For the past 25 years, 25–30% of PhD students in India have been female. However, this does not translate to women actually pursuing research or holding faculty positions. As of April 1998 only 9% of the total scientists engaged in research and development in science and technology institutes of Delhi were female (Society for Environment and Development 1998). Similarly puzzling statistics persist in recent years—for example women pursuing a physics degree in India comprised 32% of the undergraduates—higher than the United Kingdom as well as the United States’ 20%, but the proportions drop to 20% and further to 11% in the graduate and professional level respectively.
The same report makes several fascinating observations regarding the familial situations of these women, working hours, factors like career breaks, and reasons for dropping out. Since its conception in 1957, out of around 500 recipients of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, only 16 have been women.
The questions are many, and it is this reality that is being explored by Aashima Dogra and Nandita Jayaraj, independent science journalists who run The Life of Science project.