In some path-breaking suggestions to promote inclusion of marginalised groups in science, a new draft policy on science and technology proposes that at least 30 per cent representation be ensured for women in all decision-making bodies, as well as “spousal benefits” be provided to partners of scientists belonging to the LGBTQ+ community.
The proposals, for tackling discrimination and providing equal opportunities in science, are part of a chapter on inclusion and equity in the draft Science, Technology and Innovation Policy.
It says that the LGBTQ+ community should be included in all conversations related to gender equity, and provisions be made to safeguard their rights and promote their representation and retention in the science and technology sector. More importantly, it says partners of people from the LGBTQ+ community working in the sector be entitled to spousal benefits “irrespective of their gender”.
Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary in the Department of Science and Technology, said: “Our main focus areas in the policy are women and the youth. While both categories need to be empowered more for leadership positions, women in science are practically missing and this needs to be rectified.”
Among the proposals in the policy is removal of bars on married couples being employed in the same department or laboratory. As of now, married couples are not posted in the same department, leading to cases of loss of employment or forced transfers when colleagues decide to get married.
“Dual recruitment policy will be encouraged in all governing bodies, funding agencies, so that couples do not face the challenge of ‘choosing’ a spouse’s career over theirs. The aim is to bring gender neutrality through such interventions,” it says.
In another major proposal, the policy says that for age-related cut-offs in matters relating to selection, promotion, awards or grants, the “academic age” and not the biological age would be considered. While this would help women who often have to take a break from careers for family reasons and to raise children, the provision is not limited to women alone.
Child-care benefits are proposed to be made gender-neutral, and flexible work timings and adequate parental leave are to be offered to cater to maternity, childbirth and child care. All publicly-funded research institutions and universities will be asked to provide day-care centre for children of employees, and also have a provision for elderly care, it says.
“There will be equal opportunity in academics for women, along with candidates from rural and remote areas, marginalised communities, differently-abled groups, irrespective of their caste/creed/religion/race,” the draft policy says.
For the benefit of people with disabilities, the policy asks all publicly-funded scientific institutions to make “structural and cultural changes” to support their inclusion.
“Academic and professional organisations will be encouraged to conduct gender audits and social audits, to propel the organisations to proactively promote gender-neutral recruitment and retention of employees, for ensuring equitable, not necessarily equal, representation. These processes will have adequate representations from all marginalised and excluded groups,” it says.
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