Encouraging scientific temper: Committee to monitor growth of women scientists

Aiming to increase the participation of women in the scientific field, the Department of Science and Technology(DST)  has announced the setting up of a Standing Committee to analyse the growth of women in science and to create a better working environment for them.The committee will be led by 18 female scientists, three of whom come from Bangalore and five come from the centre, plus five men from the DST.

“While majority of the 18 members are women scientists or researchers, we also have five men, including a DST secretary and a few vice-chancellors. The idea is not to keep saying that the women representation is bad, but to do something about it and we hope our recommendations help in that,” said HS Savithri who is heading the Standing Committee, as reported by TOI.

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As per a 2015 report, of the 1.92 lakh active scientists in the Indian research community, 14 percent are women. And even though this number is steadily rising, the percentage is still low as compared to the males. While trying to analyse the reasons for this,  the committee will also broadly discuss issues like better infrastructure for women in the workplace, special ways to ensure sustainability of women in science and coming up with programmes specifically articulated for and to support women.

Though  earlier governments have taken up the gender issue in science time and again, but nothing exceptional has come out of them yet. Schemes like Dish, Kiran and Inspire have been set up in the science arena and very recently a mobility scheme came out which made changing location easier for them. In fact a committee has been set up in the past as well during the rule of UPA government when Prithviraj Chavan was the minister of Science and Technology, but that committee never held meetings, with the result that it waned away.

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Female scientists had also met on an occasion in Jammu and Kashmir where many issues like disrespect from the male senior colleagues were brought up by some female scientists. The instances that came to light were so disturbing that Berkeley-based Biologist, Michael Eisen had blogged about the event stating that the stories that women scientists narrated were horrible and that it showed that these incidents where nowhere isolated incidents.

The idea to formulate this particular committee was the initiative of 20 female scientists who met the Prime Minister to propose it.  The recommendations came in when a few of them suggested that reservations in the field of science can only be the starting point towards bringing equality but can’t be the end all and be all of it. Well, we hope this start bears some positive results for the scientific community.

Feature Image Credit: Morungexpress