Home Nature One-third of Indian STEM conferences have no women

One-third of Indian STEM conferences have no women


A lab technician prepares a sample for a demonstration of smart COVID-19 testing in New Delhi.

Women comprise simply 16.7% of Indian university professor in science, innovation, medication and engineering. Credit: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg by means of Getty

In the previous 3 years, 35% of all science, mathematics, engineering and innovation (STEM) conferences kept in India included just male speakers, according to a preprint1 published on the bioRxiv server on 27 October. Female scientists in India are surpassed by their male equivalents in STEM fields, however their under-representation is much more noticable on the conference circuit.

” I understood it was bad. I simply didn’t understand how bad,” states Shruti Muralidhar, a neuroscientist based in Toronto, Canada.

Muralidhar and Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan, a cell biologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, got volunteers to trawl through openly offered information from Indian university sites in between June 2020 and December 2021. They discovered that, typically, ladies comprise simply 16.7% of the STEM professors throughout 98 Indian universities and institutes (see ‘Few ladies in STEM’). Biology had the greatest percentage of ladies, at 22.5%, whereas engineering had the most affordable, at simply 8.3%. For contrast, a 2019 research study discovered that the public-health professors at the 15 top-ranked universities on the planet for the social sciences and public health– all in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada– were made up of in between approximately 33% and 54% ladies2

FEW WOMEN IN STEM. Graphic shows women are under-represented at Indian research universities in STEM fields.

The gender variation was particularly noticable at India’s elite organizations. The 8 highest-ranked organizations in the India National Institutional Research Framework 2022 rankings had less female professor than average, with a mean of around 10%.

The reasons for this under-representation are complicated, states a representative for the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, India, among the extremely ranked organizations. They included that the institute has actually presented efforts to motivate ladies to use up a research study profession. “TIFR’s employing policies and assessment procedures for academicians and researchers are entirely gender-neutral,” they stated.

Leaky pipeline

The low professors numbers are not since of an absence of ladies thinking about science in secondary school, Ananthanarayanan states. Women often surpass– and surpass– kids in STEM topics. Even at the postgraduate and undergraduate level, ladies are well represented. According to a 2015 report by the Indian Academy of Sciences, ladies represented 39.4% of the science and innovation enrolments at Indian universities in 2000– 01, and 35% of science PhDs were granted to ladies.

Ananthanarayanan believes that social pressures to begin households draw lots of ladies far from pursuing professions in STEM. An absence of assistance for ladies who stay in academic community makes the scenario even worse, as does a hostile labor force culture. “You’re continuously needing to defend belonging,” she states, and there are couple of female peers to turn to for assistance.

The Indian Institute of Science stated in a declaration that it is “highly devoted to supplying an inclusive and safe workplace for all ladies professor, trainees and personnel”, and has actually developed a committee for ladies’s equity and addition. Other extremely ranked institutes did not react to Nature‘s ask for remark.


In June 2020, Muralidhar and Ananthanarayanan introduced BiasWatchIndia, an effort to file and call out the under-representation of ladies at conferences in India. By August 2021, they discovered that 54% of conferences had less female speakers than may be anticipated by the percentage of female professor (see ‘Conference failure’). In between August 2021 and March 2023, they discovered that ladies’s involvement in some fields had actually enhanced, however had actually worsened in others. In mathematics, the share of conferences without any female speakers dropped from 80% to 25% in between the 2 data-collection stages. In chemistry, the under-representation of ladies increased from 47% to 83% of conferences.

CONFERENCE FAILURE. Graphic shows under-representation of female speakers in STEM disciplines at conferences in India.

Nidhi Sabharwal, an education-policy scientist at the Center for Policy Research in Higher Education in New Delhi, is not amazed by the absence of representation. Her own work has actually revealed that ladies and members of other under-represented groups are less most likely to be approved consent from their organizations to participate in conferences, which stymies their capability to take part in scholastic networks that gather speaker invites3 “It has a cascading result,” she states.

Sabharwal states that conference organizers are not striving enough to reach ladies. “If you wish to discover skilled academics, ladies do release,” and typically at greater rates than males, she states.



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