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Special Content


Issue no 49, 05 March - 11 March 2022

Bridging the Gender Gap in S&T

The vision document of women in science developed by the National Academy of Sciences says that women are universally under-represented in science and technology and highlights the need for schemes to increase the participation of women in science. Women constitute an important section of the workforce. However, in the present situation, a large number of well-qualified women scientists have been left out of the Science and Technology (S&T) activities due to various circum-stances. The problems faced are several but significantly, most often the "break-in-career" arises out of motherhood and family responsibilities. Government has taken several corrective steps to mitigate gender disparity in science and engineering research funding in various S&T programs in Indian academic institutions and research and development (R&D) laboratories, to address comparatively lower participation of women scientists in research activities, and to identify and support competitive women researchers in the country.

The Department of Science and Technology through its various schemes especially targeting women has contributed to improving the gender ratio and the improvement is evident today, especially at the lower level in scientific establishments. As per the National Academy of Sciences India (NASI) report, the percentage of women contributing to science education at the school level has increased significantly and the percentage of women in government laboratories has also increased. However, the percentage in high profile institutions still remains low as does women’s participation in leadership positions in science and technology. In order to improve the situation, the DST is increasingly boosting its interventions for the participation of women in S&T at multiple levels through various new schemes.

The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a Statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India has launched a Scheme titled “SERB-POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research)”. SERB – POWER provides structured support in research to ensure equal access and weighted opportunities for Indian women scientists engaged in R&D activities. The R&D support to women scientists is provided through two components, namely: SERB POWER Fellowships & SERB POWER Research Grants.

KIRAN

Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) embraces women-exclusive schemes of DST with the mandate to bring gender parity in S&T through gender mainstreaming. Different programmes and components of KIRAN deal with various crucial issues (break in a career primarily due to family responsibilities, selfemployment, part-time career, relocation, etc.) faced by women scientists in their career path.

Women Scientist Scheme (WOS) under KIRAN provides career opportunities including fellowships to unemployed women scientists and technologists, especially those who had a break in careers, for pursuing research in frontier areas of science and engineering. T

he Women Scientists Scheme-A (WOS-A) for research in basic and applied sciences has been evolved in this context for providing opportunities to women scientists and technologists between the age group of 27-57 years who desire to return to mainstream science and work as bench-level scientists. Through this endeavour, a concerted effort is being made to give women a strong foothold into the scientific profession, help them re-enter into the mainstream, and provide a launchpad for further forays into the field of science and technology.

 Women Scientists SchemeB (WOS-B) focuses on projects related to Science & Technology (S&T) interventions for societal benefit. Such a project proposal should address a well-identified societal challenge and deliver possible solution(s) by way of development of viable technology/ technique and/or lab-to-land technology transfer, its adaptation and scaling up. Women scientists who wish to apply under this scheme are required to develop their own project/proposals for scientific and technological solutions to address issues preferably at enhancing quality-of-life at the grassroots level. Projects which have the potential for sustainable income generation, lead to an appreciable reduction in drudgery and enhancement of quality-of-life besides capacity building of women at the grassroots level are encouraged.

Women Scientists SchemeC (WOS-C) aims to create opportunities of selfemployment and/or also sustainable careers for women scientists. Women Scientist Scheme-C (WOS-C) is being implemented by the Patent Facilitating Centre of Technology Information Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC). The scheme aims to train women having qualifications in science/ engineering/medicine or allied areas in the field of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and their management for a period of one year in order to develop a pool of women scientists geared to creating, protecting and managing intellectual property in India.

S&T for Women: The program “Science and Technology for Women”, under KIRAN mandates to promote gender equality and empower women at grassroots level with inputs of S&T through development, adaptation, adoption, transfer, demonstration and replication of appropriate and successful technologies. Since inception, more than 2,000 projects have been sponsored and more than 500 technologies developed.

Mobility Scheme

In continuation of KIRAN, another landmark programme, named as “Mobility Scheme”, has been launched under KIRAN which aims to address relocation issues of women scientists working in regular positions in Government organisations. The initiative intends to provide a harmonious environment during early phases of women scientists where they would like to stay active in research in addition to attending and fulfilling other responsibilities in the domestic front. It offers a contractual research award to women scientists and enables them for independent research.

Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI)

Women in India face several challenges in moving up the academic and administrative ladder due to systemic barriers and structural factors. Gender equality in scientific laboratories and institutions of higher education is not only about numbers but also about various micro and macro level factors operating at institutional level. While gender equality in science is an important consideration, it is also in the larger interest of scientific progress and society.

Considering the need for gender advancement in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathe-matics, and Medicine), GATI aims to nudge institutions of higher education and research towards supporting diversity, inclusion and the full spectrum of talent for their own success and progression. In particular, it aspires to create an enabling environment for equal participation of women in STEMM, addressing deeprooted problems. GATI draws inspiration from the Athena SWAN Gender Equality Charter and accreditation framework operated by Advance HE, UK since 2005. The defining feature of GATI is that it does not just assess, accredit and recognise institutions through certification and awards. It also aims to engage, mentor, partner and support institutions as they work towards reaching the global best practice gender equality.

Consolidation of University Research for Innovation and Excellence in Women (CURIE)

CURIE was launched in 2009 to strengthen R&D infrastructure of women-only universities. This unique model of support has led to significant increase in the number of quality publications including papers in journals of repute by the faculty and researchers of beneficiary universities. The main objective of the CURIE programme is to train and create world class women scientists in all areas of Basic Sciences & Technology who would be able to carry out cutting-edge research in their respective fields in due course. DST is expanding CURIE support through a new component ‘Support for Women PG Colleges’ under existing CURIE programme with aim to encourage STEM education and research in women’s post graduation colleges of the country. This new component of CURIE aims to be even more inclusive as it provides quality education to a large number of girls with nationwide coverage, including small cities.

Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM: The programme provides opportunities to Indian women scientists, engineers and technologists to undertake international collaborative research in premier institutions in the US, to enhance their research capacities and capabilities.

Women Entrepreneur Quest (WEQ): WEQ is a comprehensive platform that provides mentoring, learning and networking opportunities for real business growth. The objective of this competition is to encourage, promote and showcase technology start-ups, founded by women entrepreneurs.

Women Technology Parks: These WTPs act as a singlewindow hub for convergence of diversified technologies, leading to socio economic development of women through capacity building and adoption of location-specific technologies. Diverse technology areas like agriculture (including fisheries, animal husbandry, horticulture technologies), aromatic and medicinal plants, forestry, alternative livelihoods, postharvest technologies, natural resource management, health and sanitation, occupational hazards, construction, energy, management of natural resources, rural development, rural industry, rural engineering, micro enterprise, sustainable agricultural practices, etc. form the core areas of interventions for WTP.

Vigyan Jyoti: A dedicated program for girl students to pursue their careers in Science, Engineering and Technology, the programme aims to encourage and inspire girl students to pursue higher education and become self-reliant and also offers exposure for girl students coming from rural background to help understand how to plan their journey from school to college and thereafter from research to a job of their choice in the field of science.

Awards for women in S&T

Janaki Ammal-National Women Bioscientist Award (for senior scientists (senior category) and scientists below 45 years of age (young category)), MeitY-NASSCOM Startup Women Entrepreneur Award (for incubation centres, start-ups and agencies working on innovation related activities of MeitY), National Awards for Women’s Development through Application of S&T (for individuals/institutions working at the grassroots level for women’s development through application of S&T), SERB Women Excellence Award (WEA) (for women scientists).

Compiled: Annesha Banerjee & Anuja Bhardwajan

Source: PIB/Department of Science Technology/Vigyan Prasar