About 43 per cent of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in India may be women, which is the highest in the world, but women’s share in STEM jobs in India is a mere 14 per cent. In Sweden, on the other hand, women’s share in STEM degrees and jobs are 35 and 34 per cent, respectively, according to Fanny von Heland, Innovation and Science Counsellor, Head of Office of Science & Innovation, Embassy of Sweden.
“Most of the women STEM graduates in India either pursue another career or do not work at all. That is really a waste of talent. In Sweden, we produce fewer STEM graduates (than in India), but employ almost all of them,” Heland told BusinessLine .
She was talking about a virtual summit, SHE STEM, organised by the Swedish Embassy here last week around the need for gender equality in STEM to mark the Nobel Memorial Week. Research has clearly established that gender diversity leads to creativity, productivity and innovation, she said, adding that Sweden has been working closely with the Indian government and others to improve gender equality in the field of STEM.
“The STEM field is so perpetuated with gender stereotypes. It has a very strong male-dominated culture. There is a lack of role models for girls and women. What we wanted to do with the event was to give inspiring samples of success stories and role models to help encourage these young girls and women pursue careers in STEM,” Heland said.
Significantly, around 5,000 budding women entrepreneurs, researchers and students participated as audience in the webinar, which saw eminent Indian women scientists and experts such as Department of Biotechnology Secretary Renu Swarup and Centre for Science and Environment Director General Sunita Narain and a few successful young Swedish women entrepreneurs speak.
Citing a recent research report by McKinsey, Heland said that narrowing gender gap in STEM can lead to an increase of $12-28 trillion in global economy. “Gender equality is important from a business perspective and it should be made a business priority by companies.”.
According to another report from the European Union Commission, promoting gender equality leads to nearly 10.5 million additional jobs and 70 per cent of these jobs will go to women.
One of the areas that Sweden is focussing in India is Artificial Intelligence (AI). It recently opened a call for Indian and Swedish companies to do joint projects in AI. Sadly, AI is also a very-male dominated field.
“Nearly 80 per cent of all AI professors (in the world) are male. If you look at the industry side, it is equally distressing. For example, at tech giants like Google and Facebook, only 10-15 per cent AI experts and researchers are women,” Heland said.