A Harvard University postdoctoral research, Tapashree has been associated with Applied Materials India for the last five years. Tapashree has also been a PhD Student at University of Southampton. Her research topic was Nanoscale control of light within and beyond the near field. The topic encompassed several areas of nanophotonics and metamaterials.
In the past, women’s careers as IT professionals were often impeded by lack of employment opportunities, workplace culture and representation gaps. Unconscious biases regarding perceived gender roles for leadership as well as entry-level positions were also a factor. Career breaks due to personal commitments can be an additional challenge on the career growth curve for women. Fortunately, there have been improvements in the technology sector over the years, including an increase in not only the number of women in tech, but also the number of women in leadership roles in India, as shown in a recent study by Deloitte Global.
According to the Department of Science and Technology, from 2019-2020 women accounted for only 16.6% of those directly engaged in R&D activities in India. Government data also indicates there has been a 4% increase in women’s participation in the R&D space, which is encouraging. As more women enrol in STEM programs, the percentage of women working in the field will hopefully continue to rise in the coming years.
The rising number of females employed in technology can serve as inspirational role models encouraging female students to pursue STEM degrees. Having more women participate in STEM programs is key to increasing their involvement and leadership in technological fields.
Changes in the STEM and R&D fields over the years
Speaking from personal experience, over the last decade the representation of women in the STEM R&D workforce has become far more noticeable. For many, this has involved overcoming preconceived biases; many women across the urban and rural population in India often hesitate to apply for STEM-related job positions, even when they have the educational prerequisites.
An increasing number of women in senior and mid-career positions are inspiring others to seek careers in the R&D field. This should hopefully encourage the younger population to take up the job and lead to better representation of women in R&D roles.
Significance of diversity in the technology field
The value of diversity in technology cannot be overstated. Having different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences helps build stronger, more resilient teams. It also helps organisations create a better work environment where every person knows they belong, feels empowered to contribute to their full potential and is inspired to grow their career.
A more diverse workforce brings a broader range of skillsets and problem-solving ideas that can help accelerate innovation.
Advice to aspiring engineers
It is not only technical skills that need to be enhanced; it is equally important for engineers to hone their interpersonal skills. Verbal and non-verbal communication, leadership and organizational skills, empathy, listening, teamwork and an interest in other languages and cultures, are all great ways to set oneself apart from the crowd.
How can we increase the number of girls in STEM education?
While a recent World Bank report shows that India has more women graduates in STEM than the US, Canada, and the UK, it is critical to promote engineering as a gender-neutral field, as much apprehension comes from the preconceived perception that certain industries are only fit for a certain segment of the population.
In recent years, however, increased female employment in technology has started to dispel the misconception about women in science. This may motivate more girls to sign up for STEM programs and spark their curiosity about a career in the field of science.