By Ila Ananya
In 2016, the number of women who qualified to study at IITs was 2,200 (out of 10,500 seats). Of the women who qualified, only a much lower number of women decided to join — just 830 women (about one-third) took up the seats. Now, in an attempt to get more women who qualify to actually join colleges, Economic Times has reported that at least five IITs are considering providing fee waivers for women students.
This came after IIT Mandi, in Himachal Pradesh, decided to approve this fee waiver, along with providing a scholarship of Rs 1000 to every woman student starting to study there this semester (it’ll also be given to existing students who pass the semester).
Just the 2016 statistics of the number of women who took up courses at IITs are indicative of the very few number of women students in engineering colleges — IIT Mandi itself, has just 30 women students out of 500 students studying B Tech. Now, Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai, and Ropar are planning to follow in these footsteps. Economic Times reports that Ravinder Kaur, who teaches in IIT Delhi, said, “Women do not get a level playing field when it comes to coaching or even funding for engineering at IITs” (it’s usually the sons whose education is invested more heavily in). This, it seems, is an effort to address this.
From the students who qualified through the JEE Advanced exams this year, 14 percent are women. It also seems like it isn’t only a fee waiver that colleges are planning — Hindustan Times reports that a new website that acts as a help desk was launched on 12th June, to provide women with access to information about life on campus, and studying in the IITs. They aim to address JEE (advanced) data that showed that fewer women opted to join IITs outside their homes or close to home towns because their parents were worried about safety, providing information about all the hostel and residential options that the college provides.
We all know how there are extremely few women in science, technology, and engineering fields. This has always been the case. Even inside colleges, the educational pressures remain, and when added to pressures from family, there are painfully sad stories, like the recent death of Manjula Devak, an IIT Delhi scholar, where her father said she had committed suicide because of demands for dowry. But this new effort being put in on various fronts to address a gender gap in education itself seems to be a great step forward — hopefully it will also begin to address discrimination that women face on the campus too.