Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras has launched the ‘Women Leading IITM’ (WLI) program to boost women leadership in science and technology. The Institute has already made considerable progress on improving the number of women students, faculty, staff and creating opportunities for success. This program will help to build on the progress achieved so far and accelerate further progress.
The program will make grants each year to accelerate women technologists’ careers as well as provide a supportive environment for women to thrive at IIT Madras. The inaugural grants are set to be issued on 8th March 2021 to mark the International Women’s Day celebrations at IIT Madras
The Institute is planning to raise the $2 million endowment by the end of 2021, which will provide annual grants to support programs taken by women students, faculty and researchers. In the first year alone, the Endowment Fund aims to grant Rs. 70 lakhs for various initiatives.
This sum will be raised through Alumni and CSR grants. Corporate and Alumni looking to contribute to this initiative can do so through – https://joyofgiving.alumni.iitm.ac.in/endowments/other/women-leading-iitm-endowment
Highlighting the unique aspects of this program, Prof. Ligy Philip, Dean (Planning), IIT Madras, said, “The ‘Women Leading IITM’ is a well-thought-out initiative by IIT Madras, with support from IITM Foundation, to nurture, develop and support women talent at IITM. This program will definitely help the women talent of IIT Madras to excel in their fields and come out as S&T leaders.”
The goals of ‘Women Leading IITM’ program will include:
Ø Increasing the percentage of women faculty in Assistant Professorships to 20% from the current 15%
Ø Generating 30% of all faculty applications from Women candidates
Ø Grantees expected to graduate to leadership roles within IITM
Ø Next-generation ambassadors for enabling a gender-balanced IITM
Ø Establish an award for Women Faculty in Leadership (Institute already has awards for staff in leadership and given the good presence of women in staff, many have been getting it over the years)
Elaborating on the vision behind the ‘Women Leading IITM’ (WLI) initiative, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “IIT Madras has made good progress in the last several years in increasing the percentage of women in the student population, from the UG level all the way up to the doctoral programme. The participation of women in the non-teaching staff is also very good, and we are making every effort to close the gap in the case of faculty. The WLI programme will be a powerful catalyst to enable us to reduce the hurdles faced by women students, faculty and staff at IIT Madras to achieve their full potential.”
The endowment will provide opportunities for alumni to further gender diversity and support women role models at IIT Madras. Various batches of the alumni have already started supporting with commitments including the Classes of ‘90 and ‘95 reunion gifts and leadership gift from a Distinguished Alumnus as well as Google Alumni.
PROGRESS SO FAR – KEY STATISTICS AT IIT MADRAS
Ø In 2020, women constitute 18 per cent of the students in the Undergraduate class at IIT Madras, up from 8 per cent in 2017.
Ø The Supernumerary admissions for women students in IITs have uniformly been lauded as a success.
Ø As many as 30 per cent of PhD students are women up from 22.5% in 2017
Ø Around 30 programs to encourage women in STEM has been implemented in IIT Madras
Sharing his thoughts, Mr. GDS Ramkumar, (B.Tech Class of 1990), Board Member, IIT Madras Foundation, said, “My wife Aruna and I are proud to support this visionary program to increase the representation of women as leaders at IIT Madras. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my B.Tech thesis advisor Prof. Kamala Krithivasan who became the first woman Head of the Department at IIT Madras, leading the Department of Computer Science in 1993. Thanks to what I learnt from her and my teachers at IIT Madras, I graduated with a sense that if I worked hard enough, I could succeed at anything. A special thanks to my 1990 batch classmates for supporting the WLI program to mark our 30th (virtual) reunion.”
The major objectives of this program include ‘Accelerate Recruit – Secure – Develop – Nurture – Support’ programs:
Attract/Recruit: conduct outreach programs to visit other institutes to get the word out and recruit women post-doc, visiting women faculty, as well as full-time women faculty. Any other proposal to increase woman faculty recruitment will also be considered, Special focus will be on departments with lower women faculty numbers
Secure: run programs that provide physical and emotional safety for women
Develop/Promote: Create opportunities for women faculty and Postdoctoral Fellowship to do interdisciplinary work that can yield international research recognition Eg: Responsible AI work for non-Computer Science faculty at Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBC DSAI)
Nurture: Support admin to deliver a new/ better mentorship program for women faculty as well as to encourage leadership amongst women faculty (HoDs, Chairpersons, Deans, Director)
Support: Ameliorate hurdles to career growth for a woman faculty member Example: a grant to pay for small-child travel while attending a conference, or a grant to provide for better child care while at work (for children up to age 5).
Further, Ms. Rohini Chakravarthy (B.Tech Class of 1993), Board Member of the IIT Madras Foundation, said, “IITM has had a progressive vision right from the start welcoming its first woman faculty member in 1962, and graduating its first women undergraduate and Ph.D students in the 1960s. While women have been a minority at IITM, but there have been many exemplary leaders among them over the years. The alumni of IITM felt that we could help our alma mater by putting in place a series of grants that honour promising leaders among students, staff, and faculty and catalyze programs that help women thrive at IITM. What better time to do it than on International Women’s Day!”