‘Women science educators trail in leadership positions’

‘Women science educators outnumber men, but trail in leadership positions’

Women outnumber men as science educators but there are far fewer female heads of higher education institutions in India. 

The number of female science teachers in the country’s academic institutions has been steadily rising for the past two decades. 

There are more women science teachers than men even at the postgraduate level. 

For example, in disciplines such as physiology, biochemistry, anatomy and microbiology, women teachers outnumber men in the ratio of 3.5:1. But in spite of this big difference, women are grossly under-represented in senior leadership positions in higher education institutions. There are far fewer female heads of scientific institutions, university vice-chancellors, deans of faculties and directors. 

These were some of the things that came up for discussion on the first day of a three-day national conference on ‘Women in science education’ at Nimhans here on Friday. 

Dr Sathya Subramani, from Christian Medical College, Vellore, wondered aloud: “What are women doing with the science education they get? Why aren’t there more applications for BIRAC grants?”

The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a public enterprise that supports women entrepreneurs. 

Vigyan, Shringar and Annapoorna

There should be ‘Vigyan’ (science) in various schemes, she said. “There are schemes for Shringar (beauty products) and Annapoorna (food products). Writing business proposals should be as easy as writing grant proposals for women,” she added. 

Science educators should not be separate from scientists. “I think female scientists are the most celebrated in this country but there are not as many of them as science educators in India,” she said. 

Citing the All India Survey on Higher Education, Dr Geetha Samak, from the DVS College of Arts and Science, Shivamogga, said women formed 43.82% of the PhD candidates in 2018-19, up from 40% in 2013-14. “This was made possible by various measures taken by the government, such as women candidates being allowed a relaxation of one year for MPhil and two years for PhD,” she explained. 

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