Empowering Women in STEM: Breaking Barriers and Shaping Futures

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The Current Landscape
Women now make up about 29% of the global STEM workforce, with over one million women in STEM occupations. However, this percentage reflects slow progress toward gender parity. The representation of women in STEM fields remains uneven across different disciplines. For example, in the US, while women make up 39% of graduates in mathematical sciences, they only represent 24% of computer science graduates. Similarly, women comprise 21% of engineering and technology graduates.
Despite the increase in women entering STEM fields, significant underrepresentation persists in leadership roles and professional positions in many countries. In India, there has been a notable increase in women pursuing STEM education, especially in engineering and technology. However, cultural and societal barriers still impact the long-term retention and career progression of women in these fields. Women in India hold about 14% of STEM jobs, and the Indian government and various organizations are actively working to improve these statistics through initiatives that promote gender diversity and inclusion in STEM careers.
Challenges Faced by Women in STEM
Cultural and Social Barriers
Traditional gender roles and societal expectations can discourage women from pursuing careers in STEM. These ingrained societal norms often dissuade young girls from aspiring to STEM careers.
Educational Inequality
Access to quality education, particularly in rural areas, remains a significant barrier for many girls. Without a strong educational foundation, pursuing advanced studies in STEM becomes challenging.
Workplace Discrimination
Women in STEM in India often face discrimination and bias, both during recruitment and in the workplace. This discrimination can manifest in various forms, including pay disparities and limited opportunities for professional growth.
Limited Opportunities for Advancement
Women in India often encounter a “glass ceiling,” which limits their opportunities for career advancement in STEM fields. Breaking through this invisible barrier requires concerted efforts from organizations and policymakers.
Opportunities for Progress
Government Initiatives
The Indian government has launched several programs to encourage women in STEM, such as the “KIRAN” (Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing) scheme by the Department of Science and Technology. These initiatives aim to support women researchers and scientists in their professional journeys.
Educational Programs
Various educational institutions and NGOs are working to promote STEM education among girls, especially in underprivileged areas. These programs are crucial for nurturing the next generation of women scientists and engineers.
Corporate Support
Many Indian companies are implementing diversity and inclusion policies to support women in STEM roles. By fostering inclusive workplace cultures, these companies are paving the way for women to thrive in STEM careers.
Emerging Start-Up Ecosystem
India’s growing start-up ecosystem offers new opportunities for women in technology and innovation. The entrepreneurial landscape is increasingly recognizing the value of diverse perspectives and inclusive leadership.
CII Awards on Excellence for Women in STEM
The CII Awards on Excellence for Women in STEM is an initiative committed to promoting and enhancing the representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in industry and institutes. As we embark on this transformative journey during India’s Amritkaal, we realize there are still doors that need to be unlocked to bring equal representation of women in the STEM workforce.
Towards this cause, CII pledges to launch ‘Women in STEM’ as a movement across the nation and the globe, as one of the key goals of the CII National Mission on Technology, Innovation, and Research. Promoting gender equality in STEM is a resounding testament to our commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity, recognizing that the active participation of women is integral to driving the progress of organizations through innovation in STEM.
The primary focus of the CII Awards on Excellence for Women in STEM for Organizations and Institutes is to champion entities that have demonstrated exemplary efforts in enhancing the representation of women in STEM fields. By shining a spotlight on organizations and institutes that prioritize gender diversity, we aim to inspire others to follow, fostering a culture where women in STEM are not only recognized but actively supported and promoted.
The year 2024 marks the first edition of the CII Awards on Excellence for Women in STEM, which will serve as a catalyst for change – a call to action for organizations and institutions to actively contribute to the creation of an equitable and diverse future in STEM.
For more details, visit CII Women in STEM.

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