‘Glass ceiling holding back women scientists’

In solidarity with global March for Science, ‘Women in Science’ seminar held

May 05, 2019 12:02 am | Updated 09:16 am IST - Bengaluru

Barely 14 in 100 scientists in the country are women while discrimination and strong glass ceiling hold back women from reaching their full potential in the field, said several scientists at the ‘Women in Science’ seminar organised here on Saturday.

The seminar was held to express solidarity with the global March for Science, observed on May 4 to demand that governments act on evidence-based science. This year, Indian scientists could not join the march because of the restrictions on account of the Lok Sabha elections.

“Less that 30% of researchers worldwide are women. There were 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).

Women scientists continue to face discrimination even in larger, well-known scientific institutions, said Sumati Surya, professor, Raman Research Institute. “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,” she said. Dr. Surya emphasised the need for a policy to deal with gender discrimination.

Prajval Shastri, astrophysicist and retired professor, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, said it is not like women are not interested in being a part of the scientific community, as women tend to do better than men in competitive examinations. “Women are clearly interested. Half the Ph.D 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.

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