Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad (UoH) organized a lecture on “A Fine Balance: Women in Science navigating Academia” by Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, Vice Chancellor, UoH. This lecture is the first of the lecture series on Gender and Science that Centre for Women’s Studies is organizing.
Prof. Ramaswamy in his presentation drew attention to the underrepresentation of women in sciences. He referred to his book Lilavati’s Daughters to study how successful women in sciences had to struggle hard to overcome the obstacles. He said that both in the western as well as the Indian tradition, the muse/goddess of learning is a woman. However, gender discrimination continues to rule the academia, especially sciences. While it is not a specifically Indian phenomenon as such, domesticity of women plays a major role in preventing them from reaching top positions in institutes and universities devoted to research in science. Prof. Ramaswamy said that women’s participation in science and their representation in scientific bodies, such as faculties or in Science academies is low and that women in decision making positions are few.
The notions like women cannot work devotedly and that they take away men’s jobs do affect women’s prospects in sciences. There is a need to seriously address the questions about women’s invisibility in sciences. Prof. Ramaswamy talked about the leaky pipeline as a metaphor for women dropping out in the middle abruptly due to various reasons, before reaching a successful career in science. He informed that the Indian Academy of Sciences constituted a “Women in Science” panel to examine these questions in the Indian context. He suggested simple measures that are not difficult to implement in order to make the workplace more gender sensitive such a good crèche, housing, proactive hiring policies, gender audits etc.
by K. Suneetha Rani, Director, Centre for Women’s Studies