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Women in Engineering Science and Technology

Sagnik Bhattacharjee 2 year, Department of Civil Engineering Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur (Email ID:

ABSTRACT Engineering is a vital field for the economic and technological development of our country. Hence, it requires the full participation of the available human resource which should include the participation of both sexes. However, even in the 21st century, this is still a male dominated sector. In India, the contribution of women in engineering is highly under-represented. Women in the west have taken the leap forward in proving themselves equal to men but unfortunately, women in India have yet to take any such step. All across the globe, women are underrepresented and face discrimination. What are the reasons behind this phenomenon which still prevails despite the arrival of the 21th century? This is a multidimensional question. There are various factors involved in the under representation of women. Women are discriminated against in every fields of professionalism, whether it is industry or in academics. They are considered incompetent for complex and vital field such as engineering and hence are restricted to their homes. There is a popular notion that even if they are capable of working, they will be more adaptable in the medical and biological sciences due to their delicate nature. They are deliberately kept out of fields which involves a lot of mathematics. This is done in the form of social and professional barriers. On the other hand, women all over the world have made extraordinary contributions in physical sciences and engineering and have even proven that they equivalent if not better than men in every field of academics. It should be appropriate to remember at this point that if women can go through the excruciating agony of labour to produce a child, which is the most extraordinary form of engineering, then they are certainly capable of achieving great things for themselves. Women in India and other developing countries tend to sit back so that men can do all the major work while they themselves can do the easier work. This is mainly due to their tendency of asking for help in every step which has been cultivated by the environment in which they were raised. The responsibility of bringing down all barriers down so that they can climb up the ladder of achievements freely lies not only with men but also with women. Women must break free and take the main initiative and be self confident.

KEY WORDS Women, Engineering, Science, Empowerment

the progress made by women is significantly low. the participation of women in engineering goes back all the way to the 16th century. women have also excelled in intense scientific fields such as biology. Unfortunately. During the past 50 years. This can be shown by the relatively lower number of women faculty members publishing research papers. full participation of all citizens is necessary. ENGINEERING-“A MALE DOMINATED AREA” Is engineering truly a male dominated field? The answer is no. All over the world. psychology. Even before engineering was acknowledged as a formal profession. This increase originated in the south and spread all over the country. The contribution of women in engineering in India was negligible till the early 1980s. machines. creative ideas and a vision to drive civilization forward is a necessary prerequisite for securing national economic growth in the future knowledge based economy. This gives us a clear notion of the extent of the under-representation of women in engineering and research. For example. social. anthropology. women have made outstanding achievements. chemistry. In the former Soviet Union. This was an indicator that women in India have . in the field of engineering science and technology. economic. newspaper are often unenthusiastic about accentuating the achievements and becloud their work with a less important or equivalent male competitor. social sciences and even physics. pharmacy. everyone in India knows about the manufacture of “Brahmo Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles” by the government of India which involved a team of reputed scientists. business and medicine. the percentage goes up to 58 percent. Furthermore. It is only in the past 15 years that there has been an increment in the number of women engineers. A critical increase in the number of research engineers with innovation. build and maintain structures. Engineering education was formally started in the late 18th century but none of the budding engineering institutions admitted girl students. women have and are making noteworthy achievements in engineering and technology every day. innovations and upgradation for the society and the economy. very few people know that this group was headed by a woman scientist. To be an engineer means to be a lifeline of modern society. Historically. However. the proportion of women researchers and engineers are comparatively low and very few of their achievements have been acknowledged by the general public. enthusiasm. academic publication and also their participation in critical engineering projects. publishers. women have made remarkable progress in education and at the work place during. During the year 2010. systems materials and processes. In China. devices. In western countries and also in the developing countries. Media. But in order to achieve this. technological development. For a rapidly developing country like India. which were originally considered to be male precincts. The rise in the number of engineering researchers is an index of the commitment of this country towards modernisation.BACKGROUND The term “engineering” is defined by Wikipedia as the application of scientific. engineering continues to be a male dominated sector of science. However. In fields such as law. there was a tremendous increment in the enrolment of women in engineering and technological courses. The proportion of women engineers in the world is increasing but at snail’s pace. in order to design. it is unarguably the backbone of the economy. even in today’s contemporary world. women who possessed the skill of an engineer were generally well known as inventors. and practical knowledge. 40 percent of engineers are women.

Some men feel threatened by the slightest hint of professional incompetency when they are compared to a more skilled woman with equal qualification. It clearly states under section D of Article 39 that “equal pay for equal work” irrespective of the fact that the work is being done by a man or a woman. How can we expect to encourage women to contribute in engineering. we still have a long way to go to optimise the full potential of women in engineering science and technology. when they cannot get a fair output to their inputs? . men and women are to be treated equally and are to receive the same reward for their work. There are various social. environment and even their male counterparts through covert and sometimes even naked gender based discrimination and chauvinism. But the gender pay gap has come down to 28. around 48 percent of the available workforce constitutes of women. Women are indirectly discouraged to climb the ladder of achievements by society. This process has been conceptually termed as the “Glass Ceiling Barrier”. In 2007.dominated” field. so that women can freely climb up the ladder to higher achievements. women are blocked from attaining full professorship in science and engineering departments in many institutions and universities.become equipped to contend with men fairly in this “male. An average European woman earns around 68 percent of her male counterpart’s income.94 percent less than men. psychological. The constitution of India declares the state to be a social democratic state. If women are to be considered equal to men. This is a serious obstruction to the development of the much desired gender diversity in engineering and discourages competent women from participating in the field of engineering and technology. Women researchers in every field receive much lower salary as compared to their male counterparts at equal position. For example. REASON BEHIND THE EXISTENCE OF FEWER WOMEN ENGINEERS Why are there so few women engineers in the world? This is a multidimensional question.13 percent for the year 2011. The “Glass Ceiling Barrier” is just an outward manifestation of gender based prejudice which the “superior” men use to avoid women competitors in the higher level of the professional hierarchy. In India. This form of discrimination is perhaps the most naked form of illegal gender based discrimination and this is unprecedented in modern times. This law is one of the founding laws of a state and gender equality is one of the basic principal of socio democratic society. women earned 41. 1) GLASS CEILING BARRIER There appears to be an invisible but impenetrable barrier between women and high status which prevents them from reaching the highest level despite their accomplishment. 2) GENDER PAY-GAP A gender pay-gap exists in majority of the countries in the world including India. Women face hurdles in every stage of the academic chase. By the very principle of social equality. However. Engineering is a huge service sector which has branches in both industrial as well as academic field. then it is of paramount importance that this barrier must be destroyed and all other gender based obstacles removed from professionalism. and environmental factors due to which the participation of women in this field is so low. It is quite apparent that women do half of the total work if not more.

3) GENDER BASED DISCRIMINATION AND CHAUVINISM Even in the 21st century. science. This is a significant loss to the productive power of the country. This can be done by bringing awareness of the various extraordinary achievements of women to the attention of general public. and other slightly delicate fields which entail a degree of care and tenderness. If a woman can engineer a child in her wombs which is. If women were physically weak. One good example out of copious others would be Shakuntala Devi who is most popularly known as the human computer. women are considered intellectually inferior to men despite numerous examples that point otherwise. In order to empower women. Today. the general society must be convinced of the true capability of women. in many of which they have performed significantly better than men. by far the greatest form of engineering in the universe. physical science and technology. For example. which are considered characteristic features of women and hence will not do well in rigorous mathematics based subjects such as physical sciences and engineering. Women were built to achieve greatness much more than men because they have the power of tolerance. Increasing the number of women engineers will not only provide a well-built engineering work-force for the economy. We must keep in mind that despite the fact what our country is producing engineers in an ever increasing rate. This belief is ubiquitous not only in India but even in the West. Men tend to sideline the achievements of women and this is done at conscious as well as sub-conscious levels. This has been further reinforced by stereotypes about women’s inability to handle the complexities of the field of engineering. There are also other beliefs that declare women to be socially different from men. Their abilities must never be underestimated. Women all around the globe are often restricted to their respective homes engaged in common household activities. Even in the contemporary 21th century. then they are most certainly capable of engineering great achievements in the physical world. there is a popular belief that women are more apposite for natural sciences. Many institutions avoid employing women engineers and scientists due to the fact that at a certain period of time. mathematics and technology since the beginning of human civilisation. but it will also give a chance to improve the quality of engineers produced in the country. women all over the world have participated in developments in engineering. medicals and biological sciences. 4) SOCIAL BARRIERS There exist many of social barriers which discourage women from going into academics and often persuade them to stay inside house to be good wives. the number of quality engineers being produced in India is still quite low. women are excelling in all those fields which were up to that time considered to be “male fields”. we are unable to utilise 100 % of our human resource for the betterment of society. She is said to calculate multifarious arithmetic problems faster than a computer. . It should be noted that being a woman means that she will have to endure great pain and stress during the delivery of child. Despite many barriers and hurdles. Moreover we still face a critical shortage of engineers in the work force. A woman with an aptitude to be a great engineer is kept at home to do household chores and is replaced by a lesser qualified or under qualified engineer. these ideas still prevail. then they would not be able to go through with this excruciating pain and agony during labour and this would virtually mean the end of the human race. arguably. Most people perceive mathematics and sciences as “male” subjects and arts and humanities as “female” subjects. It is because of them that the human race is moving forward. they will require maternal leaves. It claims that the purpose of women is to produce healthy offspring and be good mothers and wives. Due to such outdated social norms and prejudices.

