Women Scientists’ continued slow-paced growth in numbers has held them back in reaching their full potential. This is because of their minority status with only 14 women scientists to 100 men scientists. Women scientists believe that discrimination and a still-strong glass-ceiling have also contributed as factors to the low number of women in the field. To discuss the issues dealt by women in science, a seminar by the same name was held in Bengaluru recently. Where noted women scientists discussed the various challenges that they dealt with and overcame to make a mark in the sector.

Less that 30% of researchers worldwide are women. There are less than 40,000 women as scientists, technologists and engineers employed in research and development labs in India. This is a low number considering there are 30 crore people in these fields.

“Less that 30% of researchers worldwide are women. There are less than 40,000 women as scientists, technologists and engineers employed in research and development labs in India. This is a low number considering there are 30 crore people in these fields,” said Rajani K.S., former head of the Department of Biology at Presidency College and Secretary, Breakthrough Science Society (Karnataka), The Hindu reported.

The other objective of holding the seminar was also to show solidarity to the global March for Science, observed on May 4 to demand that governments act on evidence-based science. Indian scientists couldn’t join the march this year because of the ensuing Lok Sabha Elections.

Sumati Surya, professor, Raman Research Institute spoke up on discrimination that women face because of their gender even in well-known scientific institutions. “I know that there is a severe lack of confidence among women who have achieved a great deal but have got no recognition. We have a loss of human capital and we lose intellectual diversity. The scientific community is missing out. We’ve dismissed half the population as irrelevant,” said Dr Surya, stressing on the need for a policy, to deal with gender discrimination.

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Indian science sector isn’t far from sexual harassment incidents and instances as well which becomes another challenge that pulls back women in the field. Sandhya S. Visweswariah, a molecular biologist who used to chair the ICC at IISc, had spoken to The Wire about it and said, “I’m talking about IISc. … In every instance that has come to the notice of the [Committee] Against Sexual Harassment, matters have been dealt with but perhaps a little slowly. We need to follow procedures laid down by CCS and CCI rules.”

I know that there is a severe lack of confidence among women who have achieved a great deal but have got no recognition. We have a loss of human capital and we lose intellectual diversity. The scientific community is missing out.

Another factor is reduction in representation within notable institutes, even when studies have proved that women score higher than men in competitive exams. Prajval Shastri, astrophysicist and retired professor, Indian Institute of Astrophysics busted the myth around women not being interested in science and said women tend to do better than men in competitive examinations. “Women are clearly interested. Half the PhD scholars or those employed in higher education are women. But if you look at the so-called prestigious research institutes, their representation reduces drastically. In Physics, it is 10% while in some institutions, there are no women faculty members at all,” she said.

Picture credit- BBC

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