The number of women taking and passing the JEE-Advanced exam – the gateway to admission into 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) – has risen steadily from 2014 to 2021, according to an analysis of exam statistics by The Indian Express. This is due in part to the growing awareness and importance of women in STEM fields, and the JEE-Advanced is one way to showcase their skills and abilities. Additionally, the JEE-Advanced offers an opportunity for women to learn more about the engineering field and what it has to offer them in terms of career options and growth potential.
B.Tech programs have been male-dominated in India for a long time. The latest National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) report released by the Education Ministry last month shows that 69% of enrolment in engineering colleges are of men, with women making up only 31% of the student body across all engineering schools that applied for ranking under NIRF.
While the IITs may be better known for the number of men enrolled, women are beginning to turn the tide and make their presence more known on campus. An analysis of JEE-Advanced data suggests that this shift is beginning to take place slowly but surely.
In 2014, there were about 3,000 women who qualified for JEE-Advanced and were eligible for admission to the IITs. That year, they made up 11% of the total pool of qualified candidates. In 2021, that number has increased to roughly 6,400 girls, who now make up 15.4% of the total number of qualified candidates.
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.
A former chairman of the IIT-JEE exam, who wished to remain anonymous, said that their data shows many qualified girls do not attend IITs for various social reasons.
“If the number of girls in IITs were increased to 20 percent, they would automatically start becoming role models for other students and dispel the misconceptions that mechanical engineering is not for girls, or that opting for technical institutions closer to home is not as good as the IIT experience,” he said.
Women students of IITs have been increasingly vocal about the advantages of multidisciplinary education at the premier institutions. They say that the landscape of engineering education has changed in favor of women during various orientation programs organized routinely. The former chairman said this is a welcome development.