Women scientists are gladiators. In a sense, they are still in the fight, tackling challenges on multiple fronts – caste, religion, gender, equality and funding.
Anna Mani, Annapurni Subramaniam, Raman Parimala, Rathnashree, Rohini Godbole, Dr V Shanta, Soumya Swaminathan, Sujata Ramdorai – the list of successful Indian women in science goes on.
Unfortunately, women scientists have not been encouraged for decades.
Anna Mani, a student of Professor CV Raman, was refused a PhD at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), although her thesis involved a lot of research work. Undaunted, Mani majored in meteorological instruments at Imperial College London. After returning to India, she joined the Indian Department of Meteorology (IMD). Her contributions have led her to be called the Weather Woman of India.
“The good thing is that women become role models very easily. Especially for their children, the gender bias is broken down pretty early. That’s why women in science are important,” says Dr Vinita Gowda, Associate Professor, IISER Bhopal.
Research and field work
At the same time, obtaining a doctorate is difficult and time-consuming. After starting their doctorate, very few girls manage to defend their doctorate.
There is an absolute drop in the number of post-doctoral candidates for a handful of reasons.
Independent research involves decision making, exploring barriers to field work.
Obstacles are shy nature, transition from remote workplaces, lack of English skills. It is not a challenge for a woman with a doctorate from a national institute like IISc or IIT, but for girls in state universities, especially in tier 2 cities. they reach this position, the challenges are manifold.
A big question for women is coping with the maternity break.
Legally, there is a law on maternity benefits for working women which allows them to take a maternity break at any stage of the search. Yet schools/colleges/research institutes in Tier 2 cities do not offer this facility.
Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for the Children of Working Mothers provides child care facilities for working women in the community. It took more than 10 years to set up this device, but again they are not available in all establishments.
Institutes like IISER, Pune offer the daycare facilities for those who visit the institutes for workshops and lectures. The post-maternity doctorate / postdoctoral fellowship is excluded because the age limit for most doctoral entrance exams like GATE, UGC-NET or CSIR-NET makes it impossible to access research after a maternity break.
The issue of sexual harassment is addressed in the main national/international/governmental institutions through a sexual harassment cell. Some of these institutions have set up a “POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace)” committee, which helps institutes learn best practices for a healthy, safe and equal opportunity workplace.
They systematically address the problems in the institutes for better awareness. The Awareness and Sexual Harassment Unit should be mandatory and operate in all institutions in all remote towns and universities.
Leadership and Recognition
To bring about change at the societal level, girls must rise to the levels of leadership.
Currently, women in higher positions belong to privileged classes or are second-generation scientists. Male candidates still dominate most leadership positions.
Under the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) offers programs for women in three categories WOS-A, WOS-B and WOS-C encouraging students to master’s, doctoral and women with a break in their career to go back to research.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) also offers many opportunities for female scientists.
However, senior positions in DST, DBT, CSIR and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) do not have female scientists.
A cursory glance at the directors of institutions of national importance in the country shows that there are hardly any female scientists at the helm.
The only exceptions are Dr. Vandana Prasad, director of the Birbal Sahni Institute
of Paleoscience, Dr Annapurni Subramaniam, Director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, and Dr Dhriti Banerjee, the first female Director of the Zoological Survey of India.
Can we name at least ten men and women winners over the past ten years? Prizes and scholarships to encourage researchers and scientists to make innovations in science and technology, but the winners are mainly men.
When women can’t find the right representation and opportunities, how can they even think about earning rewards?
The number of workshops, seminars, scholarships or awards, university positions should be reviewed. Government policies need to be reworked to make the age of candidates for competitive examinations and doctoral interviews more flexible.
The common public is not silent either. For example, “Bias Watch India” (@biaswathindia), a Twitter-based initiative, documents sexist panels (often referred to as “manels” when there is no female representation) at Indian STEM conferences and events. similar.
Women in STEM Research (WISR) India works for Indian women and gender minorities by studying community and collaborations using social media.
Scientific establishments are the last institutes to be told what to do.
Most scientists have advanced degrees and often have some experience at universities abroad. It is not enough to simply blame politicians and funding agencies.
We just have to light the lamp and show the way.
(The author is with Research Matters)