Gender diversity initiatives by IITs give rise to Female Students in JEE Main 

29 November 2019, Pune- JEE Main 2019 saw 64,000 more women candidates, the rise is attributed to biannual exam and addition of 17% supernumerary seats for women. 

  • JEE Main 2019 saw more women candidates 3.30 lakh than last year’s 2.66 lakh.
  • The number of female candidates in 2017 was 2.64 lakh.
  • The rise in the number of female candidates is regarded to the Biannual JEE Main in January and April.
  • Along with 17% supernumerary seats kept for women to rectify gender disparity in premier technical institutes. 

Over the years, IITs have witnessed an abysmal gender ratio, the overall female ratio in IITs were hovering between 8% to 9%. In 2017-18 out of 11,000 seats in IITs, only 8% of the seats were occupied by women. Out of 15 lakh engineers that graduate from over 3,000 educational institutions in the country, about 30% are women. But in terms of higher secondary (10+2), women have a better pass percentage than men in most states across the country. 

The scale in India most prestigious engineering colleges for a long time tilted towards men. The sombre number of girls making to top ranks of JEE Advanced 2018, mere 14 girls in top 500, 46 in top 1000, 410 in top 5,000 and 3,000 in top 25,000 highlights the broadening gender disparity in technical education in India. A small number of women join IITs, 1 in every 10 men. 

To address the imbalance MHRD directed all 23 Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to ensure 14% of their seats for women from 2018. The seats rose to 17% in 2019 and is aimed to reach 20% female seats by 2020, ensuring at least 1 woman student for every 4 men.

In 2018-19 additional 800 supernumerary seats were added for women. Out of the total seats 113 were offered to IIT Kharagpur followed by 95 seats to IIT-ISM Dhanbad, 79 to IIT Kanpur, 76 to IIT BHU, 68 to IIT Roorkee, 59 to IIT Delhi, 58 to IIT Bombay and 57 to IIT Guwahati. IIT Gandhinagar which got 13 seats, admitted 29 girls in 2018-19.

JEE Main 2019 saw more women candidates (3.30 lakh) than last year (2.66 lakh). Number of Females in top 500 rose to 23 in 2019-20 unlike 14 last year. The development is a result of directives by MHRD and IIT Council. to rectify gender disparity in premier technical institutes. 

The data below elucidates the rise in performance of women candidates in JEE Advanced  over the past 4 years:

Performance of Female Candidates in JEE (Advanced) over the years
Year Total Number of Qualified Candidates Qualified Female Candidate Female Top Ranker
2019 38,705 5,356 All India rank 10
2018 18,138 4,179 All India rank 6
2017 50,455 7,259 All India Rank 35
2016 36,566 4570 All India Rank 133

(Data Source:  Joint Implementation Committee Report)

Earlier also special initiatives to reach out female candidates are being taken up like setting up helpdesk, informative Webpage and Facebook pages. In 2011, IITs waived the application fees for female candidates to encourage them to take the test. The efforts fell short and gender gap became much more apparent. Male candidates who appear for JEE is almost double that of female candidates. The clearance rate of men in JEE Main is also high on 6% compared to 2% for women.

Continuous absence of women in IITs persisted, despite of them faring better than men at higher secondary level. The comparative performance of Girls in Higher Secondary (10+2) over the past two years is as follows:

Gender wise Pass Percentage Class 12th (All Subjects) Girls have done better than boys by 9%. With tops 9 ranks held by girls.
Gender 2018 2019
Girls 88.31 88.70
Boys 78.99 79.40

(Data Source: CBSE Annual Report)

For a long time traditional engineering streams were considered male domain. 2.7 lakh female took JEE Main 2019 against 6.5 lakh males. A stark contrast can be drawn in terms of NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) where 7.46 lakh girls took the exam as compared to 5.8 lakh males. This points out the fundamental educational biases, perceptions and preferences in the approach of female candidates.

IIT Kharagpur
Branch Female Intake 2018 Female Intake 2019
Civil Engineering 12 17
Mechanical Engineering 30 33
Mining Department 8 19
IIT Madras
Mechanical Engineering 23 34
Electrical Engineering 20 23
Civil Engineering 19 16

IIT Delhi restricted intake to 17% in each branch, admitting 189 girls in 2019 (18.05%). The intake limit was 14% in 2018 admitting 144 (15.78%). 29 girls admitted to mechanical engineering, 27 in electrical, 20 in textile engineering, 24 in computer science and 28 in chemical.

The trend in increasing number of females in branches is breaking down the notion of associating masculinity to civil and mechanical streams. This is also because the nature of streams is transforming, they are becoming more computer integrated.

IIT Delhi director V Ramagopal Rao emphasise that  industry would benefit from the gender diversity. “Today the industry 4.0 is all about automation, mechanical engineering is mechatronics with the role of automation increasing and civil engineering envelops  diversified understanding of development and environment. The approach has become broad hence it is appealing to girls as well.” 

State-Owned measures to help women crack JEE Main

In recent past, measures to aid female candidates crack JEE has paced up. With the aim of enabling more number of girls joining engineering colleges, CBSE’s UDAAN initiative help 1,000 girl aspirants from all boards to prepare for IIT-JEE. NTA, conducting body for IIT-JEE plans to convert 2,600 test practicing centers into teaching centers  where students get free guidance. Mock test sessions start from September 2019. The teaching facility will probably start from the next session.  

CBSE Chairman, Vineet Joshi said, “Student scoring the highest can make maximum points and earn enough money to pay about 100% of her fees if given admission into any IITs or NITs.

Certain PSU’s free coaching program under CSR initiatives helps aspirants specially girls from underprivileged backgrounds to crack JEE Main. Indian Oil’s ‘Vidushi’ is a girls only programme, 82% of the girls who joined Vidushi program cleared JEE Main. In GAIL’s ‘Utkarsh Super 100’ all 100 aspirants sailed through JEE Main 2019, 14 out of which were girls. NTPC’s Girls Super 30 stands out as an initiative which saw 18 out of 25 girls making the mark.  

Premier educational institutions have changed their  selection criteria in order to increase the number of female students. Management institutes are also working towards a system to have more  non-engineers in their batch. The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, too, has been witnessing an increase in the number of female students. This year’s batch at IIM-A has 27 per cent women. Reserving a number of seats for women by IITs ia a novel move, the developments made to cope up gender disparity are paraise worth. The aim for 20% female intake in IITs by the end of the decade is to be looked upon.