DESPITE sex-role conditioning by teachers and traditional attitudes that rule out floor and site jobs for women, the number of Indian women taking to engineering has increased manifold in the period between 1975 and 1990. The percentage of women enrolled in engineering degree courses has increased rapidly from 1.3 per cent in 1974 to an estimated 11 per cent in 1990. Between 1975 and 1990, India produced 3,37,100 engineers, an estimated 18,875 (5.6 per cent) of which were women.
A national survey by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay shows there are still few women graduating from prestigious institutions such as the IITs and the regional engineering colleges. But in some colleges in the states, women now constitute upto 30 per cent of the total number of students enrolled. Several private engineering colleges, which opened in the period between 1983 and 1985, enrolled a proportionately higher number of women.
Kerala has the largest number of women engineers, closely followed by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Electronics heads the list of preference, followed by computer science, chemical and mechanical engineering. Women also tend to do well in the course. About 75 per cent of them are ranked in the top 25 per cent of their class.
The survey showed also that the family background of the women played an important role in their choice of career. Most fathers of women engineers were engineers themselves, while the mothers were teachers. Two-thirds of women engineers were married to engineers as well.
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