Women made up a small but growing percentage of engineering students in India between 2014 and 2021. In 2014, only 3,000 women attempted to enter IIT, but by 2021, that number had increased to 6,400. Women made up 15.4% of the qualified applicants pool and 31% of the student body across all engineering schools that applied for ranking under NIRF.
The number of women passing the JEE-Advanced – the gateway exam for admission to 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) – has steadily risen from 2014 to 2021, an analysis of exam statistics.
Engineering programs in India have been mainly populated by men throughout the years. The latest National Institute Ranking Framework report that was released last month by the Education Ministry shows that 69% of students enrolled in engineering colleges are male. This leaves women at 31% of the student body across all engineering schools that applied to be ranked under NIRF.
The IITs are conforming to the general trend; however, women are gradually becoming more prevalent on IIT campuses. An analysis of JEE-Advanced data points to the change taking place.
The number of women qualifying JEE-Advanced and being eligible for admission to the IITs has been increasing over the years. In 2014, approximately 3,000 women qualified, making up 11% of the total pool of qualified candidates. In 2021, that number increased to 6,400, comprising 15.4% of all qualified candidates.
These trends are in line with the increasing number of women taking JEE-Advanced, one of the toughest competitive exams in the country. In 2014, women made up 17.90% of all students who took the exam. By 2021, that number had increased to 22.83%.
Professor V Ramgopal Rao, former director of IIT-Delhi, attributes the uptick in women’s participation in JEE-Advanced to the social programs undertaken by the IITs. For instance, four years ago, the IITs introduced supernumerary seats reserved for women. “The hope is that women who make it to IITs will act as role models for other girls. More women are taking JEE exams and are beginning to do well which is a good sign,” he said.
Rao noted that he believes an increasing number of women will compete in JEE in the future. “When you look at the proportion of boys to girls in grades 11 and 12, it’s similar. So, we should expect to see a similar ratio when it comes to JEE-Advanced as well.”
A former IIT-JEE chairman, who wished to remain anonymous, said their data indicates that a number of high-achieving girls qualify for JEE-Advanced but they do not attend IITs because of various social reasons.
The former chairman also said that several women students from IITs have addressed parents of girls about the advantages of a multidisciplinary education at the premier institutions. He said that the landscape of engineering education has changed during various orientation programs organized routinely and that now it is more in favor of women.