More women study science, but how many do they do as a career?

Pop culture has a good number of representations of women scientists who are pioneers in innovative findings, whether in the forefront or in the shadow of more illustrious male colleagues. And since cinema and television are often a reflection of society, one would feel inclined to believe that there are quite a few women working in laboratories around the world.

The truth, however, says that those who know are far from this. According to women scientists and university professors, there are only a handful of women dedicated to science. In fact, there is a great disparity in the number of women and men in science, and the latter far exceeds the former. This, they add, is strange, because many women take science and science courses for postgraduate and even postgraduate studies, but the numbers decrease when they reach the postdoctoral level. BT explores why ...

‘Women make commitments for the family; only the strongest can survive in a scientific current

Shobhana Narasimhan, a professor at the Theoretical Sciences Unit of the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), who is a member of the Standing Committee on Women in Science of the Government of India and has presented several documents on women in science, says that multiple factors They contribute to fewer women in science. Often when I attend conferences, I am the only speaker or there would be no women speakers. Women scientists have raised objections and even boycotted many conferences due to lack of representation, ”says Shobhana.

Why however? “It is women who have to make commitments to accommodate family responsibilities. Caring for children, managing the home and being a working mother can be difficult. And when decisions have to be made, the family comes first. In addition, those who pursue science often end up marrying within the community. The problem with that is that scientific institutions have unwritten rules for not hiring partners. As a result, one of the partners has to find another job for which he is overqualified or move out of town to find the right job, which in turn affects family life. However, the most important thing is that the general perception is that it is better not to hire a woman for a position of importance because she cannot handle it, ”he adds.

Science is not a provisional agreement before taking professional courses

One of the most common reasons for students to drop out of graduate studies in science before, explains Vimala CM, dean of science of undergraduate studies at Mount Carmel College, was that they considered the course as a measure of interruption while continuing to try the entrance exams for professional courses in engineering and medicine. “The study of pure sciences was not at the top of the list for many students. If they did not arrive at a professional university immediately after Class XII, they would join a stream of undergraduate sciences, but would leave in the middle of the academic year once they were in the course of their choice, he says, and adds, “Today , Things have changed. We have students who leave engineering and medical courses halfway to obtain degrees in science. Courses such as chemistry, botany, zoology, environmental sciences, microbiology and biotechnology have more opportunities for study. ”

Girls now understand the importance of the study of pure science

Lekha George, a professor, Department of Botany at Mount Carmel College, says: “Before, we had fewer students taking pure sciences, today classes are in full activity. Students reject engineering and medical seats, because they understand the importance of pure science. Vimala adds: “There are some girls in the field of research now. Their numbers are much smaller compared to their male counterparts, but there is a steady increase. For example, a student of mine, Radha Krishnakumar, was part of the J Craig Venter Institute team in Rockville, Maryland, which created the world's first synthetic bacterial cell.

I need to help women in science minimize career interruptions

Rohini Godbole, honorary professor, Center for Physics of Higher Energy, at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) says that the need of the hour is for institutions to frame rules and guidelines that make it easier for women to pursue a career in science. “There are existing programs under the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Biotechnology that urge women to return to their fold even after the break. These programs have been there for almost 15 years. But, I feel that such programs address problems superficially, because science does not wait for anyone. When people return after a break, the newest methods, technology and processes enter the scene, so, for an individual, it's like being back on the starting line, he says.

To minimize breaks, Rohini advocates the creation of daycare facilities for the children of postdoctoral fellows/students (men and women) as well, and not only for teachers, because students cannot pay for childcare.

I want to be like Jane Goodall

I wanted to get a degree in chemistry, botany and zoology (CBZ), because I have always been attracted to wildlife sciences. In fact, I have been a fan of Cristina Mittermeier, who is a conservation photographer, Jane Goodall, a primatologist and conservationist, and Asha de Vos, a marine biologist from Sri Lanka. I continue their work online and I see myself doing what they do.

- Ranjana Gauri M, senior student at Mount Carmel College

Parents support my career choice

Although my father is an engineer and my mother is a doctor, they supported his decision to devote himself to microbiology. They know the importance of science and how our base must be solid. In fact, my mother, who is now venturing into research, says that for any cure or medication, the basis of pure science is needed and that is why they supported my decision to study microbiology.

- Ashwini Prasad, senior microbiology student. Women in science on screen

Hidden figures: the film shows the struggle and subsequent success of three African-American mathematicians working at NASA.

Ghostbusters (2016): Paranormal scientists and enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates meet with nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann and a subway worker Patty Tolan to stop the ghosts that invade Manhattan.

Gravity: the film shows two astronauts, played by Geroge Clooney and Sandra Bullock, who work together to survive an accident in space.

Big Bang Theory: Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch play the scientists in this popular sitcom.

Hasee Toh phase: Parineeti Chopra plays a geek scientist with extravagant habits.