Why are less Women in Science and Technology Careers


CASE STUDY- based on conversation with “Manisha”

As she cleared her 10th board examination with flying colors, a scholar, Manisha, jumped with happiness. All excited she shared with her father over a cup of tea that she wanted to science going forward. She wanted to become a doctor. She shared whole heartedly with her family that she had defined her purpose of life – to save lives. She had visualized providing a life full of colors to as many people as she could, as a professional. By the time her father had the last sip from his cup of tea, it was decided that Manisha will be opting for ‘Humanities’, a subject ‘more appropriate’ for girls.

She gathered all the courage to smile and accept the decision taken because ‘parents know the best for their child and she is too young to take crucial decisions.’ Two years flew. Manisha, a scholar, shined with the given decision and decided to attempt again to fulfill her dream. After completing a research on the way forward and options to step in to medical science, that day, she was sharing a cup of tea with her father yet again, for a ‘crucial decision’. This time, her uncle (father’s younger brother) was also present. After 30 minutes, Manisha collected all the documents she had collected to show to her father, and went back to her room. She was supposed to study engineering now as it had a wider ‘career scope’. Either way, medical science was ‘too tough for her’, as her uncle had suggested. That is why his son, Manisha’s male cousin was also studying to be an engineer.

A few more years went by. Manisha had taken her last exam to clear engineering and was walking down towards home thinking about the next step – exploring the job market. She started applying for jobs and preparing for her interviews. Meanwhile her elder brother suggested topping up her education with something else as that would give her better career options. Manisha, a scholar, found this thought interesting. In alignment with her career, she completed her MBA from a renowned university. She appeared for campus interviews, and in no time was offered a job by one of the organizations. Proposed role was in Human Resources department. The interviewers believed that ‘females are better for coordination and people related roles. Dealing with technical complexities, men manage better since they are more focused and can do extended shifts also’.Seems like the rule of the world weren’t fitting in to Manisha’s brain. Still, she accepted the offer and started the work whole heartedly.

Hardly 08 months in job, Manisha’s parents received a marriage proposal for her. Within 03 months Manisha had to quit her job to become wife of a Doctor, and in a year’s time, mother of a child.

47 years old Manisha, a resident of Mumbai – city of dreams, Manisha’s dreams were lost.

Manisha (name changed) and I are now working on exploring options to fulfill her original dream of spreading colors in people’s life. Not through science or technology, unfortunately. As I re-look at similar many other cases, I wonder what is our criterion of charting the growth path of industries? Is it talent that matters or sex of an individual? Interesting it is to know that one part of our eco-system enjoys living differentiation of roles basis male or female, while other thinks what stops female talent in the fields like science and technology. What is limiting these industries to remain male dominant?

In acoaching discussion with one of the business heads in the sector, I was taken aback to hear “I am really worried about the current productivity and quality my team is producing. They are good but I know with the forecasted work, this dedication will not be sufficient. I wish this round of hiring brings in a few females. I find them more organized and focused. They are somehow more reliable with responsibilities. I would prefer my team coming back with questions to seek clarity about anything they do not understand instead inaccurate deliveries. It is ok to not know. But I guess we men tag our best friend called male ego everywhere (humorously).’

Research data of many renowned sources speaks amongst the fastest growing industries, science and technology has least female employees.

Looking at both the sides of the coin, having discussed this issue with some people from different spheres and countries; the findings left me frozen for a moment.

Key stereotypes those restricted the entry of female talent in these industries, highlighted during conversations were:

Bro-Culture: Women do not belong here. These fields have defined their culture as ‘Bro-Culture’, clearly symbolizing women as social outcast. They will only experience social identity threat in these fields.

Genius-Job: It is a complex and hard job. It requires brain. Moreover women cannot put this much effort. They get stressed very easily. Women are good for ‘easy jobs’.

Focus: Work is secondary focus area for women. Their primary focus is family, husband, children, kitchen etc. The moment they get married, their list of leaves increases. Basically they are always mentally in their house; they better stay there, not in the office.

Masculine Role: Some fields like technology, research etc. and roles like leadership roles are best suited to men. Women have ‘agentic’ quality in them, which is why people expect men to deal with such stuff. Probably a good reason why women, even if they are hired in these fields, they are paid average 20% less than men with limited growth opportunities. If they cannot perform a negotiation for own self, how will they perform in tougher roles.

Role Model: Since all mentioned stereotypes are eventually current realities is why women do not have any role model to follow in such organizations. Hence, following the rat-race, promising candidatures are also withdrawn and aspiring candidates detour.

Well, I somewhere agree with the stated stereotypes. Especially, when women like Manisha make a choice to give in, instead taking a stand for them and taking up the challenge to fulfill their career dream; they add another star to the stereotypes making them stronger.

Manisha was a scholar, she was willing. A little support, sprinkled with some confidence, today, she could have been a renowned name in the industry and a much required ‘role-model’ for upcoming talent.

The questions at hand are, we now have a snippet of the core concern at hand. What do you think we could do to breakthrough these barriers? What could we do as industry professionals to promote the talent, not stereotypes? What do you think could bring in a vibe of comfort, security and growth for women in these fields?

What would create a positive change?

Rupinder Kaur is a Results Coach and a Behavior Change Facilitator with more than 15 years of experience in impacting performance through brain science, at national and international level. A thought leader, Rupinder has worked closely with entrepreneurs, key stakeholders of Fortune 500 and leadership teams to boost people and business performance. She has addressed more than 12000 audiences from 22 industries. Previously she has been Head-Training & Development for Vatika Group


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