Nearly 62 per cent of employers said in a recent survey that they intend to hire more women in the field of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in FY24, as compared to the previous year, and close to 38 per cent plan to increase women’s representation by 11-20 per cent.

According to the research report titled ‘Bridging the skills gap — Towards an equal workplace’, published by NTT DATA and NLB Services, nearly 57 per cent of women enrolled in STEM courses are confident of securing a relevant job on completion. Acquiring the additional skills demanded by today’s jobs and gaining technical knowledge are some of the key reasons for enrolling in STEM courses.

The STEM field is marked by an emphasis on innovation, problem solving and critical thinking.

Online learners

As India contributes nearly 32 per cent of the world’s STEM graduates and emerges as one of the largest STEM job marketplaces in the world, nearly 56 per cent of the Indian women workforce is gearing up for ambitious career opportunities, the report says.

India ranks second in the number of female online learners globally, as per industry estimates. The proportion of women enrolling in online STEM courses in India rose to 32 per cent in 2021 from 22 per cent in 2019. Close to 54 per cent of the employers surveyed believe STEM education will significantly reduce the skill gap, while 61 per cent think fresh STEM graduates are ready for industry work.

Retail/e-commerce, healthcare and pharma, and IT/ITeS sectors are likely to hire more STEM-qualified women during FY 2023-24. Furthermore, 58 per cent of employers think gender diversity can lead to higher revenue growth and acquisition of top talent. Notably, nearly 31 per cent of employers plan to initiate programmes to attract second-career women, boosting gender diversity.

The study surveyed a sample size of 250 employers across 12 sectors in 15 Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. It surveyed 500 women employees in organisations of various sizes, sectors, and cities.

“The domain of STEM has long been suffering from a massive gender disparity. With women representing just about a quarter of the STEM workforce globally, it’s time we set out to answer the burning questions pertaining to this divide. From finding the root causes behind this gap to taking proactive steps and remedying the situation, the list of action items is long but surely not unachievable. It is encouraging to see that most employers surveyed (58 per cent) think gender diversity can lead to higher revenue growth and over half of the employers (51 per cent) also believe that gender diversity can lead to improved innovation,” Sachin Alug, CEO, NLB Services, said in a statement.  

Nearly 66 per cent of the women in STEM surveyed acknowledged the importance of upskilling and reskilling in the current job market. Two out of three women in STEM prefer to work from home while close to 22 per cent prefer working from the office, and 11 per cent prefer hybrid mode.

Gender gap

The top gender gap constituents noticed by women in STEM include lack of pay parity (57 per cent), inflexible work schedules (44 per cent), and inadequate childcare benefits (36 per cent). Other significant gaps include the under-representation of women in leadership positions (23 per cent) and the absence of formal return-to-work policies (16 per cent), the report pointed out.

The top three expectations of women employees are flexible or remote work policies, maternity/paternity policies, and learning and development. Further, only 39 per cent of women in STEM believe their organisations promote the progression of women, indicating the need for significant improvement in gender equality in the workplace.

Nearly 72 per cent of employers agree that providing flexible roles to STEM-qualified women employees can strongly impact their hiring and retention in the workforce. From pay parity perspective, nearly 61 per cent of employers have a deviation of less than five per cent on their organisations’ pay scale, with only five per cent having a deviation above 15 per cent.

NTT DATA and NLB Services have, for the second consecutive year, jointly announced a hackathon titled ‘Bridge the Gap’ targeted at women IT professionals. The month-long hackathon — from March 8 to April 16, 2023 — will offer women tech professionals a platform to showcase their skills through a series of challenges.