Students at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) will now be required to take a compulsory gender awareness course. The course aims to educate students about gender discrimination and inequality.
For the first time in the institute’s history for 63 years, a mandatory zero-credit gender awareness course will be offered to students of all levels. The institute’s senate passed the course during a meeting held last week. While many institutes offer gender awareness workshops for students, this is probably the first time that an IIT has instituted a compulsory course for the same.
Last year, the IIT-B renamed its women’s cell – intended for handling complaints of sexual harassment – to a gender cell. It was this cell that designed the course, said director Subhasis Chaudhuri.
In a joint statement to HT, Rowena Robinson, coordinator of the Gender Unit and Sahana Murthy, co-organizer, said: “In accordance with the law (Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act, 2013) and The IIT-B policy against sexual harassment, the institute, through its Gender Unit, aims to ensure gender awareness and awareness of all students and employees. The new ‘Gender in the Workplace’ course which will soon be launched to students, then to all staff and faculty, is online in English and Hindi and its aim is to raise awareness of the issues more wide discrimination and inequality between the sexes. ”
IITs have traditionally had very few female students applying for their courses. To remedy this lack of visibility for women, the IITs have now introduced supernumerary seats to increase the number of female students to 20%. Although these measures have improved the number of women studying science, the data shows that few of them are retained in the field afterwards. According to a 2020 United Nations report, 43% of all graduates in STEM fields in India are female, the highest in the world. However, the report also found that only 14% of the 2.8 lakh scientists, engineers and technologists employed in research institutes nationwide are women.
Robinson, professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Murthy, professor in the Interdisciplinary Program in Educational Technology, said: “We believe this is the first time that an online course of this nature has been launched for. all members of the institute. Students of all levels will need to take this course. We are not aware of a case like this. However, some IITs organize workshops and guidance on gender issues.
They said the course – a successful / unsuccessful autodidact – will explain how sexual harassment is a blatant form of gender inequality. “While he focuses on how the institute exercises its responsibility in dealing with this issue, he also emphasizes that it must be dealt with collectively and that each member of the institute has an important role to play. The course exposes the systemic issues of patriarchy and power and the associated gender stereotypes that underlie sex discrimination and sexual harassment. He stresses the importance of understanding this social and cultural context in order to bring about a change in attitude and seriously tackle gender inequalities and sexual harassment, ”said Robinson and Murthy.
Chaudhuri said: “The gender preponderance in classrooms, which is quite prevalent in technical universities, can lead to unwanted asymmetry in behavioral traits of students in their formative years, outside of unwanted stereotypes. of the opposite sex. We hope that such mandatory training will make our students more appreciative and respectful of the opposite sex, thus making the IIT-B experience enjoyable for all students.
Robinson and Murthy said the course would likely be available online for other educational institutions to train their students and teachers. “Gender Cell understands that gender sensitivity and awareness in the modern, global corporate workplace is no longer just about obeying the law, but is a highly valued skill. Therefore, it is important for us to train and improve the knowledge and skills of our students so that they can integrate seamlessly and contribute more effectively in mixed teams, offices and workplaces all over the world. », They declared.
Currently, women constitute less than 20% of the total undergraduate student population.
Prajval Shastri, a retired astrophysicist from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru, which advocates intersectional feminism in academic spaces, said: “Better late than never! Both the HSS department and the main faculty of the course are to be commended for this incredible achievement. This means that finally, the management of a higher education institution recognizes that gender inequality is systemic, rooted in the patriarchy of mindsets that necessarily creeps into university and campus life – a phenomenon that would be obvious to a social scientist but not widely accepted by our scientific leaders so far. Presumably, the course design tests for significant changes in mentality as a result of the course. I hope that the hands of the head teachers will be strengthened by making the course compulsory for all teachers and staff at the institute, including senior management, which will make it a valuable course. It is quite laudable and appropriate that the course of this public institution is widely disseminated, which is bound to have a far-reaching impact. “