Small-town Indian women are finding STEM jobs. With a little help from Microsoft, SAP

  • TechSaksham is a tech skills project for women college leavers in India run by software companies Microsoft and SAP.

  • India has one of the world’s youngest workforces.

  • But it also has skills and gender gaps in ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.

  • The partners hope to upskill 62,000 young women students from underserved communities in India to build careers in technology.

A program run by software companies Microsoft and SAP in India is enabling women graduates to gain practical industry skills in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and web design and digital marketing.

TechSaksham – which broadly means “tech capable” in Hindi – is a program designed for women leaving college in smaller towns and rural areas of India that may not have the same high-level technology skills as graduates from bigger cities.

India’s tech skills gap

Despite having a high proportion of female STEM graduates, women account for just 14% of scientists, engineers and technologists employed in India’s research institutions.

SAP India and Microsoft India say they want to upskill 62,000 young women students from underserved communities to build careers in technology.

The TechSaksham tech skills program in India has helped almost 2,500 women students since its launch last year. Image: TechSaksham

TechSaksham: helping women into industry

Around 1,200 teachers at more than 360 colleges have also been trained so far through TechSaksham to deliver industry-ready tech skills.

Kirti Mandal is a final-year student at a government engineering college in Gujarat. The technical skills she gained through TechSaksham recently helped her get an interview with global professional services firm Ernst & Young.

“Key knowledge on AI, robotics, cloud computing, Python, C language, machine learning, and more helped me do a good job at the interview,” Kirti said. “The training also gave me the courage to be assertive in stating what I look for in the company I want to work at.”

Women college graduates in India are getting help to transition into industry through a practical tech skills program called TechSaksham. Image: TechSaksham

Women in India are making progress at work

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 analyzes the gender gap between men and women in 146 countries. It ranks India 135th overall for its progress in closing the gender gap across four key areas covering work, education, health and political empowerment.

India, which has around 662 million women, has made extraordinary progress in the world of jobs and work – categorized as ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity’ in the report.

In this area, the country registered the “most significant and positive change” and also improved on its 2021 performance.

India’s share of professional and technical women workers grew from 29.2% to 32.9% – a “notable” increase – the Forum says. It has also grown its share of women legislators, senior officials and managers from 14.6% to 17.6%.

Women are underrepresented in STEM roles

In STEM roles, the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 finds that women globally are underrepresented, especially in two areas: information and communication technologies and engineering and manufacturing.

In most countries, access to online learning is helping to close the STEM gender gap.

But India bucks this trend. Its gender gap in the STEM field of information and communication technologies is wider in online learning than traditional education – which is typically classroom-based – the report finds.

TechSaksham is set to address India’s wider gender gap in online learning than traditional classroom-based education in STEM fields. Image: WEF / Coursera

Lack of internet access is a barrier

One of the World Economic Forum’s initiatives pushing to improve this is the EDISON Alliance, a collaboration between public- and private-sector leaders to improve digital access in health, education and finance.

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