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Insights Why does India produce the highest number of female STEM graduates?

India is said to have reached a ‘watershed’ moment both for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and innovation in the wider industries. How has India achieved an almost equal gender divide and edged ahead of developing nations?

In response to its accelerating digital evolution, India has formulated a well-detailed roadmap towards making STEM more accessible and attractive to women. This spans from sparking a STEM culture in schools, right up to creating more opportunities for women within research and development teams.

Fostering a STEM culture in the classroom

To encourage more women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics at university level, action must begin in schools. So, what is a STEM culture? It means nurturing an environment where curiosity is encouraged. Students are reminded that they are the next generation of changemakers and shown how the world around them works. It helps them understand their surroundings and, more importantly, raises a generation of lifelong learners.

This next generation may have the ambition to grow up to be a civil engineer, environmental scientist, process design engineer or architect. Perhaps they don’t know what they’ll be beyond their school years, but whether they follow a typical STEM career path or look further afield at jobs like project management, they’ll always be drawing on their STEM skills. After all, an experienced project manager adds value by guaranteeing that a project is completed on time and within budget, therefore, a strong mathematical ability is essential.

image of a hand holding a lightbulb with a graduation hat on top of it

Initiatives that are making a STEM career more attractive for young females

In a growing economy like India, investing in learning is paramount, particularly in areas like STEM where there is an increasing demand for skilled professionals.

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan explains that the Indian government has taken several steps to improve the representation of females within STEM, one being the 'Knowledge Involvement Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN)' programme. KIRAN is a mobility scheme that creates career opportunities, such as fellowships, for females from a science and technology background. This shows females of all ages, from those just starting education to women choosing what to study at university, that they could enjoy a successful career and make a real difference.

Other programmes include ‘Consolidation of University Research through Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities (CURIE)’ and the ‘Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM' (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine), both of which are aimed at offering women access to state-of-the-art research laboratories. These are particularly important as women are fighting for better representation within this area, where Indian women account for 15% of the research workforce , compared to 30% globally.

Building a better future

In the latest UNESCO Science Report , titled ‘The race against time for smarter development’, the specialised agency detailed the marked progress that India has made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, UNESCO highlights the headway made within the development of industry infrastructure and innovation. To continue being recognised for its innovative solutions and the development of cities, transportation and industry, the nation must keep the spotlight on women and their contribution.

Diversity drives sustainability, whether that is diversity of gender, sex, ethnicity, religion, background, sexuality or ability. Our planet is facing a climate crisis and in order to continue building sustainably, nations like Indian are looking for radical thinkers who can enhance collaboration and deliver creative solutions.

Further your STEM career with Atkins

At Atkins - a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group - we strive to create a working environment where our women have everything they need to develop enriching careers. Creating equal opportunities is not only about doing the right thing for the individual, but we know building diverse teams is right for our businesses.

What are you waiting for? Search our latest jobs in India, and join our talent community.

Alternatively, if you’re just starting your career with the vision of becoming a changemaker, there is no place better for you than Atkins. Our graduate and internship opportunities in Asia offer a chance to work alongside a supportive team on some of the most exciting projects.