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Women in Science

1. National Science Day is celebrated on the 28th of February to commemorate the discovery of Raman Effect and winning of Nobel Prize for Physics by CV Raman.

2. The theme for National Science Day 2020 is “Women in Science” that acknowledges women’s contribution to science and also encourage increased participation in the field.

3. Three new initiatives were also launched for gender advancement and equality in academic and R&D institutions.

Which are the new initiatives?

1. Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI)

It will assess the progress made by participating institutions in gender advancement based on well-defined parameters.

2. Online portal for Science and Technology resources for women 

It will provide information on government schemes, scholarships, fellowships, career counseling and details of subject area experts from various disciplines.

3. Vigyan Jothi

It aims to create a level playing field for the Meritorious girls in high schools to pursue Science & Technology, engineering and mathematics in higher education.

4. Also, the representation of women in Central Universities has been substantially enhanced to encourage women to take up higher studies in science.

What do the data say?

1. As per UNESCO’s 2018 fact sheet, only 28.8% of researchers in the science field are women and only 13.9% in India.

2. It defines researchers as professionals engaged in the conception of the creation of new knowledge.

3. From 2014-16 only around 30% of female students selected STEM (Science & Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related fields in higher education.

4. While women showed a preference for arts, female enrollment in science streams rose significantly from 2010-11 to 2015-16.

5. As per the National Task Force Report, women comprise only 15% of the workforce in R&D in India compared to the global average of 30%.

6. Globally only 3 % of the Nobel Prizes for science have been awarded to women, and only 11 % of senior research roles are held by women.

7. Across research institutions and universities in India women makeup just 15 to 20% of the faculty.

Why are there fewer women in science?

1. Reasons range from gender stereotypes to the traditional perception of a woman's role in society.

2. As per NITI Aayog research report, some of the recurring reasons for fewer women in science are

a) Need for women to devote themselves in taking care of the family

b) Change in the location of the job

c) Commitment needed in terms of time or outside family objection

3. Science is rapidly changing and challenging field, requiring constant update of knowledge.  So, even a short break for marriage or childbirth could make one’s work irrelevant.

4. Gender bias is a factor because of fewer mentors and more male colleagues.

5. Science has been a non-traditional role for women with the perception that it is not a profession meant for them.

6. Perception of women as a homemaker is also a challenge faced by women in all professions.

7. Lack of recognition of the work done by women.

Why do we need women in science?

1. Increasing women in science is a necessity as modern ideas demand the need for a gender perspective in all spheres.

2. Women makeup nearly half the population and also more products focus on the needs of women.

3. Gender of the researchers also becomes a variable in the scientific study.

a) Studies have found that lab animals like rats and mice react differently to male and female researchers giving completely different results.

b) Social media sites are criticized for their codes being written by male programmers with inbuilt male biases.

4. Representation of women in all spheres is critical for success and growth and to maintain gender diversity and parity.

How to overcome this issue?

1. In India, the problem is not that there is a shortage of women in science but a shortage of working women.

a) In higher education in STEM, Indian women make up as much as 40% of undergraduates in science.

b) Enrolment of women in graduate programs in pure sciences has risen from 7.1% in 1950-51 to 40% in 2009.

c) Also, 25 to 30% of Science PhDs are women.

2. So, the entry and retention of women in science is the matter of concern the world over.

3. This gap needs to be bridged with policies and understanding within the fraternity and in the society.

4. Supporting women to work throughout their careers can make many more women to contribute to science.

5. Options like on-site childcare, work from home can be given.

6. Men must take part in providing child and elderly care and such men need to be supported and empowered.

7. The lag in terms of recognition of women for their work needs to be addressed to encourage more women to take up a career in science.

Who are some prominent women Nobel prize winners in science?

1. Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel prize in 1903 for her contribution to Physics.

2.  Irène Joliot-Curie won the chemistry Nobel in 1935 for the discovery of artificial radioactivity.

3. In 1947 Gerty Theresa Cori won the Nobel for proposing the Cori cycle, a hypothetical model of how the body uses chemical reactions to break down carbohydrates.

4. Maria Goeppert-Mayer won the prize for physics in 1963 for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nuclei.

5. Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1964 was awarded to Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances.

6. Recently, in 2018, Donna Strickland and Frances Arnold won Nobel prize for their contributions in Physics and Chemistry respectively.