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IIT-Madras launches mentorship initiative to tackle underrepresentation of women in research

The skewed quantity of women in research and science, expertise, engineering and arithmetic (STEM)-related fields is an issue that has been highlighted in the previous few years. However, the issue continues to exist and develop. Between 1901 and 2019, 334 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 616 laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine, of which solely 20 have been gained by 19 women.

Family stress, patriarchal society and never sufficient appropriate alternatives are some of the foremost causes that researchers cite for the deep-rooted drawback. However, lack of correct steerage and function fashions is an underestimated issue that contributes massively to the underrepresentation of women in research.

Intending to drive change, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, Friday launched the STEM women students’ and researchers’ improvement (STEWARD) initiative focussed on mentoring women PhD research students in any respect ranges.

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“Even after getting a PhD from reputed institutions, women scholars often give up on their careers in research. The enrolment is fairly good at the higher education level (PG and PhD), but retaining a research career is always tough for women. The major reason is that there is no set path after education. Till the time students are pursuing degrees, they are following a prescribed curriculum. But once the degree concludes, students especially women candidates feel lost about their next step,” Indumathi Nambi, professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, advised indianexpress.com. She is the coordinator of the initiative.

UNESCO information from 2014-16 present that solely round 30 per cent of feminine college students choose STEM (science, expertise, engineering and arithmetic)-related fields in greater schooling. Female enrolment is especially low in data expertise (3 per cent), pure science, arithmetic and statistics (5 per cent) and engineering and allied streams (8 per cent).

Under the programme, current PhD students at IIT Madras are linked with the alumni working in related domains. The mentees obtain each day steerage and mentorship to decide their path whereas pursuing research. It introduces them to function fashions in their area and permits them to obtain emotional {and professional} help.

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The goal mentees underneath the programme embrace junior women college, women research students/alumnae, those that proceed to educational, R&D careers and instructing positions, and those that drop out or do impartial research. Presently, the mentor-mentee mannequin is proscribed to IIT Madras students and alumni, however the institute plans to share the blueprint of the mannequin with different institutes in future.

“India has over 300 million women under 25 years of age. Tapping this potential is key to national research powerhouse status. It is a colossal waste of energy to force these women to surmount the inequities they currently face,” mentioned Meera Sitharam, 1984 BTech Alumna and Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics, University of Florida. Sitharam can be coordinating the mentorship initiative.

While most alumni join programmes are carried out in the shape of conferences or talks, IIT Madras claims this initiative to be extra centered on particular person students as younger women get an opportunity to work together one-on-one with their mentors.

Nambi mentioned that whereas such an initiative may help change the mindset of students, inclusive insurance policies and employment practices are wanted to carry change at floor zero.

“The research sector has a gap concerning PoSH policies. There needs to be greater sensitisation as labwork continues at odd hours where men and women work together. Childcare facilities at institutes must also change. Most daycare centres work from 10 am-5 pm, but scientists cannot shut the labs based on when the sun goes down. Institute must also provide a separate budget to women scholars who travel for research purposes as they often travel with their kids. Once these fundamental problems get addressed in the majority of Indian institutions, the research ecosystem will flourish with full potential,” added Nambi.

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