Indian women are in the midst of an upskilling wave with some seeking to re-enter the workforce after a career break; others to secure better jobs or stay relevant in an age of technological disruptions by acquiring cutting-edge skills.

Demand from women learners is soaring, not just from the top metros but also Tier 2/3 towns and cities, fuelled by the need to enhance employability in a job market that is becoming increasingly competitive, unpredictable, and demanding.

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Edtech platform Imarticus Learning currently has 42% women learners, up from 30% in 2022-23; at Hero Vired, women currently comprise 20% of the learner base compared to 5-6% in 2021 while upGrad has 40% women across its long-format courses.

Courses in data sciences, digital marketing, business analytics, fintech, investment banking, AI and HR are most popular among women as they look to future-proof themselves. This comes at a time when a recent Emeritus study found that nearly 3 out of 4 Indians fear that technology will replace their jobs unless they upskill. Also, a recent Simplilearn survey found that 63% of women said upskilling was a key next step in their career growth.

Pandemic boom
“There is a need among women professionals to equip themselves with the latest technologies to quickly adapt to the changing industry,” said Krishna Kumar, CEO, Simplilearn. “Besides career breaks and safeguarding against layoffs and furloughs, upskilling also enables them to contribute to meeting market demands.”

Online upskilling gained traction during the pandemic, particularly among women who had moved out of the workforce, as work-from-home created new job opportunities for them.

“The increase in remote work and flexible employment opportunities in the Indian job market has empowered women to actively pursue and enhance their skills. This reflects the resilience and adaptability of Indian women as well as a broader societal shift towards recognising and fostering the diverse talents of women in the workforce,” said Rajul Mathur, consulting leader, work and rewards, WTW India.

Companies are also focusing on women who are returning to the workforce as they make up a key talent pool. “Due to the break, women lose out on experience on some new skills/ tools. Returning professionals aim to bridge this gap by enhancing their skills, thereby ensuring their relevance in the workforce once more,” added Mathur. While career re-entry remains a compelling factor, many women recognise the broader advantages of continuous learning, said Akshay Munjal, CEO of Hero Vired. Career advancement is a prominent motivation, so is acquiring new skills to run a business as entrepreneurship is also on the rise among women.

Demand beyond metros
“A growing cohort of young women graduates hail from Tier 2/3 towns and cities and are actively seeking contemporary and sought-after technical expertise. They are focusing on acquiring Future-Tech skills of the 21st century and Industry 4.0,” said Munjal.

Mayank Kumar, co-founder, upGrad said on average, more than 230 female learners joined every quarter from non-metros in 2023, demonstrating the gradual acceptance of upskilling across smaller towns.

There’s also a big jump in women enrolment in tech programmes, said Sonya Hooja, COO at Imarticus Learning. “These women are exploring coding, data science, fintech, and digital marketing, reshaping the tech landscape into one that is diverse and dynamic… fostering a more inclusive tech community.”

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