Both in education and the workforce, women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM). One of the main ways that women can get involved in STEMM is by pursuing a higher education degree in a STEMM field. Nowadays, a large number of institutions and colleges provide undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEMM subjects, with some seats set aside for female students. In several universities and institutes in India, such reservations result in major improvements in colleges up to the Bachelor's level, even at the Master's level.
Even now, there has been a sharp decline in advanced degrees like PhDs and postdoctoral positions. Since PhD courses normally require 4-5 years of dedicated work, most female students typically prefer to search for jobs or pursue a course of study that can lead to employment in one or two years after completing their Masters. When hiring for senior positions and at the faculty level, there is a notable imbalance. Due to several societal and biological reasons (during this period, women get married or have kids), women encounter significant challenges in balancing their careers with family responsibilities, and hence even after completion of PhD and postdoctoral fellowship, they choose not to pursue this line of work. Moreover, women face discrimination and bias in the workplace even when some women scientists have made significant contributions in STEMM fields. These challenges can make it difficult for women to succeed in STEMM careers and can discourage them from pursuing careers in these fields.
The Government of India and several organisations, including Indian Academies, have initiated a number of measures during the last five to ten years to address the gender gap in STEMM. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) introduced fellowships for women researchers and launched a program-- Gender advancement through transforming institutions (GATI). Several groups have been formed by women scientists who discuss the problem faced by women scientists in the workplace and possible reforms, thereby promoting gender equity. Furthermore, a sizable percentage of women are now routinely included on the selection committees of all Government of India bodies. Several seminars and conferences were held where the problem of gender inequality in STEMM and potential remedies were explored. For instance, it encourages gender equality in the workplace through flexible scheduling, child care facilities, and prevention of sexual harassment by prompt and fair investigations, if necessary, and the implementation of appropriate actions. Internal complaint committees have been established at all educational institutions in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013.
Recent years have seen the publication of a special issue in various Indian journals featuring research from solely female experts in India. Several scientific seminars featuring the research of female role models in science were conducted to inspire female students in STEMM.
In conclusion, these ongoing initiatives may result in a considerable increase in the number of women who pursue STEMM careers and have a big impact on these sectors. We look forward to a new era in which STEMM sectors may soon achieve gender equality.
Aditi Sen De
Harish-Chandra Research Institute