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IWD 2024: The STEM forest: Cultivating a diverse workforce for sustainable growth
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

A recent report featured in India's leading financial publication highlighted the redesignation of a top female CXO as Deputy MD at one of India's prominent Banks. This comes at a juncture where no other leading private sector bank listed has a female CEO or executive director. A decade ago, India's BFSI sector flourished with several female banking CEOs, yet today, only one woman holds the CEO position. The situation is even more dire in the IT industry, where none of the 54 listed IT companies have a female CEO (based on BRSR filings for FY23 for the NSE-1000). Notably, #IT and #BFSI have historically been high employers of female workforce. While the overall gender diversity ratio of NSE-1000 companies stands at 18%, it is nearly double at 35% in IT companies and 23% in the BFSI sector. Clearly, a higher number of female employees does not necessarily equate to more female representation in company leadership.

According to a recent McKinsey report, globally, women remain underrepresented in tech roles at global companies. Moreover, the distribution of women in specific tech roles varies significantly, ranging from 46% in design and management to just 8% in DevOps and cloud roles.

Globally, there is a growing emphasis on making sustainable and environmentally conscious decisions. These actions often align with new local legislation, company policies, and industry trends. While it is encouraging to witness businesses embracing ethical and sustainable practices, the question arises: How do we measure sustainability? Is there a direct correlation between sustainability and ethical business practices? Can engaging (or mandating a diverse workforce) lead to Sustainable Development in the truest sense?

What are the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of STEM education, and why is there a focus on STEM education relevant to the SDGs? STEM education plays a pivotal role in equipping learners with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for achieving the SDGs. It fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. Integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education has gained traction, promising to attract a broader range of students, a good chunk of which would be women, to the sciences, infuse creativity and innovation into classrooms, and address real-world problems. 

Numerous initiatives are underway in India to mainstream women in the tech population. To cultivate a STEM Forest, it's imperative to trust in the natural course of growth, planting various seeds of opportunities and allowing them to flourish according to varying conditions.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has released an extensive report detailing initiatives by Indian Public and Private Companies to foster an inclusive community and promote STEM adoption. Women's participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields is surging in India, showcasing remarkable advancements. However, the journey for women in Indian STEM sectors is a blend of promise and persistence, marked by successes and challenges.

During the recent years, enrolment of women in STEM education programs has been witnessing growth, with rising numbers pursuing degrees in engineering, medicine, computer science, and other technical disciplines. Notable women scientists and engineers, women entrepreneurs and innovators in India have been making solid contributions across various fields, enhancing the country's reputation on the global scientific stage. 

Yet, deep-seated gender biases persist, channelling the majority of women towards non-technical career paths and traditional roles. Despite improved enrolment rates, women remain underrepresented in senior and leadership positions and decision-making roles within academia, research institutions, and corporate sectors. Gender pay gaps and unequal opportunities for career advancement exacerbate the issue.

Also, there is a cultural roadblock. During a recent All STEM Women conference, discussions unveiled a reason behind the scarcity of Indian women in corner offices - women prioritise family responsibilities over leisure activities, choosing to spend time at home rather than socialising after work or engaging in weekend leisure pursuits.

This prompts another question - should we cease gifting dolls, soft toys, or fashion/kitchen items to our younger nieces, and instead make puzzles, Lego toys, or chessboards mandatory? Ultimately, the decision lies in letting the child choose their own gift.

Emerging technology companies like Impactsure Technologies focus on the latest technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. We recruit engineering candidates nationwide based solely on merit. At Impactsure, there has been a good surge in the intake of women tech graduates in recent years. Our flexible work policies support women returning to work after career breaks, facilitating their advancement in their chosen field.