Gender Divide in Science
In a recent study, it has been found that across the world, there are more men who are active in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) than women.
Reasons for Gender Divide
Various reasons have been identified for the glaring gender divide which are:
• Masculine Culture: Presence of various stereotype that women are not fit for certain kinds of Job creates masculine culture. Further, there is lack of role models, for instance, out of the 866 Nobel winners so far, only 53 have gone to women, similarly, in life sciences and medicine, of the over 400 Lasker awards, only 33 have gone to women.
• Lack of Exposure:There is lack of sufficient early exposure to computers, physics and related areas compared to boys in early childhood. This can again attribute to the stereotyping of computer field practitioners as ‘nerds’ with social awkwardness this pushes women into other fields.
• Gender Gap in self-efficacy: This factor arises from the above two points as they create an impression of confusion and self-doubt among the women mind that whether they are eligible for STEM fields.
• Gender inequality: Analysis has revealed that research-intensive universities take fewer women students. They also earn lower salaries, receive fewer research grants and fewer citations of their research papers than men colleagues.
Situation in India
India is not better than the world and it is reflected from the fact that women form only 10-15% of STEM researchers and faculty members in the IITs, CSIR, AIIMS and PGIs. In private R & D labs, there are very few women scientists. There are several reasons responsible for it such as:
Societal reason: Traditionally, India has been a patrilineal society with the notion that women need not take jobs, and that this notion has only recently been revised.
Lack of recognition: Research recognition and honours received by Indian scientists, have hardly 10% women. The Bhatnagar Prize has gone to 18 women out of a total of 548. Interestingly, there are no (or a minute percentage of women experts) women in each of these juries.
Less number of enrollment of women in PHD and research due to commitment in family.
It is of critical importance that more and more women participate in STEM for the development of science and its propagation. This is all the more important for India which is in the phase of its demographic dividend. Participation of women in STEM will also lead to better development of children in early years (reduced Child Stunting and wasting in India) as an educated woman translates into an educated family. It will also provide a boost to the Indian economy which is facing both structural and cyclical slowdown.
Government must encourage more programmes like KIRAN (Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing), which is dedicated women scientist to restart their career again in research.