“Championing gender-inclusive excellence in STEM education is the need of the hour,” says Rajesh Bhatia*
As we approach the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, it is important to work judiciously towards a gender-equal future where women can unlock their capabilities to become leaders and innovators across various sectors of society. Promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for girls is not just a necessity but will ensure their active participation and leadership in shaping the future of these fields.
For instance, recently, when India successfully completed the Chandrayaan 3 mission on the moon, amidst the jubilation, we saw the groundbreaking role of women in the current and the previous lunar missions. The list of past and present achievers included names like Vanitha Muthayya and Ritu Karidhal from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). However, experts say that, rather than celebrating women only at the time of major scientific milestones, a continuous effort is necessary to nurture the next generation of female STEM leaders.
“We are progressing towards a world dominated by technological development. STEM fields, particularly engineering and computer science, play pivotal roles in these advancements, dominating the global economy. Many of the world’s most pressing issues, ranging from climate change to healthcare, also necessitate STEM solutions. Moreover, research and studies suggest that STEM-related industries are poised to generate high-paying jobs in the future, underling its importance for our next generation,” says Rajesh Bhatia, the founder of the TreeHouse chain of schools
However, even as the demand for STEM workers increases, there is inadequate representation of women in this sector. “We have seen many studies revealing the gender gap in STEM and the factors discouraging women from pursuing these fields include stereotypes about gender, a shortage of role models and mentors, and unconscious biases in hiring, promotions, and grant funding,” he added.
Mr. Bhatia said that it is essential to introduce girls to STEM subjects early on to help dispel the stereotypes associated with them.
“Promoting gender-equal STEM education is vital for national progress but there is also a need to address societal influences on educational choices among girls. To ensure educational equality, educators must create inclusive environments in schools, especially for STEM programs, providing equal exposure and encouragement for both genders. This will allow those with talent and genuine interest to develop their capabilities,” he added.
He also mentioned that increasing gender diversity in STEM should become a national mission. “According to reports, the enrollment of girls in STEM in India stands at 43 percent in 2023, surpassing countries like America and the UK. This figure is a significant positive sign for the country’s advancement towards an inclusive work environment and a gender-neutral education system. We hope that these figures will increase even more in the future,” concluded Mr. Bhatia.