Stark gender disparity at senior scientific levels: Reddy

Kolkata, Jan 4: Union Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy Friday expressed concern over stark gender disparity at the level of senior scientific positions in India, and said women scientists form a mere 15 percent of the full-time research and development professionals.

Inaugurating the Women Science Congress on the sidelines of the centenary session of the India Science Congress here, Reddy said the social handicaps that women scientists encounter should not be confused with their inherent intellectual potential.

“While at the entry levels of research positions, gender parity is better, disparities become stark at the levels of senior scientific positions,” he said.

Reddy said research, as all know, is a demanding profession, both in terms of time and commitment.

“Preparation time for emerging as a good researcher is also quite long and this poses a challenge for women. Marriage and child bearing and rearing are responsibilities which coincide with the most critical formative period of a research career,” he noted.

“The social handicaps that women scientists encounter should not be confused with their inherent intellectual potential. The attrition in representation at higher levels is undoubtedly a result of the difficulty in pursuing a career that demands a greater investment of time,” he said.

Reddy mentioned that the ministry is embarking upon a scheme called ‘DISHA’ which focuses on creating an open opportunity for mobility of women scientists to address this challenge.

“Programmes like Women Scientists Scheme (WOS) of DST, ‘flexitime’ and ‘buddy systems’ of corporates, policies that cater to the family needs of women such as options for going on sabbaticals, second career options have provided some enabling mechanisms,” he said.

IANS