A woman taking a step forward is often viewed outrageously by her male counterparts. it will be received vehemently by other peers and colleagues. it has been found that there is a whole list of work that women can do better than men. the central cause for the underrepresentation of women’s contribution to engineering and technology in India is the hesitant attitude of middle class women towards laborious tasks. the sensitivity of women towards failure is another reason for the feeling of such inferiority complex among themselves. They need to understand that they are more than capable of doing every kind of work that men do. Women have been raised in an environment where they are always expected to get help from others. he can laugh it off and forget about it and move forward. 6) LACK OF SELF-CONFIDENCE AND INSPIRATION OF WOMEN TOWARDS HIGHER ACHIEVEMENTS There is a considerable number of women scientists and engineers who themselves believe that they will be unable to compete with men in these fields and tend to have an “out of the way” mind-set towards their work place. In an ordinary platform. if a boy gets a “C” grade in a test. Women need to feel at par with men if they want recognition for their contribution. The whole purpose of empowerment of women is for them to realise their potential and work for the development of society and not to be afraid of failure.. Anthropologically. then she would begin to doubt herself. This makes it exceedingly difficult for a woman to get promoted to a higher post where she may have to lead a male dominated group and often where male workers will have to report to her. Women cannot overcome such a remark as casually as men do. They tend to remain on the periphery and give way to men who do those “masculine” works. If a man gets a bad remark. The protective nature of women enables them to do a list of things better than men such as designing and detailing of engineering structure. big deal”.5) ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECT Environment also plays an essential role. then his thoughts would be “oh I got a C. For this to happen. This is due to the help seeking nature of women which has been cultivated by the notion of the “helpless” woman in the society. but if a girl gets a “C”. In addition to subtle biases. If a woman gets a negative remark. they need to have the boldness and self confidence to step forward. if a woman is to compete with a man on a one to one challenge. This is a general case and there are exceptions. SOCIOLOGICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASPECT AND A COMPARATIVE CASE STUDY Despite the various external factors discussed above. Women too play a big role in promoting a hostile environment for their own gender. the she would judge herself as incompetent. This tendency is also reflected at the work place. women are sometimes victims of behaviours including sexual harassment and overt discrimination. estimation of construction quality and quantity etc. men are considered as hunters and the scouts whereas women are considered as nurturers. Also. cleaning etc. Men would generally never take failure on a personal level. Women sit at the computer and do work for which they are overqualified. This is mainly due to the environment in which women are brought up where every time they fail to carry out a given task such as cooking. For example. In fact. they are ill treated. . Men on the other hand are trained from the very beginning to stand on their own feet so they so not face such problems.

Women can play a very critical role in this process. Furthermore. then the quality of creativity is crucial. without which this task will become impossible. in the long run. These qualities of women enable them to be more creative and imaginative. After the Second World War. Not only that. In Russia. It is also noteworthy that in the case of Russia. We must keep in mind that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. there is a historical reason behind the advancement of women in the society. women of Russia had no choice but to step forward and play a greater role towards social development. where female population exceeds the male population by around 10 million. While men are “realistic” and “intuitive”. whether it is at home or in the office. The history of this country is a contrast to that of India in terms of self confidence of working women. women have a considerable advantage over men in terms of language and presentation. Diversification of engineering in terms of gender will generate new innovations and ideas which would not have been possible before. It is not enough to be practical and investigative. They differ only in terms of choices not abilities. women have proved to be more efficient than men in every field of work. This difference can result into the generation a whole volume of new engineering ideas which will not only be attractive but will also tender the needs of the society. To be an engineer is to have the ability to create and hence it plays a role of paramount importance. it has proved to be highly time saving as it avoids making careless mistakes. WOMEN EMPOWERING WOMEN How can women contribute towards the development of the society? There are many ways in which they can do that. This can be demonstrated by the following case study: Suppose a car is to be manufactured based on a given model. More women participation will benefit the progress in these fields because it will lead to a greater diversity of innovative designs and ideas. The social and creative dimension of new ideas provided by women engineers may be designed for the betterment of the society which is the central purpose of engineering.Let us take the case of Russia and analyze the status of women there. As in the fields of engineering research. If women in India and the other third world countries are to be as strong as women in Russia and the west. Even in their old age. . starting from engineering to literature. then they have to take the step forward and prove to the public openly that they are no less than men. In order to fill this void. Although. this process can significantly slow down the research process. One of them is to contribute meaningfully towards the field of engineering and technology. 10 percent of the population of the Soviet Union was wiped out due to the “Great Patriotic War”. women are “social” and “artistic”. Women in Russia have as much self confidence as men do in every field. women are seen have more perseverance than men. women in Russia maintain a high level of physical strength and stamina so that they could be at par with men. they are proficient in carrying out the basic work requirements of life and seldom depend on their male counterparts. They tend to move from one stage to another very carefully. hence the population of men in the Soviet Union was greatly reduced. Women have a lot to offer in the field of engineering and technology. The relationship between development and engineering has already been discussed in the beginning of this paper. It is complimentary that the women of Russia did a praiseworthy job to rebuild their country which would later on become a world super power. But if the car was to be further developed. Most of the dead were men. This can be done by practical knowledge of the working and the mechanism of the manufacturing of the car.

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