You got IIT girls !

14% of JEE (Advanced) successful students are girl. This may be a small number but it points to a consistent improvement over years in number of women qualifying for undergraduate courses at country’s premier tech schools

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The news of Chaitrali Duse of Pune scoring 290 (out of 366) in Joint Entrance Examination – Advanced (JEE-Advanced) for admission to 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across India, country’s premier engineering science schools, came as a pleasant surprise.

The Pune girl scored the highest in mathematics, with 103 among all other subjects, to break the stereotype that women are bad in the subject.

““It is a huge thing for me, especially because people consider IIT to be a men’s domain. Even my teachers use to say that they have never seen girls at this level. But I want to change that perception of engineering being associated with only men, for which I had to break the first stereotype,” she said after the result was announced on June 11.

In this year’s JEE (Advanced) results, out of 50,455 successful students, who are eligible for admission to the IITs, 43,318 are boys and only 7,137 girls. That’s a ratio of 86-to-14.

Newspapers are plastered with full-page advertisements of coaching institutes, in riverbank town of Kota or elsewhere, with rows of bright young boys, to claim supremacy in the business of grooming young ones to pass one of country’s most difficult competitions. The girls are missing from these advertisements.

The gender discrimination is not surprising because when it comes to STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – it’s very much a boys’ club.

The situation is so bad that this year the joint admission board of IITs suggested increasing 600 seats for women to take the quota for them to 1,440 seats. This is an increase of 14%. The board also recommended merit scholarships to women regardless of their family incomes.

At present, women are only 8% of the student strength at the IITs. That’s a paltry number cementing the Indian society’s belief that men are more suited for technical jobs. Women do take up science for degrees but few of them go on to pursue careers in the discipline, says a report.

Because of the default role of a woman as a homemaker and society’s perception that only women are responsible for rearing children, marriage and not career is perceived to be the primary goal of a woman – no matter which profession she is in.

But an analysis of data reveals a slow but gradual change. This year, 14% of successful students in JEE (Advanced) are girls. Last year, this was 12%; and 11.5% in 2015.

The glass ceiling of technology schools is gradually breaking.

There are 97 technology institutes, including 23 IITs, in India. These offer more than 35,000 seats in undergraduate courses every year. For these seats, 11.86 lakh students registered for JEE (Main), the first stage of the exam. The exam filtered 220,000 of them as eligible to take JEE (Advanced). However, only 159,540 of them took the exam on May 21.

Fourteen percent may be a small number but it heralds a big change. It is for this reason that Pune girl Chaitrali Duse’s result is heartening.

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