A Silent Revolution: Assessing Output of Women Graduates & Post-graduates from IIT Bombay
S P Sukhatme* and P P Parikh*

A silent revolution has gradually made its impact felt across the country in the last twentyfive years through the increasing participation of women in the engineering profession. Till the early 1980s, the output of women with a Bachelor's degree in engineering was negligible. However, since then the enrolment and consequently the output has shown an increasing trend. The trend began first in the southern states. It spread to the western states and is now gradually making its presence felt in the north and the east of the country.

Keeping the importance of the subject in mind, two extensive studies on women engineers were taken up at IIT Bombay [Parikh and Sukhatme 1992, 2002 & 2004] through sponsorship from the Department of Science and Technology. One of the issues analyzed in the studies was annual data on the turn-out of women engineers both statewise and discipline-wise. The data obtained showed that the turn-out increased very slowly from less than 1 per cent to about 1.5 per cent through the seventies and early eighties. Thereafter the percentage output has been increasing steadily. Today it is estimated that for the nation as a whole, the output of women engineers is between 10 and 15 percent. Because of the steep rise in intake capacity, the national output has increased from about 25,000 engineers in 1980 to about 200,000 in 2005. This implies that the national output of women engineers has increased approximately from 300 in 1980 to a number between 20,000 and 30,000 in 2005. This represents a hundred fold increase!

IIT Bombay Data

Table 1: Data for the BTech Degree Programme
Year 1972 1982 1991 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
No. of Women 6 5 14 8 17 13 13 12 15 22
Total Number obtaining BTech degree 342 252 301 343 315 307 293 282 254 279
% of Women 1.8 2.0 4.7 2.3 5.4 4.2 4.4 4.3 5.9 7.9

Keeping in view the national scenario, it is of interest to study the trends at IIT Bombay by analyzing data on women graduating from the Institute over the last few years. The data on the B Tech and the post-graduate programmes was compared with the national estimates. These data have been compiled from the reports printed at the time of the convocation every year. Data for the B Tech programme have been obtained for seven years in a row (1999 to 2005) and for three earlier years (1972, 1982 and 1991) and is presented in Table 1.

The data show that the number of women obtaining their B Tech degrees from IIT Bombay has always been low and that the percentage has ranged from 1.8 to 7.9, with the value for many years being between 4 and 5 per cent. There is some indication that the percentage values are increasing. However the values for IIT Bombay are clearly lagging behind the national data obtained in earlier references (Parikh and Sukhatme, 1992 & 2002) and observed in Figure 1. The percentage of 7.9 in 2005 is also considerably less than the value for colleges and universities in the western region. In Mumbai, most colleges at present have an output percentage exceeding 20. It may also be worth noting that the values obtained for IIT Bombay are a reasonable representation of the picture at other IITs.

One can also similarly analyze the percentage data for all degree programmes at IIT Bombay (Table 2). It is seen that the values for the dual degree programme are similar to those for the B Tech programme. This is to be expected since admission to both the programmes is through the same Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). In the other programmes, the values are also generally low though higher than the values for the B Tech programme. It is also noticeable that there are no trends indicating an increase in the percentages over the years 1999 to 2005 in any of the programmes.

Table 2: Percentage of Women Passing Out of Various Academic Programmes at IIT Bombay
Degree Programme 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
B Tech 2.3 2.3 4.2 4.4 4.3 5.9 7.9
Dual Degree -- -- 8.4 4.5 5.4 3.5 4.3
M. Tech 8.0 9.7 12.0 8.5 9.8 9.5 9.0
M Sc 2-yr & 5-yr 22.2 35.9 39.1 17.4 37.6 25.0 22.4
M Des, M Phil, M Mgt, MS 21.6 17.9 21.9 12.1 9.8 18.8 19.0
Ph D 16.1 16.5 15.1 21.3 18.1 24.3 13.0

More specifically for the engineering based M Tech programmes, the percentages of women graduates range between 8 and 12 with the average for all years being 9.5 per cent. On the other hand, for the science-based M Sc programmes, the per centages are higher and range from 17.4 to 39.1 per cent. For the other Master's degree programmes (M Des, M Phil, M Mgt & M S) the percentages range from a low of 9.8 in 2003 to a high of 21.9 in 2001. The Ph D degree includes the sciences, engineering and technology, management and the humanities and social sciences. Here the per centage of women ranges from 13.0 to 24.3 per cent, with the average value for all years being 17.3 per cent.

Table 3: Combined Data for All Degree Programmes
Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Total
No. of Women 92 116 127 100 125 112 136 808
Total number of students obtaining degree 989 937 1013 1113 1116 1015 1247 7430
% of Women 9.3 12.4 12.5 9.0 11.2 11.0 10.9 10.9

The combined data for the period 1999- 2005 for all programmes at the Institute are also of interest (Table 3). It is seen that the percentage output of women has fluctuated between 9.0 and 12.5 per cent. Over the years, the number of women obtaining degrees has increased by about 25 to 30 per cent. However this is not reflected in an increase in the percentage output because the overall output of the Institute has also increased. The output for the Institute as a whole is now around 1250 compared to an output of slightly less than 1000 in the late nineties.

An Assessment
It is clear that the percentage of women passing out of the B Tech and dual degree programmes of IIT Bombay is however still low. This is because of the fact that the percentage of women who appear for JEE is itself low. The figures for the other programmes are a little better, but should certainly be higher. The picture at the other IITs is probably the same.

IITs are institutions with a national mandate. Thus it would be appropriate and worthwhile to adopt a pro-active stance and undertake some special measures. These would ensure that more talented women join our Institute and receive the benefit of education of the highest quality. In this context it is worth reflecting on the following issues: (1) The Institute should organize awareness programmes to make the public aware of the facilities and academic courses available. Such programmes can be held both inside and outside the campus at selected locations on a regular basis. The media can be actively used for such purposes. (2) The information brochure for JEE and brochures issued in connection with admission to our other programmes should describe the oncampus facilities and opportunities for women students at IIT Bombay. Such brochures could also highlight success stories of our women alumni. (3) In conjunction with other IITs, IIT Bombay could consider the possibility of exempting women students who qualify through JEE from payment of fees. This type of encouragement is being offered for engineering degree programmes in some states in India and has proved to be rather successful. (4) Alumni of the Institute should be requested to help in the effort to persuade more women students to join IIT Bombay. The establishment of more scholarships for women students would be an important step in the right direction. Alumni could also help by pledging funds for a new ladies hostel on the IIT Bombay campus.

Contact: sukhatme@iitb.ac.in, b2parikh@yahoo.com ( * Prof S P Sukhatme and Prof P P Parikh are both Professors Emeritus, IIT Bombay)

1. Parikh, P P and S P Sukhatme (1992): 'Women Engineers in India', final report, Sponsored Project No. DST/RD/05/51/88, Dept of Science and Technology.
2. Parikh, P P and S P Sukhatme (2002): 'Women in the Engineering Profession in India - The Millenium Scenario',final report, Sponsored Project No. DST/NSTMIS/05/97,Dept of Science and Technology.
3. Parikh, P P and S P Sukhatme (2004): 'Women Engineers in India', Economic and Political Weekly, pp 193-201.