The number of women taking JEE-Advanced, the gateway exam for admission to 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), has risen steadily from 2014 to 2021, an analysis has shown from The Indian Express exam statistics.
B.Tech programs in India have traditionally been a male bastion. The latest National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) report released by the Ministry of Education last month shows that 69% of engineering school enrollment is male. Women make up 31% of the student force of all engineering schools that applied for classification under NIRF.
IITs are no exception to this trend. However, women are slowly making their presence felt on IIT campuses. An analysis of the JEE-Advanced data points to the change taking place.
In 2014, about 3,000 women qualified JEE-Advanced and were eligible for admission to IITs. This year they represented 11% of the pool of qualified candidates. In 2021, approximately 6,400 girls passed the exam, representing 15.4% of the total number of qualified candidates.
The above trend is in line with the increasing number of women taking JEE-Advanced, one of the toughest competitive exams in the country. Women were 17.90% of all students who took JEE-Advanced in 2014 and 22.83% in 2021.
Professor V Ramgopal Rao, former director of IIT-Delhi, attributes the increase in women’s participation in JEE-Advanced to the social programs undertaken by the IITs in collaboration with the government. For example, four years ago, the IITs introduced supernumerary seats reserved for women. “The hope is that women who make it to the IITs will act as role models for other girls. More women are taking JEE exams and are starting to do well, which is a good sign,” she said.
Rao added that she hopes to see more and more women taking JEE in the future. “Since the ratio of boys to girls is almost similar in classes 11 and 12, this ratio should be continued for JEE-Advanced as well.”
A former IIT-JEE president, who did not want to be identified, said their data shows that several meritorious girls qualify JEE-Advanced, but do not join IITs due to various social reasons.
“… If the number of girls in IITs is increased to 20%, they will automatically start forming role models for other students to remove misgivings about ideas like mechanical engineering not being for girls, or opting for technical institutions closer to home and not take the IIT experience,” he said.
The former president also said that several women students of IITs have addressed the girls’ parents about the benefits and multidisciplinary education in top institutions, and how the landscape of engineering education has changed in favor of women during various orientation programs organized routinely.