Sources for “What India Can Teach Silicon Valley About Its Gender Problem”

(Published in Wired, September 2014)

On Indian Women in Engineering

  • Escueta, Maya, Tushar Saxena, and Varun Aggarwal. Women in Engineering: A Comparative Study of Barriers across Nations. Aspiring Minds, 2013.

    See page 13ff: “To address the question of isolation, we asked respondents if they ever felt left out in an academic setting. Only 7.84% of the female engineers answering this question reported such feelings, while 19.28% of male engineers reported feeling left out.”

    Page 19: “The most notable outcome of this analysis is the absence of the ‘chilly climate’ at the college level in India. Evidence from this study indicates that engineering women in India do not perceive barriers to their education at the college level in the same way female engineers in the U.S. do. Furthermore, women engineers in India are not dropping out mid-degree in undergraduate programs as they do in the United States. Hence, the college level itself does not seem to be a point of ‘leakage’ for females in India… While there is indication that some barriers still exist at the pre-college level, those women who do gain admission and persist in engineering colleges in India are confident and happy in their environment and do not appear to be experiencing alienation or isolation of any kind. In fact, women in engineering report lesser barriers than men in engineering, [and also less than] men and women in non-engineering degrees. It is also noteworthy that women report lesser barriers than men in both engineering and non-engineering degrees.”

  • Varma, R. “Exposure, Training, and Environment: Women’s Participation in Computing Education in the United States and India.” Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 15 (2009): 205–22.

    Page 217: “Female students [in India] believed that the typical computing culture consists of dedicated, hard working, intelligent, meticulous, and smart students. These students were consistently at the top in their schools before coming to a university. Generally, they are extremely good in mathematics and the sciences. They love the details needed in CS [Computer Science] and put forth effort until programs are perfect. They help those needing assistance and it is pleasant to be around them. They are active in social and cultural events held at their universities, as well as participate in sports.”

    Page 213: “The study conducted in India showed that almost all female students [of computer science] interviewed asserted that mathematics was their strongest subject in high school, followed by physics. A little over half of the students also believed that their high school and intermediate college did not prepare them ‘well’ for the study of CS at the university level, and another one third felt ‘partially’ prepared. These female students qualified their responses by stating that their schools either did not expose them to computers or did not teach details, applications, and basic languages of CS. However, they were extremely confident about their mathematical skills and, thus, their logical thinking and analytical abilities. Therefore, even though they found CS a hard, demanding, technical field, female students felt their mathematical training enabled them to do well in CS at the university level… no one ever considered changing their field from CS to something else due to difficulties.”

  • Poster, Winifred R. “Global Circuits of Gender: Women and High-Tech Work in India and the United States.” Gender, Sexuality & Feminism 1, no. 1 (June 2013). doi:10.3998/gsf.12220332.0001.103.

    Page 45-46: “As noted previously, the masculine ‘cultures of engineering’ often cited in the US literature are weaker in my Indian cases. Managers and colleagues are much more likely to respect women’s technical skills than at AmCo. Throughout my interviews with IndCo employees, I found a pervasive conviction that women and men have similar mental abilities to do technical work. Women at IndCo face less doubting and testing of their technical competence. At the corporate office, a staff member says: ‘A woman is equally competent. What men can do women can also do, workwise. What men can do, women can also do workwise. I don’t think there should be any discrepancy.’

    “Furthermore, while many jobs are sex-typed at IndCo, engineering is not one of them: ‘For some of the jobs, you need different people. A lady may be good, and a man may not, but not for all jobs. Like with an electronics engineer, it’s fine—both [women and men] can work.’ A factory operator also articulates this idea: ‘There are places where ladies should be—like in technical work . . . In the interest of the company, the woman should work here.’

    “This paradigm reflects not only a greater respect for women’s abilities but also reveals an assumption that technical work itself has no gender. This orientation towards women technical workers alters the climate of IT work in India. It facilitates women’s entry and acceptance into highly technical jobs to a much greater degree than in the United States.”

    Page 49: “Managers, who came from the United States to set up and run the firm [an Indian subsidiary of a US tech company], very subtly and unconsciously carry with them the practices of their engineering culture. In turn, TransCo women began to feel the same kinds of barriers that their AmCo counterparts face: the questioning of their engineering skills, trivializing of their technical aptitudes and accomplishments, and an overlooking of their contributions to team software and hardware projects.

