The result of a spur-of-the-moment poll among the audience of the fourth National Women's Science Congress held here on Monday was unanimous: the almost all-women audience answered with a resounding and unexpected “yes” when asked if they believed they could successfully juggle family and careers in science and engineering.
Anita Lukos, a civil engineer working with a real-estate developer, said, “Our biology may mean we have to make sacrifices to bear and raise children. But it is possible to return to our careers after childbirth. I chose to do so.”
“We cannot be expected to be superwomen. Each family has to come up with its own solutions to its unique challenges,” said Rohini Godbole, professor of High Energy Physics, IISc. Her own marriage has, for 15 years, been across two continents, she added.
To illustrate her point, Vijayalakshmi, a lecturer at the University of Agricultural Sciences described her average week that involved lecturing, visiting fields in distant places and raising children at home. “Today, we are fortunate to have technology to assist us, whether it is a mobile phone or a washing machine,” she said.
Vaidehi Ganesan, scientist with the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (Kalpakam) observed that from a negligible 2 per cent, women now comprise 30 to 40 per cent of the student strength in engineering courses. An older generation of women engineers recalled how they were discouraged from taking up the subject by the very universities they applied to — a scenario rather different from today's reality.
Prof. Ganeshan was awarded the Marie Curie Mahila Vijnana Puraskara while Prof. Godbole was awarded the C.V. Raman Mahila Vijnana Puraskara.
In her inaugural address, S.R. Savithri, director of the All-India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore, underscored the importance of mentoring. “Young women must be encouraged to persevere in their field. Hard work and determination are the secret of success.”
As many as 135 research, review and study papers from across India will be presented at the two-day congress.
It has been organised by the Women's Science Forum, Swadeshi Vijnana Andolana (Karnataka) and M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology.