Shiv Nadar University hosts inaugural event of Gender and STEM initiative

Shiv Nadar University on Saturday held the inaugural event of its Gender and STEM Initiative at India Habitat Center, New Delhi. The event, held a day before the International Day of Women in STEM, saw the participation of Professor Ananya Mukherjee, Vice-Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University; Professor Abhay Karandikar, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology; Professor Sanjeev Galande, Dean, School of Natural Sciences, Shiv Nadar University; Professor Rohini Godbole of the Centre for High Energy Physics, IISc, Bangalore, Professor Ravinder Kaur, Professor Emerita, IIT Delhi, Deepa Sundara Rajan, Senior Consultant Gender and Inclusion, British Council, and Dr. Pratibha Jolly, Science and Society Fellow, NASI.

Setting the stage for the discussion, Professor Mukherjee said that Shiv Nadar University is committed to taking forward women's leadership in all fields, including STEM. "India isn't the only country that experiences the educational-gender-equality paradox (or STEM paradox). Despite having the highest number of women undergraduate students in STEM worldwide, there is a sharp drop in their numbers when it comes to research and leadership roles. Discussions like this will help us institutionalize aspects going forward," said Professor Mukherjee.

Welcoming the initiative, Professor Godbole said, "It is refreshing to see Shiv Nadar University bringing this issue to the institutional level. This is a much-needed move. In India, we have had a long dialogue on women in STEM; however, compared to other countries, we have yet to take off on the issue of what institutional practices can be undertaken to address the issue."

The Global Gender Gap Report 2023 by the World Economic Forum has found that women account for 27% of India's STEM workforce compared to 32% of non-STEM force.

Delivering the special address, Professor Karandikar said that the government's Department of Science and Technology is undertaking various initiatives to foster women-centric initiatives under the Women in Science and Engineering-KIRAN (WISE-KIRAN) program to cater to women of all walks of life to enhance their participation in the field of Science and Technology to bring gender parity. "It's worth mentioning that under our Vigyan Jyoti scheme, over 50,000 female students from 250 districts of 34 States and Union Territories have benefited. However, we aim to take this number to 50 lakhs. This is possible only through a partnership with schools, colleges and universities. As women face various challenges due to family and social seasons, we have launched the WISE-Ph.D program, WISE-Post-Doctoral Fellowship and WISE-Scope have been launched. This is an effort to bring them back to mainstream science and sustain their scientific career until 60. Our Consolidation of University Research for Innovation and Excellence (CURIE) program supports women's institutions in establishing state-of-the-art research infrastructure to enhance research facilities and improve R&D activities to create excellence in science and technology (S&T). The main objective of CURIE is to focus on strengthening research infrastructure, building research capacity, and fostering a conducive environment in women's institutions in the country," he said.

Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, co-founder and Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA, Professor Kaur, Deepa Sundara Rajan and Jolly, who spoke later, shared their experiences and work on the issue of gender and STEM, driving home the point that inclusivity and diversity lead to improved human development and offer fresh perspectives to research.