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Women in Research And Development

  • 21 Aug 2020
  • 10 min read

Why in News

According to the Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018, India’s private sector research companies appear to employ a larger proportion of women in core research and development activities than government-funded major scientific agencies do.

Key Points

  • India had 3,41,818 scientists in R&D with nearly 2,03,759 employed by government institutions or in the higher education sector, as of 2018.
  • Of the 20,351 women employed in private R&D companies, about three in four were involved in “R&D activities”.
  • However, of the 23,008 women in major scientific agencies (government), fewer than half were in the same ‘R&D activities’ category.
  • Also, for every one woman, there are six male scientists in private sector R&D establishments. However, the ratio is four for one in major scientific agencies.
  • The bulk of scientists (in private and publicly funded organisations included) were in ‘Engineering Technology’ followed by the Medical Sciences and Natural Sciences.
Science and Technology Indicators (STI)
  • The STI is a periodic compendium of the state of scientific research in India.
  • It is prepared by the National Science and Technology Management Information System, a division of the Department of Science Technology.
  • Reasons for low participation of women in R&D:
    • The recruiters and managers at private firms are held more accountable to hire as well as promote female employees, as compared to those in government offices.
    • 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 administrators deciding that women ‘should’ be opting for family over a career.
  • Global Scenario:
    • Women in STEM:
      • UNESCO data from 2014-16 shows that only around 30% of female students select STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related fields in higher education.
      • Female enrolment is particularly low in information technology (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and engineering and allied streams (8%).
    • Research as a Profession:
      • According to a 2018 fact sheet prepared by UNESCO on women in science, only 28.8% of researchers are women.
    • Share in Nobel Prizes:
      • Between 1901 and 2019, 334 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 616 Laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine, of which just 20 have been won by women.
    • Share in Abel Prizes:
      • In 2019, the American mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, following 16 male mathematicians.
      • The Abel Prize is a Norwegian prize awarded annually by the King of Norway to one or more outstanding mathematicians.
    • Share in Fields Medals:
      • The Fields Medal so far has also been awarded to only one woman mathematician, the late Maryam Mirzakhani of Iran, as opposed to 59 men since 1936.
      • The Fields Medal is awarded every four years by the International Congress of Mathematicians to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.
  • National Scenario
    • Women in STEM:
      • The female enrolment in science streams rose from 2010-11 to 2015-16.
      • According to the NITI Aayog report in 2015-16, 9.3% of female students in Undergraduate (UG) courses were enrolled in engineering, compared to 15.6% across genders. Conversely, 4.3% of female students were enrolled in medical science, compared to 3.3% across genders. 
    • Research as a Profession:
      • Only 13.9% of women work as a researcher in India. At master’s and doctoral levels, female enrolment remained lower than overall enrolment.
    • Presence at Technical Professions:
      • The NITI Aayog report has also found that in over 620 institutes and universities, including IITs, NITs, ISRO, and DRDO, the presence of women was 20.0% among Scientific and Administrative Staff, 28.7% among Post-Doctoral Fellows, and 33.5% among PhD scholars.
    • Gender Gap Index
      • According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2020, a study covering 153 economies, India has slipped to the 112th spot from its 108th position in 2018.
      • The report also says it would take nearly a hundred years to close the gender gap in various fields in India compared to the time it would take in other countries.
    • Work Participation:
      • According to the World Bank, India ranks 163rd out of 181 countries in female labour force participation.
      • Also, India is one of the few countries in the world where women’s work participation rates have fallen sharply — from 29% in 2004-5 to 22% in 2011-12 and to 17% in 2017-18.
    • Inequality at Work:
      • According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a large percentage of all the jobs lost last year were held by women. Out of the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, women accounted for 8.8 million.
      • Indian women receive 34% fewer wages than men for equivalent work, spend around five hours a day on unpaid care work compared to a mere half an hour for men and are primarily engaged in low-paying, informal sector work.
  • Initiatives to Promote Women in Science

Way Forward

  • Inequalities in gender participation in science emanate from social-economic issues, which can be treated by bringing behavioural change.
  • Also, better political representation of women can go a long way in deconstructing the stereotype of women
  • Better workforce participation can only be brought by collective effort of the society and the people in governance.
  • Growth in jobs must be inclusive and new jobs need to be secure with better work conditions, including social security benefits.

Source: TH

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