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Today’s dire reality is the fact that there is a huge gender imbalance in IITs. The skewed sex ratio implies—for every eight to fourteen male students in premier engineering colleges in India, there is just one woman who takes admission in undergraduate engineering programs. Aspiring Minds, an initiative of IIT and MIT alumni, has made this low male-to-female ratio a subject of its 2013 study, which is titled ‘Women in Engineering: A Comparative Study of Barriers Across Nations’. 

Gender imbalance in IITs: 

What Do Statistics Reveal?

According to a survey, out of 14,000 engineers and graduates from across India, top 1% in the non-medical science stream (with engineering aspirations) included women. Despite having intelligent female candidates, the gender ratio at the top engineering colleges in India is skewed. The gender divide has became visible at the JEE coaching level. A 2010 survey of the three most-renowned engineering entrance coaching centers in six cities (including Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Tirupathi) revealed that only 17% to 24% candidates were females. One of the major barriers for unequal gender ratio in higher education and low women rate in technical programs is inadequate academic preparation. The other pre-college blockade identified was self-perception of ability, where women with the same mathematical acumen as men underestimate their own potential.

Causes

The gender imbalance in IITs has a lot to do with the patriarchal mindset of the society, which desists girls from getting a higher education. One of the most prominent causes behind the low selection rate is inadequate coaching or provision of quality education for girls in India. It has a direct link to social issues regarding women. Indians hesitate to send their girls to another city for better education, thus reducing the chances of their selection.

The male to female ratio of students appearing for JEE is itself skewed. Once you get through the reckless IIT entrance exams, you can get a seat in IIT anywhere in India.  And of course, parents don’t want their daughters to go far off places to study, thus prohibiting them from joining coaching centers. As a result, not more than 10% of the student population at any of the campuses is female.

Effects

Sex-ratio is one of the most integral factors of college life. The skewed version has several undesired consequences on the social life of students at IITs.

Lesser the number of girls, weaker they feel. Girls tend to bow easily down to male chauvinism. “We can’t always seek help on assignments,” remarks a girl at IIT. She adds that the boys tend to discuss assignments at their hostels and work in large groups overnight, so they are in a better position to clear their doubts. In departments such as mechanical engineering, the imbalance is worse. It makes the classroom environment intimidating, especially for small-town girls.

The frustration among boys due to the scarcity of women not only manifests in jokes but also makes the boys behave strangely around girls from other colleges. Many of the male students avoid social interactions with the opposite gender, which may result in poor personality development and have consequences later in life.

The Solution

According to a survey conducted on IIT-Bombay (IIT-B), students revealed that they lacked social life at the campus due to the poor sex ratio. Dheeraj Sanghi, an IIT alumnus and a professor said, “The top institutions in India should relook at their admission strategy and find ways to admit more girl students as it will improve the overall environment of the class.”

However, one of the senior professors at IIT Indore said that the institutes do not have a reservation policy for girls. Surprisingly, not even a single girl was offered to study M Tech at IIT-I.

It is not only IITs that are witnessing an imbalanced students sex ratio. There are a number of female applicants taking the Common Admission Test (CAT) is also less. The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B) too commissioned a study to find out the reason. The IIMs have constantly been thinking about the ways to bring more girls into the pool.

Anything and everything in excess is harmful. One of the major reasons for the gender imbalance in IITs is that the Indian institutes depend way too much on test scores to select eligible students. In India, the IITs do not consider any candidate who is not in the top 5% of the Joint Entrance Exam. Hence, the standardized test format does not really help the situation at hand and colleges must opt for a broader selection.

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