Reskilling women in AI: Empowering their re-entry to the workforce

    By KTP Radhika


    IIT Madras is providing 150 hours of training in areas including Artificial Intelligence to reskill the women who have taken a career break. The aim is to bring them back to the workforce.

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    Women make up 48 per cent of India’s population. However, they have not benefited from India’s rapid economic growth. A recent World Bank report says that women form only about 24 per cent of India’s total workforce. This is one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world according to the report. If we need to prosper, India needs to increase women’s participation in the workforce to reach the global average of 48 per cent in the next ten years. This will add another USD 700 billion to the GDP growth according to Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog.

    The reason for the low per cent of women in the workforce is because a majority of them quit for various family-related reasons like maternity, taking care of children, older adults, etc. In other countries, the ability for women to come back after a break is natural, but it is challenging in India. According to various industry estimates, more than 1.5 million women are looking for re-entry into the workplace the age group is typically 28- 40. This is not a human resource problem, but a socio-economic problem says, experts.  

    The reason

    The skill gap is one of the significant barriers to re-enter work. This also results in a massive gender pay gap. Job portal Monster’s Salary Index survey done last year found out that women in India earn 19 per cent less than men. The World Economic Forum states that India slipped to 112th rank when it comes to the gender pay gap. In the IT industry, only 26 per cent of women are working in tech roles, according to an Oxfam report. 

    To bridge the gap, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, has started a new course – Career Back 2 Women (CB2Women) – through its Digital Skills Academy. The programme conducted in association with Forensic Intelligence Surveillance and Security Technologies (FISST) reskills women who aspire to return to a technical profession after a break in their career.

    To promote the journey back to their career, around 150 hours of training will be offered to skill them. There are basic and advanced levels, and candidates can opt for as many levels. The participants are also provided job placement assistance after completion of a level.  

    Reskilling programme

    IITM has chosen the latest technologies and programmes to run the course. There are four tracks- Data Science and Big Data, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML), Cyber Security with Digital Forensics, and Software Engineering with Programming in Python with MongoDB. Faculty from premier institutions provide fundamental knowledge to all learners.”

    FISST has a database with over four lakh women, in various domains and expressed willingness to get trained into new areas to return to work and earn. C Mohan Ram, Chief Mission Integrator and Innovator, FISST says that all participants will take ‘Back To Technical Track (BTCUBE)’, which is a 20-hour programme that will bring them up-to-date on technologies and demystifies the latest jargon.

    Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, says, “Technology changes so rapidly in the IT sector. Thus women who took a career break are unable to get back as their skills are probably outdated. However, they have vast knowledge in IT that can be useful to many IT companies if they can fit into current requirements immediately. IIT Madras is happy to pioneer this programme from Digital Skills Academy at IIT Madras, to help them get back to work and retrieve their careers.”

    The course will have teachers from Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing, Kancheepuram, along with industry experts from GITAA and GUVI, IIT Madras-incubated startups and FISST. The academy plans to offer courses at different levels to students and working women in association with NASSCOM. It also plans to partner with training companies at IIT Madras Research Park.

    To make sure that the attendees receive the best training and right industry partners are involved, IIT-M also works with NASSCOM IT-ITeS Sector Skill Council. 

    About the author

    KTP Radhika

    KTP Radhika writes on business and technology. She has worked with Network 18 Group, The Indian Express Group and Deccan Chronicle. Currently, she is a consultant writer with Business Today and NASSCOM. Her work was shortlisted for the Shriram Awards for the year 2019.

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