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Celebrating Women in Science

Context:

Yesterday marked the celebration of the International Day of Women in Science, a day dedicated to acknowledging and honoring the accomplishments of women in the scientific field. This annual occasion serves as a reminder of the invaluable contributions women have made to scientific progress and innovation throughout history.

Relevance:

GS-2

  • Gender
  • Education
  • Government Policies and Interventions
  • Issues Related to Women

GS3-

  • Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology
  • Indigenization of Technology
  • Developing New Technology

Mains Question:

Despite their significant contributions, women in science still face systemic barriers, including gender bias, unequal representation and limited access to opportunities. Comment. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

India’s Progress in Women in STEM:

  • During the presentation of the interim Budget 2024, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted a noteworthy development, stating that female enrolment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses has reached an impressive 43 percent, ranking among the highest globally.
  • She emphasized, “Female enrollment in higher education has increased by 28 percent over the past decade. In STEM courses, girls and women constitute 43 percent of enrollment—one of the highest rates globally.
  • These indicators reflect the growing participation of women in the workforce.” Sitharaman also underscored the empowerment of women through initiatives related to entrepreneurship, ease of living, and dignity, mentioning, “Thirty crore Mudra Yojana loans have been granted to women entrepreneurs.”
  • In contemporary times, women scientists are assuming leadership roles in groundbreaking initiatives such as Chandrayaan-3 and the Aditya-L1 solar mission, showcasing their enduring influence and expertise in pushing the boundaries of scientific exploration.
  • Women engaged in STEM fields in India have been consistently challenging stereotypes and making substantial contributions across various disciplines. Trailblazers like Dr. Tessy Thomas, recognized as the “Missile Woman of India,” have broken through traditionally male-dominated fields, symbolizing the significant strides made by Indian women in areas like space technology, biotechnology, and mathematics.
  • Women have achieved groundbreaking progress in an array of scientific domains, spanning astronomy, biology, engineering, and computer science. Their discoveries, innovations, and leadership have not only enriched our understanding of the world but have also propelled technological advancements.

Historical Background:

From trailblazers like Savitribai Jyotiba Phule, the inaugural female educator in India who established the first girls’ school, to Lady Abala Bose, the pioneer Indian woman pursuing medicine at Madras University, to Kamala Sohonie, the first Indian woman to attain a PhD in a scientific field, to Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha, India’s inaugural woman engineer, and Shakuntala Devi, renowned as the “Human Computer,” women consistently make a lasting impact on the scientific realm.

Government Initiatives:

  • The government has taken substantial steps to fortify STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, recognizing its crucial role in propelling innovation, economic prosperity, and societal progress.
  • Initiatives like the Vigyan Jyoti Scheme, led by the Ministry of Science and Technology, are dismantling gender barriers by empowering young girls in STEM fields through exposure and mentorship programs.
  • Programs like INSPIRE promote innovation among students through scholarships and research opportunities, while Atal Tinkering Labs cultivate creativity and problem-solving skills among school students.
  • The Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan fosters a culture of innovation in schools, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world applications.
  • Additionally, the government provides research fellowships and grants, digital learning resources through the National Digital Library, and skill enhancement programs via Skill India, all aimed at cultivating a skilled workforce and fostering growth in STEM-related industries.
  • These coordinated efforts underscore the government’s dedication to nurturing a robust ecosystem for scientific inquiry and technological advancement in the country.
  • The government’s Vigyan Jyoti scheme further aims to promote STEM education and careers among young girls, fostering inclusivity.

Way Forward:

  • While women have played a pivotal role in shaping the scientific landscape, their contributions have often been overlooked or undervalued.
  • The celebration of the International Day of Women in Science aims to redress this imbalance, drawing attention to the remarkable achievements of women scientists.
  • It is imperative to showcase diverse role models in science to inspire young girls and women, encouraging them to pursue their passions and dismantle existing barriers in the field.
  • Despite some progress, women in science continue to face numerous challenges, including gender bias, lack of representation, and unequal opportunities across various scientific fields.
  • The imperative is to actively work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for women in science. Providing equal opportunities, mentorship, and support is crucial to empowering women to thrive and contribute their unique perspectives to scientific advancements.

Conclusion:

Even though women in science have made significant contributions, systemic barriers persist. By promoting and highlighting the accomplishments of women in science, the goal is to spark a passion for discovery and innovation among young girls, ultimately paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive scientific community.


 

February 2024
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