By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
11th February is celebrated as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It is commemorated to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. The day that reminds us to work towards improving access for women to technology and science education and creating an enabling environment for female scientists and technologists. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields. According to UNESCO, 132 million girls are out of school worldwide and only 66% of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. Full and equal participation in science for women and girls can play a vital role in ensuring diversity in research, expanding the pool of talented researchers and bringing in fresh perspectives. The most likely reason for the imbalance is that society reinforces the idea that boys and girls have different interests and abilities. It is observed that the most important one is mindset, which has been targeting women right from their cradles. Women don’t need science, is at the back of many minds. It is society, not nature, that tells us girls should favour arts and humanities and leave maths and physics to the boys. Despite the growing temps of technological development and popularity of feminism, women do not still possess equal position in the society. Women have played an important role in the development of science and technology, but there is an insufficient number of females in those career fields.
According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%. Less than 4 % of Nobel Prizes for science have ever been awarded to women, and only 11 %* of senior research roles are held by women in Europe. Asima Chatterjee was the first woman to be awarded a Doctor of Science by an Indian University – in 1944, by the University of Calcutta. Women need to get out of their comfort zone and give math and science a try. Plenty of women are pursuing careers in physiology, liberal studies, nursing and such, but not enough women are pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
It is the time to recognize women’s contributions in research and innovation, smash stereotypes and defeat discrimination against women and girls in science. Full and equal participation in science for women and girls can play a vital role in ensuring diversity in research, expanding the pool of talented researchers and bringing in fresh perspectives. Self-motivation and hard work will help female scientist overcome challenges like maintaining work life balance, taking childcare responsibilities and time management issues. If girls see more positive female role models in science it would give them more confidence and a greater sense of belonging in those subjects. Don’t we think we need to encourage and support girls and women achieve their full potential as scientific researchers and innovators?
Female participation in science
By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit