Gender Inequality in Research & Development
According to ‘Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018’, a periodic compendium of the state of scientific research in India, India’s private sector research companies employ a larger proportion of women in core research and development activities than government-funded major scientific agencies.
• STI is prepared by National Science and Technology Management Information System (NSTMIS), a division of the Department of Science and Technology.
• STI is based on data provided by a range of scientific establishments across the country.
• NSTMIS has been entrusted with the task of building the information base on a continuous basis on resources devoted to scientific and technological activities for policy planning in the country.
• NSTMIS has been conducting periodically national surveys to collect data on resources devoted to Science & Technology activities, mainly Research & Development in the country.
• Based on survey data, a number of Science & Technology reports are published, providing vital information on national Research & Development indicators which serves as an evidence-base for S&T assessment and policy formulation.
Women in Research & Development
Of the 20,351 women employed in private R&D companies, 15,011 — or about three in four — were involved in “R&D activities” and the rest in “auxiliary or administrative activities”.
However, of the 23,008 women in “major scientific agencies”, fewer than half — or 10,138 — were in the same ‘R&D activities’ category.
Private sector companies had a greater commitment to ensuring that women scientists were fairly represented in recruitment, promotions and appraisal processes than in many scientific organisations.
In private sector, managers have to answer why women in their teams are not promoted or why, for instance, are women dropping out of their workforces.
The 2018 indicators reiterate the historic trend of India’s scientists being overwhelmingly men.
For every one of the 15,011 women counted earlier, there are six male scientists in private sector R&D establishments, or about 92,000.
Study says private research entities perform better than government-funded major agencies in scientific research.
However, that proportion improves to about one in four in major scientific agencies where there are 43,753 male scientists in ‘R&D’ for the 10,138 women equivalent.
Overall, India had 3,41,818 scientists in R&D with nearly 2,03,759 employed by government institutions or in the higher education sector.
The bulk of scientists, in private and publicly funded organisations included, were in ‘Engineering Technology’ (1,21,531) followed by the Medical Sciences (32,143) and Natural Sciences (32,092).
In the previous instances as well, inquiries have been launched by independent commissions and NITI Aayog to ascertain causes for the inadequate representation of women scientists.
Department of Science and Technology launched several initiatives for women in science under its flagship scheme namely Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN).
Through KIRAN, DST provides opportunity to women scientists who had break in their career, primarily due to family reasons, to pursue research in physical and mathematical sciences, chemical sciences, life sciences, earth and atmospheric sciences and engineering technology.
The Scientific and Technological (S&T) activities play a vital role in the economic, social and physical development of a country.
Scientific and technological research needs huge investments and calls for a judicious utilization of scarce resources like finance, trained manpower, raw materials etc.
Data collection and analysis pertaining to resources, devoted to S&T, therefore, assumes significant importance.
The growth of S&T, its performance and impact on society and economy are indicators to assess the effectiveness of planning and policy formulation.
The large drop in the number of women between the doctoral and professional stages appears to be in part due to social pressure on women to have a family which is seen as incompatible with a professional career.
There are also patriarchal attitudes in hiring practices, so many women are discriminated against at this stage as well, with managers deciding that women ‘should’ be opting for family over a career.
India needs to improve the situation by reviewing the main factors to explain gender inequalities in recruitment, retention, and promotion in STEM disciplines and by providing evidence of the scope and results of policies directed to obtain a better gender balance in the sector.
Skill gaps are a key constraint to innovation, hindering productivity growth and economic development. In particular, shortages in the supply of trained professionals in disciplines related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may weaken the innovation potential of a society. A wide gender gap has persisted over the years at all levels of STEM disciplines throughout the world. Although the participation of women in higher education has increased, they are still under represented. The untapped potential of fully trained and credentialed women represents an important lost opportunity not only for women themselves but also for the society as a whole.