Current context:

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has released data showing that women’s engagement in scientific and technological disciplines has increased over the past 20 years.

Major conclusions from the data:

  • While there are still more women researchers in the social sciences and humanities, there has been a noticeable increase in the sciences as well.
  • In 2018, there were 18.7 more women researchers than there were in 2015.
  • Engineering and technology now account for 14.5%, natural sciences and agriculture for 22.5%, and health sciences for 24.5%.
  • At organisations like the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Defence Research & Development Organization, and the Indian Space Research Organization, among others, women hold leadership and research positions.

What STEM is:

  • STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, which are four closely related fields of study. Due to the similarities in theory and practise between the fields, they are frequently connected. Women have historically been underrepresented in several fields when compared to men. There is a global voice calling for increased female engagement for better results.
  • India’s relations with important nations and a potential problem area:

According to the Ministry of Education’s 2019 All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE):

  • At the postsecondary level, there are more female STEM graduates from India (43%) than from industrialised countries like the US (34%), UK (38%), Germany (27%) and France (32%). Nonetheless, it fell short of men (56%).
  • Although women participate in STEM fields at higher rates than men do, just 14% of STEM-related occupations in the nation are held by women.
  • India is ranked 108th out of 149 nations in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report.
  • According to the 2019 All India Survey on Higher Education, women are underrepresented at the PhD level, in part because of the demands of marriage and family planning.

What are the causes of women’s poor involvement in STEM?

  • Gender stereotypes: From preschool on, instructors and parents sometimes undervalue the arithmetic skills of females because STEM areas are frequently perceived as being masculine.
  • Women frequently opt out of advanced jobs in science and technology because to patriarchal views in grant, fellowship, and hiring policies, as well as social pressures to fit in, family duties, and stress associated to marriage and childbearing.
  • Less Role Models: Due to the dearth of female scientists and engineers in books, the media, and popular culture, girls have fewer role models to encourage their interest in these disciplines. Since Marie Curie in 1903, only 17 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, or medicine, compared to 572 men, and only 28% of researchers worldwide are female.
  • Underrepresentation in the STEM Workforce: Women are less likely to find STEM-related jobs than men are, which deters women from choosing STEM as a career.
  • Government failure to establish effective measures to encourage women to work in STEM fields.

To promote the involvement of women in STEM, the following actions must be taken:

  • encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM fields by fostering their confidence and developing their talents.
  • by giving them access to equal educational opportunities and inspiring them with the example of strong women like Madame Curie.
  • Encourage the general public to educate parents on how they can support learning opportunities for their daughters in math and science and send empowering messages about their potential.
  • Women must be drawn to, recruited into, and kept in STEM professions at colleges and universities.
  • Create STEM-related courses, and alter workplace policies and procedures to make them more welcoming to women.
  • Set a high priority on inclusive cultures, strong, varied leadership, and diverse, inclusive settings.
  • Enhance career paths for hiring, retaining, and advancing employees, and cultivate inclusive cultures:
  • Increase the number of women you hire, and seek to keep and advance them throughout their careers via solid leadership and professional development programmes.
  • Encourage the creation of friendly work environments by offering pay parity, flexibility, comprehensive family and medical leave policies, and robust anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws.
  • For women to participate more effectively in STEM fields, the government needs to develop gender-specific policies.

Government programmes to promote women’s participation include:

  • GATI programme: Gender Advancement for Changing Institutions
  • To assist in creating a gender-equitable ecology inside institutions of higher learning and research,
  • In accordance with this, institutions agree to implement gender-sensitive policies and practises for women enrolled in STEM programmes.
  • Consolidation of University Research for Innovation and Excellence (CURIE) project helps women’s institutions develop their research and development (R&D) infrastructure. Eight female universities have so far received funding from CURIE with success, and six of those colleges now have AI labs.
  • The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a Statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, has launched “SERB-POWER” (Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research) to address gender disparity in science and engineering research funding in various S&T programmes in Indian academic institutions and research and development (R&D) laboratories.
  • It focuses on the significantly lower participation of female scientists in research activities and seeks to discover and aid the nation’s most promising female researchers.
  • Due to the low percentage of women researchers directly involved in R&D in India (16.6%).
  • KIRAN stands for “Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing.” DST’s Women Scientist Scheme (WOS) under KIRAN offers unemployed women scientists and technologists, particularly those who had a professional break, career options including grants for pursuing research in cutting-edge fields of science and engineering.
  • DST launched the Women Entrepreneur’s Quest (WEQ) Program in collaboration with the Anita Borg Institute, USA, to identify and assist female entrepreneurs in the technology sector. 42 start-ups in all have received help, and 21 of those have advanced to new levels.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine are collectively referred to as STEM. It was started to give Indian women scientists, engineers, and technicians the chance to conduct 3- to 6-month-long worldwide collaborative research projects in prestigious US institutions.

Conclusion / Next Steps:

  • Short term: establishing the policies, creating the course, and giving employment opportunities to encourage women in STEM disciplines are two strategies to encourage their involvement. Long-term solutions include eradicating the patriarchal mindset and stereotypes that prevent women from actively participating in society.
  • However, as AI is used more frequently in the sciences, it is anticipated that the participation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (S&T) will increase exponentially. Women will use more advanced tools that enable remote working, such as something as basic as access to online libraries. It is anticipated that as chemical sciences and the industry advance in intelligence and cleanliness, the proportion of women working will rise.

Source The Indian Express