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PRESS RELEASE - Women in Kerala’s Chemical Science sector face multiple challenges: Study Report

Official press release by the project principal investigators published along with the final report of the study.

Published onJun 27, 2022
PRESS RELEASE - Women in Kerala’s Chemical Science sector face multiple challenges: Study Report
A banner depicting the theme of the project through illustrations of women at various career stages, chemical instruments, and equipments.

PRESS RELEASE

By the Principal Investigators, RSC-IDF Project-2020, dated 27 June 2022

Women in Kerala’s Chemical Science sector face multiple challenges: Study Report

How easy is it for a woman to enter and persist in the field of Chemical Science in Kerala? A new study finds insights into this complex question. A team of Keralite researchers from institutions across the nation from various backgrounds – Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Statistics and Sociology came together to investigate this issue. The study was funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK through their Inclusion and Diversity Funds - 2020. The extensive report is based on responses from 262 women studying or working in the field of Chemical science from 99 institutions across Kerala. The broad coverage of the study encompasses women from various socio-economic and educational backgrounds and analyses their career pathways from primary school to the present career stage. The team of researchers P.M. Jasil, V. Jithin, P.T. Hanan, P. Anu, K.K. Asmabi and T.C. Sreenath are from Gandhigram Rural Institute, Dindigul; Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun; Farook College, Kozhikode, and the Central University of Punjab.

Their results revealed the extent of influence of societal and familial pressures on women including the pressure to get married, financial stability, educational background of the parents, restrictions from religion, partner and family on the career pathway. The report also underlines the importance of lab facilities, teaching style and approach during the school period. “The non-educational sector, which includes mainly chemical analysis labs, food processing units and other industries need to be more inclusive towards women and we need to encourage women to find great career pathways in this sector” - The report states.

“This is the first study in India to look at such a poorly understood issue in great detail at a state scale, considering various aspects of career path such as influences of family, society, and academia. We call for urgent attention from socio-political and religious organizations in the state on the subject”

“This is the first study in India to look at such a poorly understood issue in great detail at a state scale, considering various aspects of career path such as influences of family, society, and academia”, V. Jithin, a principal investigator of the study said. The study revealed some of the important aspects which should be considered while developing future policies in the state. The team of researchers recommend detailed discussions on the results at the Chemical Science community level for suitable policy changes and implementations. “We call for urgent attention from socio-political and religious organizations in the state on the subject”, Jithin added.

“We gathered the baseline data by constructing a large database of more than 4000 institutions, research centres and industrial units related to Chemistry in Kerala, and randomly chosen women from these units were contacted for an online survey. Though our survey was initially planned to be conducted in person, COVID-19 made this difficult. Thus, we proceeded with a carefully designed online survey and telephonic interviews with the participants”

“We gathered the baseline data by constructing a large database of more than 4000 institutions, research centres and industrial units related to Chemistry in Kerala, and randomly chosen women from these units were contacted for an online survey. Though our survey was initially planned to be conducted in person, COVID-19 made this difficult. Thus, we proceeded with a carefully designed online survey and telephonic interviews with the participants”, P.M. Jasil, another principal investigator commented. Explaining the outcomes of the study, the lead author P.T. Hanan said: “There are numerous government programs to ensure the participation of women in the STEM field, but most people are not aware of them; for example, the KIRAN scheme by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) addresses various issues related with women scientists and aims to provide opportunities in research, but most of us do not know of this programme”.

“There are numerous government programs to ensure the participation of women in the STEM field, but most people are not aware of them; for example, the KIRAN scheme by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) addresses various issues related with women scientists and aims to provide opportunities in research, but most of us do not know of this programme”

Adjunct Professor, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Australia; formerly with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics; Founder & Past Chair, Gender in Physics Working Group, Indian Physics Association, Prof. Prajval Shastri said: “This is an excellent attempt to grapple with the complex causes of gender disparity in the chemical sciences in Kerala, which sets an example and will hopefully spur more and much needed such country-wide studies across all academic disciplines. Gender inequity is an obviously sociological phenomenon, and the fact that this collaboration included social scientists right from the conception stage puts it on a strong footing”. The emeritus scientist at the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore also pointed out that “The insights that have emerged deserve immediate attention by scientists, policymakers, and also communities and civil society” while reviewing the study.

“This is an excellent attempt to grapple with the complex causes of gender disparity in the chemical sciences in Kerala, which sets an example and will hopefully spur more and much needed such country-wide studies across all academic disciplines. Gender inequity is an obviously sociological phenomenon, and the fact that this collaboration included social scientists right from the conception stage puts it on a strong footing. The insights that have emerged deserve immediate attention by scientists, policymakers, and also communities and civil society”

The team has also developed a mobile application ‘Chemicule’ for improving communication in the Chemical Science community for a better inclusive and encouraging atmosphere in the state, which can be used by scholarly societies or institutions who are interested in doing so. "Though this study is only focusing on the quantitative aspects; it is unique in its methodology as it asks us to open our techno-scientific enterprises to the larger field of social studies of science and technology which is important in an academic world moving to inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary nature.", Ilyas Manakkadavan, an expert reviewer of the study and a research scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay said. The report is available at Zenodo, an open-source research-sharing platform.

"Though this study is only focusing on the quantitative aspects; it is unique in its methodology as it asks us to open our techno-scientific enterprises to the larger field of social studies of science and technology which is important in an academic world moving to inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary nature."


Report link: Women’s Career Pathway in Chemical Sciences; a Multi-stage Investigation in Kerala, India; DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5178906

More Information about the project can be found at https://rsc-idf-wck.pubpub.org/

Media Contact: V. Jithin (jithinvjyothis@gmail.com; +91 9387 350 743); P.M. Jasil (jasilmkd1@gmail.com; +91 9072 028 179); P.T. Hanan (lahanhanan@gmail.com)


Poster with illustration depicting a women scientist and an outline map of Kerala; a miniature graphic of the report and other details.

Release poster of the study report. Illustration by Muhammed Adhil

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