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Chandrima Pal
21 May 2015 . 4 min read

How not to disengage women from Sciences?


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I am a hardcore science enthusiast, as a little girl, Marie curie and Rosalind Franklin, were my favorites. I always dreamt of doing a job related to sciences. I continued to chase my dream for 9 years, completed my PhD and post doctoral research, but, with a demanding career, a child to raise, no help from distant family, and a husband to follow I started getting disengaged from working in experimental sciences. I was feeling like a failure with conservative demands of my work. Worst of all, I started doubting on my abilities to do science; I did not know then that this is a common story of women in sciences, globally. The situation I was going through was a difficult one without realizing.  To keep up with my science enthusiasm, I started looking for another type of career in sciences and started a new journey. But that is another story. A leaky pipeline of women in science is well known but solutions are rare. The required social support system is completely lacking and women in sciences silently leave taking up all the blames on their shoulders.  It is time to step up for the women in sciences and start building an ecosystem for women in Sciences, in India.

1) Don’t keep quiet: Scientific research is a lonely and difficult journey. Once joined as a PhD student, women are often unable to discuss their concerns with colleagues due to inborn bias and social conditioning. Every woman in science need to learn to speak whenever in doubt, they need to reach out. Often you may be the only woman in a group and that should open up.  Talk out loud during the director’s meetings. It does not matter if you are asking for a clean toilet for women in your department or a better laboratory space, it is important not to keep quiet and adjust.

2) Know your rights: Indian government has started many policies for women, they are still very few but it is worthwhile to know the policies in details. Often we don’t ask or negotiate better because we don’t know our rights. Work policies for women require to be discussed more among men and women at work.

3) Be the change you want to see: Indian women scientists are coming up with ideas to introduce paternity leaves, special grants for international travels, crèche facility at research institutes and conference centers. We need to keep pushing for more in our work spaces and keep us engaged. Negotiate hard with your spouse on mutual support for each other’s career.

4) Identify the helping hands: Look for helping hands whether in the form of a domestic help, an understanding PhD supervisor or a lab mate. Create winning rapport with them and talk about your aspirations with them. Support your helper at home with her children’s studies, swap responsibilities with lab mate, ask for any teaching or other activity you can do for your supervisor. These activities will ensure help in return for you and your issues would be heard more seriously.

5) Network to communities or create one: Network with your peers at times at any opportunity you get to discuss your science, Friday clubs, conferences or meetings. As a PhD student show interest in the cultural and sports activities, science outreach activities. If you feel that you need a cell to tackle safety of women in the institute campus then create one. Take advantage of the social media available to each one of us. Create groups in Facebook, Linked In and start discussions in the areas of your concern.

6) Stay put: Breaks are not well taken in the world of science and they need to compromise in lower or temporary positions, often in less salary too in order to restart. This an important disengagement factor for women in sciences. Don’t fade out; keep hanging there, for utilization of your potential and creating a balanced ecosystem of other women in sciences along the way.

Science is a wonderful field to be in. It is truly a challenging and fulfilling career option, women just for being women should not be devoid of this journey. Let’s do our bit in keeping them in sciences.

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Chandrima Pal
Chandrima is a scientific researcher turned Science writer. She has experienced working in academics and corporate world with science as her major interest. She has observed her career twisting and turning at different domains and through relocating in different countries and cities. She has also tried into various models of working, part time, full time, remote, office based and lab based

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