Monday, October 20, 2008

PanIIT-2008: One day conference on Women in Science and Technology

Women in Science and Technology (WIST) is the title of a day-long event at the PanIIT-2008 this December. [Thanks to Prof. Neelima Gupte, Department of Physics at IIT-M, for the alert].

I knew about a session devoted to attracting women to technical fields (and I did mention this in passing in a previous post), but I was unaware that the session is a part of a bigger event that's going to run for an entire day.

Prof. Gupte and her colleagues have lined up a very impressive list of speakers. I was very happy to see quite a few familiar names in the list: Prof. Rohini Godbole (High Energy Physics, IISc), Prof. Chanda J. Jog (Physics and Astronomy, IISc), Prof. Rama Govindarajan (Engineering Mechanics, JNCASR), Prof. Shobhana Narasimhan (Theoretical Sciences, JNCASR), and Prof. Charusita Chakravarty (Chemistry, IITD).

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Interestingly, a part of the day-long event will be devoted to under-representation of women in the IITs among both students and faculty. As it happens, I have expressed my strongly held view that JEE has a bias against women. Very briefly, here's the argument: even though women do as well as (or even better than) men in higher secondary exams, they don't manage to get through JEE in large numbres. This is because JEE's so freaking tough that it requires intensive coaching to which women do not have easy access. For example, the famed Bansal classes in Kota, Rajasthan, has a student body in which women form just 13 percent. Thus, I don't expect any improvement in women's enrollment in the IITs unless JEE's goal is re-oriented towards standardizing across India's school education boards.

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Coming back to WIST, the program looks very promising. It'll be great if someone could blog about these events. If you are attending but don't wish to blog about it, perhaps you could e-mail me with your report, views and/or impressions?


  1. Anonymous said...

    "This is because JEE's so freaking tough that it requires intensive coaching to which women do not have easy access."

    Why do you not see the other side: secondary exams have become "so freaking dumb" that doing good in them means, nothing ? Typical characteristic of secondary exams: questions emphasizing memorization, questions barely encouraging any analytical thinking?

    If your argument was true, then girls who (a) did well in Board Exams, AND (b) did take two/three years of good coaching, should necessarily do well in JEE. Right? Well, that does not happen!

    Exams where you can score full marks by "defining" Snell's Laws and writing down the statement of Einstein's Photoelectric Effect, of what use do you expect them to be?

    Please appreciate that even though the JEE is surely vandalised because of coaching institutes, the secondary exams are far far worse in quality and credibility.