The National Science Day in India commemorated Indian physicist C V Raman’s discovery in 1928 of the Raman effect; the scattering of light particles by matter for which he received the Nobel prize in the field of Physics. Even though Indian science has come a long way from the ‘20s, Indian women in science are calling for the right kind of support and bias-free policies in the research field. Until now, only 20 Nobels have gone to women, out of 607 awards which have been handed out in the science field and this truly says something because science is a career line that is very demanding and in a country like India, there are too many barriers which women are facing and much of these are social and cultural.
More women scientists are stressing on the need for more women-led science projects
“When such a career demands long hours, there are issues of lack of security and basic amenities that affect women more adversely than men in this society. We need to pay active attention to these preventable problems,” says Rupamanjari Ghosh, Vice-Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida. Women have more social burdens on them like the home and family and this affects them more when they go to work than men and hence, women in science are forced to give up their careers as they peak. For years, and even today, more women scientists are stressing on the need for more women-led science projects. Like the Nobel prize, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology also speaks a similar story because out of the 560 awardees only 18 recipients have been women so far. This prize is the highest multidisciplinary science award in India. G Geetha, Professor, and Head, Division of Research and Development at Lovely Professional University has been calling for a gender balance in research, but according to her women comprise only a fifth of all authors in published research, saying, “29.8 percent of all research authors, and 33.1 percent of the first, 31.8 percent of the co-, and 18.1 percent of the last authors were women.”
The field will never be able to reach its full potential if women are being excluded from research projects
However, for these numbers to improve, Professor Geetha believes that the government needs to do more for Indian women in science with regards to providing grants for startups, core research, travel, and prototype development. “Universities should preferentially encourage women entrepreneurs and women startups. A survey has to be conducted on the participation of women as chairpersons or committee members in policymaking,” she added. The science field in India has been progressing at a rapid pace, particularly during the last decade and hence it is vital that women too are made a part of it because the field will never be able to reach its full potential if women are being excluded from research projects whether unconsciously or not. Professor Manjula Reddy, Chief Scientist, Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad said, “Setting up new educational and research institutions across India has contributed to this cause. This can be achieved with structured funding, more focus on education and research activities.” The fact is that research is something that has long-term benefits rather than immediate effects and hence it is the bedrock for the future advancement of science and if women aren’t growing then, Indian isn’t growing at the rate of global standards.
Image credit: The Independent