Updated: March 2, 2020 9:47:32 pm
In an interview with The Indian Express, Department of Biotechnology (DBT) secretary Dr Renu Swarup says the government has initiated several schemes to encourage women scientists. In the last five years, she says, around 2,200 women scientists have been supported under the three components of the central government’s Women Scientists Scheme (WOS). Excerpts:
What are programmes launched to encourage women, mostly those who take a break post-childbirth, to actively pursue science?
The government has initiated a number of schemes to encourage women scientists. Both the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) have different schemes that are already fetching a good response. For instance, the BioCARe scheme under DBT has supported 400 women scientists. The KIRAN (Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing) Scheme of the DST has also been well received.
Around 2200 women scientists have been supported under three components of Women Scientists Scheme in the last five years. This year, 40 women scientists availed “Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) in two batches.
Do you come across arguments that quality of science gets compromised?
Quality of science does not get compromised. The DBT supports research, its applications and education in life sciences and biotechnology through programmes for school, undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students to bring more women into science and technology. Many women scientists have been able to get employment, which is a very important factor.
How has the ratio of women researchers improved?
Participation of Indian women in science is approximately 15 per cent. We are slowly working towards increasing the ratio of women researchers, and, as I said, the DBT in the last five years has nearly supported 2,200 women scientists, which is approximately 20-25 per cent of our total support. In addition, we also support women entrepreneurs and nearly 15 per cent of our entrepreneurs are women.
The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a public sector of DBT, has launched a special programme to support women entrepreneurs. We have 3 bio-incubators for Women Scientists and Special Challenges Awards for Start-ups.
Apart from work-life balance, gender discrimination and sexual harassment, what are the major issues that women continue to face?
There are challenges in every career and every professional face these challenges. For women, one of the main issues is to prove their strength to undertake challenging assignments. It is important to provide equal opportunity to build bright and capable leaders. Women have, in many ways, demonstrated their leadership skills and need to be given that extra push.
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