New Science Policy: Centre’s New Science Policy to be geared towards creation of women leaders! The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India are jointly working towards Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, 2020, which they are calling STIP 2020, according to the government’s website. STIP 2020 aims to create women leaders, with the DST working on a framework that would rate as well as rank science institutes based on the proportion of women they have deployed, according to an IE report. The new framework would cover both private and government institutions.
The institutes, the report said, would be rated on various parameters, like support structures such as creches, promotion opportunities and leadership positions.
The report quoted DST Secretary Prof Ashutosh Sharma as saying that the framework was a part of the new policy’s focus on diversity, inclusivity and equity.
The new policy is likely to be released by December, after seven years since the last policy for the field of Science was drawn back in 2013.
Sharma was further quoted as saying that in the engineering courses at IITs, women’s representation is a meagre 10% to 12%. Even in DST, while all committees must have a representation of women to the tune of at least 25%, it is difficult to get these positions filled out since the number of women in the field of Science in general is so low. Moreover, when women do join the field, they drop out at some point due to various factors, including socio-cultural reasons, children and familial pressure. Hence, women reaching positions of leadership are very few in number.
He added that there will be strengthening of committees that look into women’s issue, including sexual harassment.
Apart from that, the framework under the new policy would also be looking at the ways to intervene in a way that would aid female entrepreneurs and other sidelined communities in the field of science, be it due to geographical or regional reasons, or due to the lack of privilege. Sharma questioned why the field should only be restricted to those who could speak English fluently, asserting that intelligence is not determined on the basis of language.
The report stated that in 2005, the government had constituted a Task Force on Women in Science. According to this task force, at the university level, the enrolment of women grew from 10.9% in 1950-51 to 39.4% in 2000-01. However, there had been regional differences in the representation of women, with more than 50% of them having been enrolled in Goa, Punjab, Kerala and Pondicherry. On the other hand, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Odisha saw less than 35% enrolment.
The condition of representation of women in the IITs was found to be particularly dismal by the task force, which also said that from the doctoral level to the level of faculty or scientists, the dropout rate among women was highly significant, and this translated to the fact that at the employment stage, women were facing bottlenecks. Faculty positions in universities of prestige and in research institutes filled by women were less than 15%.
Over the years, the Centre has tried to encourage women in the field, also bringing several initiatives like Kiran, which would help scientists, especially those trying to return after a break due to family, build their own paths in their careers.
Sharma was quoted as saying that the department was highly excited about the recently launched Vigyan Jyoti. The initiative would urge girls to choose careers in Science, Technology, Engineering as well Mathematics (STEM), hence leading to higher representation of women in institutions like IISERs, IITs and NITs. The programme, he said, was being run by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, and under this, across 50 districts, 2,500 top-performing students in Class XI have been chosen for the pilot programme. The initiative is planning to scale up this number to 50,000 students across all boards.
These students would attend classes that would give them more exposure to the field of science, with the girls getting to meet top women entrepreneurs and scientists. The initiative is an attempt to bridge the gap between women role models in the field and potential women leaders of tomorrow, since the DST believes that lack of women role models in the field could be a major reason why girls did not pursue STEM education.