A new study by UNESCO outlining the involvement of women in science has some stark figures for India. The Unesco Institute for Statistics (UIS) has put together an interactive infographic on women in science to highlight the global gender gap in higher education and scientific research. They aptly call it the “leaky pipeline”.
Data compiled from across the world shows more women are enrolling in university but relatively few pursue careers in research. There are many leaks in the pipeline – from stereotypes encountered by girls to the family-caring responsibilities and bias women may face when choosing a career.
In India, according to the UIS data, 44% of bachelor students are female while 41% get till the doctoral level. What happens beyond that has not been chronicled for India, though there are figures from many other countries in the dataset. Women researchers show a tendency to work in the academic and government sectors while men dominate the private research sector, which offers better salaries and opportunities for advancement.
In most countries, women researchers seem to be focusing on the social sciences and remain under-represented in engineering and technology. Unesco suggests that in order to level the playing field, girls must be encouraged to pursue math and science. Globally, just one in five countries had achieved somewhat of a gender parity with 45% to 55% of their researchers being women.
In all, just about 30% of the world’s researchers were found to be women. A growing number of women enrol in universities but many opt out at the highest levels required for a research career. There were some surprising exceptions though. For example, in Bolivia, women accounted for 63% researchers, compared to France with a rate of 26% or Ethiopia at 8%.
A Nature Special on Women in Science last year also came up with similar stories. It spoke about how women are deterred from pursuing a career in science at the highest levels and what must be done to address the reasons behind this potential waste of human talent. The special issue showed how despite improvements, female scientists continue to face discrimination, unequal pay and funding disparities. Also, why women in biotechnology are stilled barred from the boardroom.
Nature India‘s previous coverage has looked at what India is doing to woo its women scientists, why women scientists in India need affirmative action and why we can’t ignore women’s role in science. The Nature India forum has also seen heated exchanges and concrete suggestions on how the leaky pipeline can be fixed.
The gender inequality in science can not be emphasised enough. And call for action can never be too late.