Thiruvananthapuram: More than a century has passed since Marie Curie became the first woman scientist to win a Nobel prize, but the number of women in science is far less than that of men. As women scientists are set to gather at Kerala State Science and Technology Museum on Saturday for the observance of 'International Day of Women and Girls in Science', Deccan Chronicle asked a few women scientists on what they thought of gender disparity. Archana Pai, an IISER-Thiruvananthapuram faculty member whose group was part of the LIGO scientific collaboration, said that the challenges faced by women in all professions were similar, as women were expected to juggle their family and careers.
But there is just one difference, she noted. “A scientist settles in her or his career in their early thirties. This affects women much more than men. The period between mid-twenties till mid-thirties is quite crucial both for family building as well as career development. Women need to do it more efficiently. Many times this can be taxing,” she said. Seeing that talented women scientists had to give up on their career because of motherhood and family responsibilities, the Department of Science and Technology and Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) introduced Women Scientist Schemes and ‘Back to Lab’ programme respectively.
Such measures have brought in results. “Now, some more women are pursuing research after marriage,” said Ruby John Anto, senior scientist, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology. She said that it was wrong for someone, who has used government grants to pursue research, to eventually choose to sit at home and take care of a family. “It is a waste of tax payer’s money,” she said. In Kerala’s science institutions, the male-female ratio is healthy, according to the faculty here. Archana Pai said, “we have almost equal ratio of girls to boys in the BSMS and PhD programmes in IISER-Thiruvananthapuram. This is definitely a positive sign.”