Indian women scientists are producing research as good as their male counterparts and are as career-driven, new analysis by scientists has found, busting a long-standing myth that women in science pick family over work.
An equal 63% of men and women scientists surveyed had published research in Science Citation Indexed (SCI) journals - a category of international, highly respected peer reviewed publications - the analysis found.And while 62% of male scientists migrated from one research institution to another, the figure was higher - 65% - for women, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) researchers concluded.
Published in the latest edition of Current Science - India's leading science journal produced by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore - the findings demolish arguments that question the rationale of investing in encouraging more women to join science.
"Our study has shown that research publication output of female research scholars is at par with male research scholars," the researchers led by Professor Rajesh Luthra have written.
"The dogma that Indian women have reservations about moving out from their family protection in pursuit of higher education and research is unfounded.
Women currently represent only 15% of the nation's research and development personnel. And the number of women entering science has stagnated: 19.98% of women between 17 and 22 enrolled in science in 2008-09, as compared to 20.18% in 2004-05.
Though successive governments have taken initiatives to encourage more women to join science and research, these moves frequently face cynicism from critics who argue that women prioritize their family over work, especially after marriage.
These critics, the analysis suggests, are wrong.
The willingness to shift institutions, often including relocating to a different city, indicates that Indian women researchers are as keen as men to pursue their scientific work despite any family pressures.
Among the scientists surveyed, 29% women and 30% men had shifted across states, while 36% women and 32% men had moved from one research institution to another within their state.
Women (44%) are also more likely than men (38%) to move from academic institutions to research centres, the survey that studied 358 female and 581 male research scholars showed.
Men and women researchers are also at par across different streams of research - including the chemical sciences, physical sciences, the environment, energy, mathematics, engineering and technology.