
  • A womenintech.co.uk survey indicates that women constitute 26% of the global workforce in the technology sector. Although this reflects an improvement from the 2019 figure of 19%, it falls short of warranting celebration.
  • A Forbes report reveals that in the United States, only 26.7% of technology jobs are held by women.

Representation of Women in the Technology Sector in India:

  • A report by Deutsche Welle, published in Frontline (August 29, 2023), highlights the contribution of over 100 women scientists and engineers to the Chandrayaan 3 mission, successfully landing a lunar rover on the moon. This achievement made India the first country to place a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole.
  • S. Somanath, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), underscores the involvement of women in conceptualizing, designing, and executing the mission, with some playing a significant role in navigating the lander’s critical descent.
  • The Deutsche Welle report referenced earlier highlights World Bank data indicating that women comprised nearly 43% of all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates in India, making it one of the highest rates globally.
  • Additionally NASSCOM’s ‘Strategic Review 2023 notes that 30% of the 5.4 million IT workers in India are women.

The Other Side of the Coin:

  • The Deutsche Welle report reveals that a nationwide survey found only 13% of scientists and science faculty at Indian higher education and research institutions are women.
  • Even at ISRO, women constitute only 20 to 25% of the total workforce of over 16,000 individuals.
  • Challenges faced by women committed to building careers include difficulties in pitching ideas, obtaining equal wages and timely promotions, accessing mentoring and networking opportunities, and securing a seat at the boardroom table.
  • According to McKinsey and Company’s 2022 report, in all industries, for every 100 men promoted to managerial positions, 86 women were promoted. In the technology industry, this number drops to 52 women promoted for every 100 men.

Conclusion:

The call for government, research institutions, and businesses to make special efforts has become a well-worn cliché, but it holds a kernel of truth. Specific and carefully calibrated measures are necessary. The primary thrust should originate from the political arena, underscoring the significance of increasing the number of women Members of Parliament actively advocating for gender equality and justice.


February 2024
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