Women Enrollment In IITs, IIMs Sees An Uptick, But Is It Enough?

Six years after the introduction of the female supernumerary quota in IITs, are we where we want to be, or is there still a long way to go for women in tech?

Manya Marwah
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The presence of women in higher education will not only reshape the industry but also set the stage for a more inclusive and innovative future. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the contributions of women will be essential in crafting technologies that reflect the diverse needs of our global society. While we have made some progress in ensuring female participation in higher education professional courses in India, there is still a need for corporate and professional advancements in the tech sector.


Advances At IITs, IIMs

In 2018, according to Law Insider, the Central Government initiated supernumerary seats, which means seats that are over and above the sanctioned intake approved by the appropriate authority and the Government.

The IIT Admissions Council consequently decided to set aside 800 or 14% additional seats for girls in 23 IITs. The next year saw an increase to 946 or 17% of seats reserved for only females while the rest were gender-neutral. Later in 2021, IITs were allowed to increase their female enrollment target to 20%. In 2023, we saw that some IITs were even exceeding this target.

3,411 female-only seats were allotted, while 11 female candidates got admission in the gender-neutral pool, according to an article by NDTV. IITs had a total percentage of 19.7% females, indicating that the ratio of males to females in IITs was 1:5.

In the notoriously male-dominated IIM-Mumbai, the percentage of female students (47.1%) admitted this year has doubled compared to last year (21%) or years before that. Out of 518 students admitted this year, the number of female students stands at 245, marking a significant achievement in the institute's history.

The Maharashtra government recently announced a waiver of fees for women students in engineering and medical streams across the State. This scheme applies to students coming from families with an income less than ₹8 lakh per annum and could benefit up to 20 lakh students, according to reports.

Current Situation


In 2024, out of the 48,248 students who qualified for the Indian Institute of Technology- Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE), 7,964 candidates were female. 42,947 females registered for JEE Advanced, up from last year's 40,645, whereas 143,637 males registered. 

As per recent data from Nasscom, though women make up 36% of the tech workforce in India, their inclusion in the workforce decreases significantly as they climb the corporate ladder. Only 17% hold mid-level managerial positions, 13% work in director-level roles, and a meagre 7% of women hold executive-level positions, according to Skillsoft's 2022 Women In Tech Report India Region.

With the speed at which the tech industry continues to evolve, we have never wondered more about inclusivity and diversity within the field. Though there is increasing encouragement for women in engineering on behalf of IITs, the share of women in the tech workforce is far from ideal even now.


The employment gender gap in India has never been a secret. It is a surprise in a field like technology and IT, however, which is believed to be comparatively more welcoming to women. This, too, has become a tragic reality in recent times. The number of start-ups founded by women is devastatingly minuscule as compared to males, accompanied by a 75% drop in funding in 2023. 

This underrepresentation is a complex issue with many interconnecting factors including cultural factors, societal expectations, lack of access to appropriate educational and professional opportunities, and lack of female role models. This inadequacy not only compromises social equality and injustice but also the progress of the sector and the inflow of more substantial and innovative ideas as a significant portion of the talent pool is being excluded. Also, it creates an environment that fosters workplace discrimination and hostility.

What Do We Do?

Though increasing enrollment for women in STEM programs is a significant step toward promoting gender equality in the sector, evidently it is not enough to provide adequate representation in a way that contributes to the progress of the sector. There is not much that can be done to quickly and effectively remove this bias except to adopt a multifaceted approach that encourages both awareness and education about the technology field and the underrepresentation of women. Mentorship, sponsorship, and support networks that encourage women to enter leadership roles could also prove to be substantial.


The issue is somewhat due to the policies in the country, but more so about the existing social institution that most people believe in. Of course, that is something that is not easy to alter, but addressing biases and discrimination will certainly begin the journey to a more desirable ratio of women at IITs, in the tech space, and the general leadership arena.

Personal views expressed by the author are their own

Women In IITs IIMs women in Tech