College of Engineering and Ceramic Technology, Kolkata). Good afternoon .... save for the education of a son and marriage of a daughter. This mindset.
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT FOR TECHNOLOGICAL GROWTH Sampa Chakrabarti (Delivered in a panel discussion on the occasion of Platinum Jubilee celebration of Govt. College of Engineering and Ceramic Technology, Kolkata)
Good afternoon everybody and welcome all. I congratulate Govt. College of Engineering & Ceramic Technology on their Platinum Jubilee and wish them all the best in their successful years ahead. I am thankful to the Officer-in Charge Prof. Saikat Maitra and Dr. Somdatta Chakraborty for inviting me in this panel discussion having a very interesting topic. I also feel honored to share the dais with the erudite co-panelists. Before I start, I have a question: Have you ever heard of a topic like ‘Empowerment of men for technological growth?’ I presume NO. Why? Because people take it for granted that technology is a field for the men. And here is the significance of the topic. Ideally, in the history of human civilization the technological growth should have been equally contributed by the two genders, but there is a big gap between the participation of men and women in the field of technology. In India, the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of male and female students in several engineering and technology courses are compared as follows. The data are of the year 2014. In B.Tech the percent enrollment of male is 9.1 against 4.46 of females. In B E, the figures are 8.07 and 4.06 respectively. In M.Tech the percentage of male is 0.61 while that of female is 0.39. In M.Tech the respective figures are 0.25 and 0.22. In IITs, the MFR is 8-10:1 whereas in MIT, the MFR is 1-2:1 and in Stanford and Berkley 3-4:1. So there must be some difficulties of women, especially of Indian women, to participate in the field of technology. What are the difficulties? The difficulties are mostly from the society. Parents are preconditioned to admit their daughters in Humanities or Commerce rather in Science or Technology. In most cases, the purpose for such admission is to increase the value of the girl as a bride. Nowadays bright grooms want educated brides for 1
their social status. But they are generally not ready to bear with the professional liabilities of their wives. Till today, caring the old persons and the children of the family is primarily the duty of the women. All these can be named as ‘glass ceiling’ barriers since they cannot be easily perceived. Hence, even if they are enrolled in technology programmes, after getting a degree they seldom successfully continue a profession of an Engineer or Technologist. A considerable number of women scientist, engineer or technologist discontinues their profession after marriage or childbirth. On the other hand, employers hire male candidates rather than female candidates. Even today employers or training providers prefer male students rather than female students. Still we can see women technologists in several areas of technology. To name a few in the international level, we can name Katherine Johnson (space computation), Maria Klawe (Computer science), Lydia Villa Komaroff (Biotechnology), Ada Lovelace (Scientific computer programming), Grace Mary Hopper (inventor of COBOL programming). In India we can name Rajeswari Chatterjee (Microwave Engineering), Kiran Majumdar Shaw (Biotechnologist), Tessy Thomas (Space Engineer), Late Kalpana Chawla (Aerospace Engineer). These ladies could somehow overcome the barrier but for the others we shall have to encourage or welcome the women in the field of technology. I am consciously using the word ‘welcome’ or ‘encourage’ instead of ‘empower’. I have an issue about this word. The dictionary-meaning of ‘empowerment’ is ‘to give power or authority to’ or ‘to enable or permit’. It is very obvious from this meaning that you can empower a subordinate only, not a boss or a friend. So those who are for ‘empowering’ women, they are somehow looking down upon women and hence I consider this term as derogatory to the women. Actually women are empowering men by relieving them of the duties of childrearing or cooking or looking after the elderly even after augmenting the family income by equal amount. I am sure, the contribution of male engineers or technologists would have decreased significantly if they had to do all the household chores under several social bindings. ‘Empowering’ indicates that as if men are feeling pity for women and kindly allowing them to enter into the field of Technology. No, women do not wait to be empowered; they are already powerful in their own way. They do not want favour, but they want their right.
For advancement in technological growth, more women should participate in this field. Since the major obstruction is from the society, the major steps must be taken from the society itself, not from the Government in the formof reservations or rules. Rules or reservation may sometimes make others in the society hostile. Reservation gives an idea that as if women are getting an undue advantage. Personally I feel sensitivity and support from the society is basically what is needed. Parents should admit their daughter in programmes according to her aptitude. They should be prepared to incur the cost of tuition if required for helping them in admission in engineering programmes. Till date most of the parents save for the education of a son and marriage of a daughter. This mindset should be changed. Husbands of a woman-technologist should be prepared to share the household responsibilities with his wife instead of complaining. The children should be taught from their very childhood that the work of their mother is as important as that of their father. They should be taught to be proud of the work of their mother so that they become self-dependent. The society and family should look at the duties and schedules of both men and women equally. It is not that if a man works till late-night he is very committed and if a woman works till late-night, she is doing something wrong. Admission process in the engineering and technology programmes should be revised. In India till date cracking JEE is the only criteria whereas in some other countries including the US the admission process is holistic comprising the overall grade, write-up, recommendations and extra-curricular activities alongwith GRE scores. This would definitely increase the percentage of women in technology. On the employer’s part, they should actually act as ‘equal opportunity employer’. Certainly they should provide maternity and child-care leaves and allow work from home. Child-care centres are to be provided in office premises. In sites, there should be additional facilities for the women. The contribution of a woman should be properly recognized and they should be encouraged to be in the administration. We would prefer that the society should come forward to engage women in engineering and technology so that technology can advance to carry the human civilization towards a bright future. Proposing some quota or rules and then forgetting about the needs of women in industries is not a solution to include more women in the field of engineering and technology.