For neurobiologist Vidita Vaidya, sometimes being the only woman member in scientific review committee meetings feels “a little odd”.
“I wish there were more women,” said Vaidya, a researcher at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Cuffe Parade. “I don’t expect 50 per cent representation of women scientists, but we should get close to that number.”
Vaidya was speaking at a national seminar, ‘Women in/and Science: Taking Stock’ on Tuesday at the SNDT Women’s University, Juhu, where women scientists discussed women practitioners of science, how science represents gender and the interface of feminism and science.
The four-day seminar is organised by the Indian Association for Women’s Studies in collaboration with the SNDT Research Centre for Women’s Studies and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Having a woman scientist as her advisor, benefited Sujata Ramdorai, a mathematician at TIFR, who pursued PhD after she had a child.
“If my child was unwell, it was easier to approach my mentor for a change in lecture time. I am not sure if a male mentor would have understood and made changes for me,” said Ramdorai. “As you grow older, breaking into male networks becomes difficult especially at the mid and senior levels.”
While hierarchical structures exist in science institutions, physicist Anita Mehta of the Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, said the number of women scientists in the country is growing.
“The profession was shaped by men who were traditionally the majority. For a while, there were fewer women in hard sciences like maths than in biosciences,” she said. “But that’s changing with the idea that anyone can do anything.”
Refuting the idea that the under-representation may be due a lack of female role models, Mehta said, “Role models don’t have to be defined by gender. Anyone can be a role model. My father inspired me.”