• 18 February 2016
  • Features
  • By Ayesha

Gender Disparity in Biosciences

Gender inequality persists across different sectors. There are fewer number of women at the top level in most of the sectors, and this is not false for the biosciences industry as well. BioSpectrum try to find the reason for this gender discrepancy .

man-women

Though number of women seeking higher education like PhD /Post docs are increasing, yet we do not see equal amount of work force either in research or in industry, even less in scientific advisory boards. BioSpectrum spoke to a number of women in research, academia and entrepreneurs and try to find out the reason behind the gender inequality in the bioscience sector and how it can be reversed.

Gender Gap in Biosciences:
One of the key reason for the lack of gender parity is social conditioning. The primary work of women is considered to take care of her family and do household work.
"Traditionally, a woman is expected to focus on home, hearth, and children. With all distractions in her life, career seems to be the easiest to compromise. Even if she overcomes all odds and carves a career for herself, she is viewed as a woman first and a scientific expert or a doctor next. This doesn't do much to her self-belief. There are few who beat all odds and break the glass ceiling," said Ms Anu Acharya, CEO, Mapmygenome.

Speaking on the similar lines, Dr Geetaa Singh, director, Labland Biodiesel said, "Research requires an extremely high level of commitment and dedication to the extent of exclusion of a personal life. Science cannot just be treated as a ‘9 to 5'job. It calls for a certain lifestyle. An ambitious and driven personality is key to surviving in this field. It requires a strong family and drive for making a career in research for a woman to succeed, which is probably not as easy to come by as one would hope."
Another reason for the high attrition in the work force when women start families is lack of proper institutional support for married women.

Dr Radha Rangarajan, co-founder and CEO, Vitas Pharma said, "I think that we provide women with very little institutional support to help them balance their careers and family life. Few work places have childcare support on site. It is also not easy to find good quality childcare help in India, leaving women to rely on their mothers or mothers-in-law to help them. Many women leave the workforce at this time, unable to cope with the stress. Re-entry into the work force three to five years later is often very hard and again, without support from family, she may not make it back successfully even at this stage. If the number of women able to sustain their careers is small, it is no surprise that there are fewer women at the top."

Gender Disparity: A global Phenomenon?
Gender inequality is a widely global phenomenon, however, in India it is heightened due to social and cultural system that sets the priority on the role a woman has to play-with family coming first and career second.

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