30% of India’s Science Decision‑Makers Must Be Women, Proposes Centre in Draft Guidelines
A new draft policy by the Indian government aimed at increasing diversity in science will mandate that at least 30% of decision-making bodies in the field, including selection and evaluation committees, comprise women.
The draft National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy, released by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is part of a broader push to foster a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable research ecosystem in the country.
The draft calls for the promotion of women scientists to leadership positions in order to inspire young women to pursue careers in science — a move that could also help boost the confidence of working women scientists and foster more recognition for their work.
“… there’s an all-boys club at the top who are giving recommendations to people they’re comfortable with, and often, these are not women…. Science has always had gatekeepers and it has always been a place for men, by men,” Aashima Freidog, co-founder of feminist science media collective The Life of Science, told The Swaddle in November.
In order to improve the retention of women in STEM research, the policy also proposes flexible work timings, and adequate, gender-neutral parental leave.
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The policy also calls for including LGBTQ+ STEM professionals in conversations related to gender equity, safeguarding their rights, and promoting their representation and retention in the scientific research ecosystem in India. In addition, the policy proposes extending spousal benefits, including retirement benefits, to partners of researchers from the LGBTQ+ community.
This move comes on the heels of research highlighting the lack of women in scientific research. A study conducted amid the pandemic found that only a third of research papers on Covid19 have been authored by women. UNESCO’s data suggests that just 30% of the world’s researchers are women; in India, this drops to just 13.9%. The DST has noted in the past that, among other reasons, the country’s gender gap in scientific research is primarily due to women being overlooked for promotion or having to drop out mid-career to attend to their families.
Past research also points to the existence of a sexual orientation gap in STEM. A UK-based survey had found that exclusion, harassment and discrimination drives scientists from sexual and gender minorities, especially transgender and non-binary people, to consider quitting. While large-scale studies on the subject in India are scarce, the situation here is unlikely to be starkly different since the LGBTQ+ community experiences harassment at both colleges and workplaces in India, regardless of field.
The DST is currently inviting suggestions and comments from the public regarding the policy, until January 25.