AIMING TO create women leaders, the Department of Science and Technology is developing a framework to rate and rank science institutes depending on the proportion of women employed.
The initiative, under the new Science and Technology Policy 2020, will cover government and private institutes, which will be rated on a number of parameters that includes promotion opportunities, leadership positions and support structure, such as creches.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, said the framework is being conceptualised as a part of the new policy’s push towards “inclusivity, equity and diversity’’.
The last science policy was drawn up in 2013, and the new version is expected to be unveiled by December.
“The representation of women in engineering courses at IITs is around 10-12 per cent. Even in our own department, we have said that all the committees must have at least 25 per cent women. But the number of women in the sciences are so low, it is often difficult to fill these positions. Even when they do join the sciences, they tend to drop out at some stage due to socio-cultural reasons, family pressure, children, etc. And when that happens, those reaching leadership positions are very few,’’ Sharma said.
The various committees looking at women’s issues, including that of sexual harassment complaints, will be strengthened, he said.
The framework will also look at how to create interventions that will help female entrepreneurs as well as other communities that are cut off from science due to geographical and regional reasons and as well as that of privilege. “Why should the sciences be restricted only to those who are fluent in the English language? Intelligence is not determined by language,’’ Sharma said.
A Task Force on Women in Science, set up by the government in 2005, had found that there has been a growth in enrolment of women at the university level, from 10.9 per cent in 1950-51 to 39.4 per cent in 2000-2001. However, it also found marked regional differences with women representing over 50 per cent enrolment in Goa, Kerala, Pondicherry and Punjab, and less than 35 per cent in Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha and Arunachal Pradesh.
The task force found that the “situation in the IITs is particularly dismal’’ and that there was a drastic drop in women from the doctoral level to that of scientist or faculty, indicating bottlenecks at the employment stage. The number of women scientists occupying faculty positions in research institutes and prestigious universities was less than 15 per cent.
The DST has, over the years, introduced various initiatives to encourage women in science, such as Kiran for scientists to build their career paths, especially those who had taken a break to look after their families, etc.
“We are very excited about Vigyan Jyoti, which we launched recently, to encourage girls to choose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers and bring more of them into IITs, NITs and IISERs. The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti is running this programme for us in which 2,500 of the top performing Class XI students have been chosen from 50 districts, as a pilot. This will be scaled up to 50,000 top high school students from across all boards,” Sharma said.
“These classes will be held for exposure more than anything else in which girls will get to meet top women scientists, entrepreneurs, captains of industry, etc. A lack of women role models in science is one of the reasons, we believe, that more girls don’t choose STEM education,’’ he said.