Women in Science – Pushing boundaries or being stalled by them?

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By Chief editor

Posted on February 1, 2024


5 min read

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Women in Science- Pushing boundaries or being stalled by them

For the February 2024 edition of Education Today’s stories, we chose the theme ‘Women and Girls in STEM’. While it’s partly inspired by the fact that the International Day of Women and Girls in Science has been celebrated each February for the past nine years, it is also because as an educational institution, we believe in curating stories meant to uphold equity, diversity and inclusivity.

We have curated various articles on women in sciences and deep-dived into a solution-based editorial approach, where we ponder on why a social situation exists and what can be done to overcome the same. This opening feature is to usher you into this collection of literature with an introduction on what seems right and what feels wrong with the representation of women in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Setting Context

United Nations has brought to the fore statistics that showcase an urgent need to empower women in the field of sciences. Reports suggest that researchers who are female have historically have had shorter careers with pay disparity and given smaller research grants. They have been underrepresented in high profile journals and many times also not been granted promotions they deserved. As we walk through 2024, it’s also disheartening to know that in trending fields such as Artificial Intelligence, only 22% of the professionals are women. The Global Gender Gap Report (2023) presents that women constitute 29.2 % of the STEM workforce in 146 nations that were part of the data evaluation while they comprised 50% of the non-STEM sectors.

Bottomline, women are heavily underrepresented in STEM.

The Trendsetters

The trends aren’t abysmal, many countries have worked hard to overcome the skewed statistics with definitive actions. Iceland for example prides itself in having almost half of the STEM workforce as women (45%), which was led by robust educational initiatives as well as support to women in the workforce ensuring a low gender wage gap. Netherlands is also working hard, with 29% women in the STEM workforce, and have been using diversity initiatives and awareness campaigns to boost recruitment. The United States also has almost 34% representation of women in STEM which is a direct match to the percentage of girls who take up STEM as the choice of subject.

The Right Way Forward

All the countries boasting of a comparatively positive number of women in sciences can do so because of various measures they have taken in the past and continue to. These include:

  • Initiating girl children into studying STEM at a very young age in this technology-driven world, the nurturing begins in schools.
  • Promoting diversity in STEM roles through real-life as well as fictional role models is an inspirational factor.
  • For girl students who aren’t part of STEM subject choices in school are still exposed to extracurricular and awareness programmes under STEM which makes many of them want to pursue Sciences as a higher education choice.
  • Providing them with immersive research experiences in school also has unique advantages.
  • Enabling them to be proactive stakeholders in setting narratives in climate change, poverty, sustainability and more through STEM also empowers them to be social leaders

India on the STEM Map

A National Science Foundation report suggests that women make up only 14% of the Indian STEM workforce, while a study by UNESCO found that when it comes to higher education, only 35% of students in STEM are women. But India is now in accelerator mode in trying to work better ways to spin around the under-representation. A few of the many initiatives include the Department of Science and Technology’s initiatives to improve gender parity in science and technology R&D and Overseas Fellowship for Women for young women research scholars to head to various countries.

Vigyan Jyoti scheme targets meritorious school-level girl students to advance their training STEM in premier institutes. The Gender Advancement for Transforming Institution (GATI) encourages institutions to create an enabling environment for equal participation of women in science disciplines at all levels. The future isn’t forlorn and sparks optimism and resilience.


History stands witness to women who made a mark in the field of sciences against all odds, we need to honour them not just in February, but each day of the way. From Dr Tessy Thomas aka the Missile Woman of India, Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission Director, Indira Hinduja who pioneered Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) technique to Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, biotech wizard, and a billionaire entrepreneur, there are many role models in our country for the future generations.

As a parting note, to each reader out there who has read or even skimmed through this edition, we recommend you pick up some literature about women in STEM and if possible, Indian women in STEM. We loved Lilavati’s Daughters, a collection of around a hundred biographical essays on women scientists of India, pages and pages scripted with inspiration and an abundance of optimism in what the future beholds. They re-wrote history, and we must empower our present to enable the future that we desire.