Lets cut to the chase. According to a report by the CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), womens representation in Indias tech firms dropped by 9.4 per cent in 2022. Whats more, 60 per cent of graduated women across the country are unemployed. Among those who make it to the top, over 44 per cent resign due to lack of recognition and growth. Given that tech firms globally are working towards improving their diversity hiring policies, these abysmal statistics are a stark reminder of the gender gap that still exists in STEM workforces across the country. Across the spectrum of STEM whether it is Information Technology or Zoological Research qualified women seem to disappear after their higher education, not fully assimilating into their workforces.Vinisha Umashankar, student innovator and environmentalist says, Women in India make up about 45 per cent of the total number of graduates in STEM - one of the highest in the world - but just 14 per cent of scientists, engineers, and technologists in universities and research and development institutions. The under-representation of women in STEM majors is common globally, but India presents a curious case. Even though the number of women enrolled in STEM courses has increased year after year, the increased education levels have not translated into greater employability or jobs. It is because there aren't many large industries and businesses in India that employ scientists and researchers. So, the government of India needs to promote industries and businesses that employ scientists and researchers with the hope that India will become a global hub for developing products and technologies.It isnt just India that faces the problem. As per World Bank data, in the US, Canada, and the UK respectively, only 34 per cent, 31 per cent and 38 per cent study STEM at the tertiary level. Until five years back, only 17 women had won a Nobel Prize in STEM fields since Marie Curie paved the way 120 years ago as opposed to a staggeringly high 572 men.Jamuna S who works as a policy analyst in a research firm says, I see that even within STEM fields, women are more geared towards life sciences. Very rarely will you see a girl chasing dreams of becoming a mechanical or civil engineer. This is partly because of cultural mindsets that men are more suited to such work. And so, it remains unexplored. Women in STEM workforces also tend to take up supplementary roles rather than core scientific work. Lastly, this gap in the workforce stems also stems from the time girls choose their college courses. STEM courses tend to be more expensive. Within lower and lower-middle socio-economic strata where a limited pool of finances has to be allotted judiciously towards education, the tendency is to invest more money and resources to further the male childs career. Girls are then left to choose from whatever courses fit the remaining budget.'Even with women who are highly qualified, bright, and full of ideas, STEM workforces can be complicated to navigate for no fault of their own. Saritha Devpunje, Founder-Director of Magneton Technologies says, Firstly, the sad truth is that even today, women in STEM get paid lesser when compared to their male counterparts especially in large firms. There are also better promotions for men. Secondly, even though we live in a world where men and women are supposed to share the domestic burden, this ideal situation doesnt reflect when marriage and children enter the equation. So, men can stay longer, but women cant. Thirdly (and this is a chicken-and-egg situation), the industry is male-dominant, making it uncomfortable for a lot of women to enter. So, they just stay away and the cycle continues.Magneton Technologies currently employs only 20 per cent of women. Even though Im trying very hard to change the number with equal pay and flexible time, there are challenges. More often than not, its the little things that tip the scales. For instance, a key client may request a meeting around 6 pm and safety concerns kick in. At times, husbands - especially in Tier-2 cities - call us and yell at us. Women are constantly and unfairly juggling between domestic responsibility and work, and are occupied mentally most of the time. As a result, they just focus on getting the job done and arent able to innovate to their full potential, finally deciding to quit. This lack of motivation, not enough inspiring women or role models in STEM fields all of this leads to them thinking that maybe this is the wrong profession, and they move on to other pursuits.However, Devpunje also firmly believes that in STEM fields, analytically sound minds and innovators are needed, and women absolutely excel at multi-tasking and getting the job done. I am optimistic that we can increase numbers, slowly but surely. Women who are already within the industry should speak up for those who are emerging and become role models for them. Policymakers also have a role to play in ensuring equitable workplaces, offering equal pay across genders and conducive work environments.There are some silver linings though. The Department of Science Technology, Government of India has started Vigyan Jyoti, a scheme to empower girls in STEM across 100 schools in districts in the country. The aim is to encourage bright and talented girls from rural India to take up STEM courses. It mentors them from the school level from Classes IX to XII, all the way up until PhD to ensure that girls who are deserving have access to science camps, lectures, counselling sessions, visits to labs and knowledge centres, and interactions with role models.Last year, the new STIP (Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy) also included measures to educate and retain women in STEM fields. Among these was the grading of institutes based on womens engagement, ensuring at least 30 per cent of decision-makers are women, providing flexible work timings, and gender-neutral leave for new parents.When women are given maternity leave and their other unique needs are met, it is important not to term these as the perks of the job, but rather to make them a necessity. If workplaces implement documented DI (Diversity and Inclusion) strategies on a consistent basis, the right roles and environments can be created for women who have the potential to soar to the top. It is also important for men who make up the majority of the STEM workforce currently - to be part of the movement to steer the right kind of practices to promote gender inclusivity. After all, as former NASA Ambassador Nichelle Nichols said, Science is not a boys game, it's not a girls game. Its everyones game.