National Institutes of Technology apparently have better gender diversity than Indian Institutes of Technology. According to professor S.K. Das of IIT Ropar, NITs have 12-13 per cent girls per batch compared to just 6-7 per cent in IITs. The move to have supernumerary seats for girls in IITs was triggered by this diminishing number.
Every year the joint admission board analyses student data from backward communities, towns, villages and girls. For last two years, it was observed that number of girls entering IITs had been coming down. The quantum of girl students dropped from nine per cent in 2015-16 to six per cent in 2016-17, making the board worried about gender diversity at IITs.
"By 2020, we plan to have 20 per cent girls in every batch. It was a self-correcting step and there was no political compulsion to do it", says Prof Das.
The reason girls fall-out in entering IITs is because of the difficulty level of the entrance exam. Students usually take specialised coaching going to places like Kota and Hyderabad. However, girls' parents are not comfortable sending them to a location away from home. NITs which are within a state and even some of the private engineering colleges see a decent proportion of girl students. But when it comes to IITs, number of girl students takes a back seat.
While increasing the number of seats might not solve a fundamental social issue, former IIT Guwahati director Gautam Barua says that it will at least give comfort to girl students that they have certain number of seats on which there will not be competition from boys.
"With girls, location matters a lot. So, here again IITs in metros will get preference from girl students", he says.
Few years back IITs had experimented with waiving off the entrance test fee for girls students, however it did not help much. Proportion of girls in M.Tech and PhD is also relatively higher as there are few reputed institutes for that level.
IIMs too, over the years have given preference to girl students. It is an unwritten norm and decided at the interview level. Gender diversity at IIMs has improved from 8-9 per cent in the late 90s to 26 per cent now.
"Not having girls in IITs would be dangerous not only for the IITs but also for the corporate world as there will be very few technology women in top positions", says Prof Das.