CSIR-CFTRI Director Sridevi Annapurna Singh on Wednesday said it is sad that many women who study science do not continue with it as a career. The demanding years of career and home coincide and women often sacrifice their career for carrying out the unpaid jobs in the world that sadly go unnoticed. Of the 40 percent girl enrolment in schools, hardly 13–16 percent go on to a career in India, she stated.
Speaking at the International Women’s Day celebrations organised at the institute, she said, despite facing numerous obstacles and barriers, women scientists have made remarkable contributions to scientific discovery and innovation. From Marie Curie, the pioneering physicist and chemist who discovered radioactivity, to Rosalind Franklin, the X-Ray crystallographer who made crucial contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA, women scientists have played a vital role in advancing our understanding of the world around us, she explained.
However, the world does not credit women for their achievements. “It is said that Pierre Curie insisted that he would only accept the Nobel Prize if Marie Curie was announced as the co-winner. She was still not treated as an equal though and when the prizes were awarded, Henri Becquerel was given 70,000 gold francs while Marie and Pierre received a single sum of the same amount to share,” Dr Singh said, in her address.
“Although she never complained, the experience made it clear to Marie and everyone else that she was seen by many in her community as a little more than a lab assistant and that without Pierre as her advocate, she might have been a footnote in history,” the CSIR-CFTRI director said.
Work with no credit
However, many other women were not given the credit for their scientific contributions. Physicist Lise Meitner led ground breaking work on the discovery of nuclear fission, the splitting of an atomic nucleus into smaller nuclei. However, the discovery was acknowledged by the 1944 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, which was won by her male co-lead, Otto Hahn. Lise Meitner was nominated no less than 48 times by different people between 1937 and 1965 for prizes in Physics and Chemistry but she never got. (She died in 1968 having never been awarded a Nobel).
Applauding Indian women, Dr. Singh said women in India in all spheres have had extraordinary success depending on which strata of society they belong to.
This year, the women’s day event was marked by the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.”
Gender equality and women’s rights
Saying that women’s day is also a day to raise awareness about gender equality and women’s rights, she said celebrating women’s day provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contributions of women in various fields and to inspire future generations of women to pursue their dreams and aspirations. It is also a day to acknowledge and address the challenges faced by women and to work towards creating a more equal and just world for all.
Bina Joe, Director, Centre for Hypertension and Precision Medicine, University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, United States, an alumnus of CSIR-CFTRI, who took part in the celebrations on virtual platform, spoke on “Celebrating the pursuit of happiness through womanhood” as the chief guest at the event.
On the occasion, Nagamma from H.D. Kote taluk, who is engaged in the conservation of traditional varieties of amaranth, millets and vegetables, was felicitated in recognition of her contributions. Ms. Nagamma has established farmers’ markets in Mysuru and formed three women’s groups. She is the leader at Norralakuppe community seed bank.