  • Mukhopadhyay, Carol C. “A Feminist Cognitive Anthropology: The Case of Women and Mathematics.” Ethos 32, no. 4 (2004): 458–92.

    Page 476: “The ‘math as a masculine domain’ notion, so pervasive in American theories, produced surprise, laughter, and bewilderment when I described it to Indian informants. They were unfamiliar with the argument and almost shocked that anyone would suggest women were intrinsically less capable than men at higher mathematics. They found the brain differentiation theory startling. They were astonished by the idea that mathematics was a purely masculine domain and that female mathematics competency could produce gender-role identity conflicts. They pointed out it was well known that girls perform extremely well in mathematics, are uniformly ‘toppers’ on statewide exams, which ‘anyone’ could see by looking at the newspaper. They told me about famous female mathematicians in Indian history. They cited case after case of ‘brilliant’ girls in mathematics. And IIT informants argued, accurately, that a majority of students in the prestigious masters of science program (mathematics, physics, and chemistry) were women!”

  • Fuller, C. J., and Haripriya Narasimhan. “Information Technology Professionals and the New-Rich Middle Class in Chennai (Madras).” Modern Asian Studies 41, no. 01 (January 2007): 121. doi:10.1017/S0026749X05002325.

    Page 138: “Almost all IT professionals in Chennai, male and female, insisted to us that both sexes have equal technical skills, although women are sometimes said to make better managers. On the technical side, therefore, the make-up and leadership of project teams is unaffected by gender considerations (cf. Arun and Arun 2002: 45). This is consistent with evidence that in India men are not thought to be better than women at mathematics, science and technology (Mukhopadhyay 2004: 476, 481; Subrahmanyan 1998: 90) and, in relation to gender, the Indian IT industry contrasts with its counterparts in Europe and America.”

  • Gupta, N. “Women Undergraduates in Engineering Education in India: A Study of Growing Participation.” Gender, Technology and Development 16, no. 2 (July 1, 2012): 153–76. doi:10.1177/097185241201600202.

    Page 164: “Despite the patrifocal concerns, the middle class in India appears to regard engineering education for women as quite normal and in fact, desirable. As respondents in GD said, ‘Parents felt that I should do B. Tech. (Bachelors of Technology) first and then whatever else I wished to’ or ‘my parents regarded my doing B.Tech. as a must.’ Parents are keen to impart engineering education to daughters although it requires a substantial financial investment.”

  • Kumar, Nagesh. “Indian Software Industry Development: International and National Perspective.” Economic and Political Weekly, 2001, 4278–90.

    Page 4284: “Even the early surveys, such as those conducted by Jayanthi and Madhavan in the mid-1980s (cited in Heeks 1996) and another by Mitter in 1990 (cited by Mitter and Pearson 1992), do not report any overt discrimination against women in the industry. Both these studies have reported that the industry offered a more relaxed and less discriminatory atmosphere than most other occupations and that women stand a better chance of reaching a position of seniority in this industry than others.”

  • Subrahmanyan, Lalita. Women Scientists in the Third World: The Indian Experience. SAGE Publications, 1998.

    Page 90: “What is most interesting and encouraging in this analysis is that, despite all the fears parents and other members of the society have about women entering the sciences, unlike in the United States, the ability of these Indian women to do science or mathematics is never questioned. Many of the scientists shared how they were high performers in school and college.”

  • Parikh, PP, and SP Sukhatme. “Women Engineers in India.” Economic and Political Weekly, 2004, 193–201.

    Page 198: “In terms of ‘technical skills,’ 87 per cent [of the respondents] felt that women engineers were the same as men engineers.”

  • Hans-Gill, Rajinder Jeet. “Inaugral Address” presented at the Indian Women and Mathematics Conference, IMSc, Chennai, January 8, 2012.

    At 13:20 in video: “In particular the idea of women doing mathematics for teaching, research, and applications to technology and other fields is getting wide acceptance. In the formative years at school, large number of teachers are women. At college and university level also, their number is increasing. When I joined mathematics department at Punjab University, Chandigarh, in 1967, I was the first woman faculty member in the department. I continued to be the only woman faculty member for about a decade, till Dr. Sudesh Kaur Khanduja joined in. Since then, there has been a steady progress. Out of the fifteen faculty members at present, nine are women. It may be of interest to note that the new additions in the faculty in the last few years have all been women. The number of women joining the research and completing PhD also compares favorably with the male students. In the post-graduate and graduate classes the number of women students is much more than that of male students and among any list of top students, women bag many places. In this golden age of education, it is heartening to note that women are on the path of getting their due share as receivers and imparters of education. When we grope into the recorded history of ancient India, we fail to find the contributions to mathematics by Indian women. As the celebrated work of Lilavati by Bhaskara too indicates there must have been talented Indian women trained in mathematics. There is no doubt about it. Apparently they did not get the opportunities to leave historical landmarks.”

  • Goldman, Robert P. “Language, Gender and Power: The Sexual Politics of Language and Language Acquisition in Traditional India.” In Invented Identities: The Interplay of Gender, Religion and Politics in India, edited by Julia Leslie and Mary McGee, 84–08. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    Page 93: “In the time of the Peshwas [17-18th century CE], there was in his family a group of six brothers who were so deeply learned in Sanskrit that they were widely renowned as ‘the omniscient six’ (sarvajñaṣaṭam). In those days, according to the story, the Peshwa used to hold an annual śāstracarcā in Pune, a kind of tournament of Sanskritic knowledge, in which the most learned and eminent pandits from all over India would compete. No matter how erudite the contestants were, however, the victory would always go to the sarvajñaṣaṭam, for they possessed a ‘secret weapon’ in the form of their own incomparably learned mother! According to the norms of the prevailing ‘purdah’ culture of the day, any women who attended the competition would sit in an area screened off from the male contestants and judges. On those rare occasions when even the collective learning of the sarvajñaṣaṭam was inadequate to responding correctly to a difficult question, the brothers would call for ‘time out’, and retreat behind the curtain (yavanikā) in order to consult their mother. She would unfailingly supply the correct answer, fortified with which her six sons would re-emerge and carry the day.”

  • Wadhwa, Vivek. “We Need to Break up the Boys’ Club in IT, and Let the Ladies In.” The Times of India, July 6, 2014.

    “Indian boards are no better [than the boards of US companies]. The majority of publicly traded Indian companies – 922 of 1,462 – have no women on their boards. Women hold barely 5% of board seats in India, in comparison with 17% in the US. Indian IT companies have a bigger management problem. Look at the executive ranks of Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Tech Mahindra and the others, and you will hardly find any women. This is surely hurting Indian IT. But there is good news at the lower ranks. Unlike the US where, because of the boys’ club, the proportion of women studying computer science fell from 37% in 1987 to 17% in 2012, India’s numbers for female IT students are increasing. According to India’s National Association of Software Services and Companies (NASSCOM), women represent 24% to 32% of employees in various businesses in IT, 34% to 42% of employees in business process management (BPM) services and 38% to 40% of entry-level recruits. This will give India a major advantage in the future.”

Other Sources

  • Bhawuk, Dharm P.S. Spirituality and Indian Psychology. International and Cultural Psychology. New York, NY: Springer New York, 2011.

  • Brockmeier, Joe. “How Casual Sexism Put Sqoot in the Hotseat – ReadWrite,” March 20, 2012

  • Ceccarelli, Leah. On the Frontier of Science: An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation. 1st edition. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

  • Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine. “The Tradition of Female Gurus.” Manushi 31 (1985): 2–8.

  • Fitzgerald, James L. “Nun Befuddles King, Shows Karmayoga Does Not Work: Sulabhā’s Refutation of King Janaka at Mbh 12.308.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 30, no. 6 (2002): 641–77.

  • Global Gender Gap. World Economic Forum, October 23, 2012.

  • Household Data Annual Averages: Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 2012.

  • Matilal, Bimal Krishna. The Character of Logic in India. Edited by Jonardon Ganeri and Heeraman Tiwari. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

  • Mukhopadhyay, Carol. “The Scientific Gender Gap Should Be Understood Comparatively.” Anthropology News 46, no. 3 (2005): 4–5.

  • N. P. R. Staff. “Failure: The F-Word Silicon Valley Loves And Hates.WBUR. NPR, June 6, 2012.

  • Pechilis, Karen. The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States. First Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

  • Vanita, Ruth. “The Self Is Not Gendered: Sulabha’s Debate with King Janaka.” NWSA Journal 15, no. 2 (2003): 76–93.