Breaking The Glass Ceiling: India’s Women in Science

The sciences continue to be male dominated fields, but some women are paving the way for others to follow. 

Published28 Jun 2016, 05:58 PM IST
Women
3 min read

Every day at work, Husnara Sharma’s three-year-old son can be seen around the office. She brings him in every day, as she juggles her work as a research assistant at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Gorkhaland.

Sharma works with scientists to identify agricultural viruses, especially those affecting citrus cultivators, she told reporter Aashima Dogra, as part of a series on Indian women in science.

Women in science set an example for generations to come. (Photo: iStock)
Women in science set an example for generations to come. (Photo: iStock)

It’s not always easy for women working in the sciences. They are often expected to keep up with household obligations while managing time-consuming research demands.

Though the number of women in graduate science programs has grown more than 5 fold in the last 60 years, teaching positions in institutes and universities are a different story. Only 15 percent of faculty positions go to women.

(Infographic: Manon Verchot) 
(Infographic: Manon Verchot) 

Although many women drop out of the sciences after getting married, or having children, there is also an inspiring history of Indian women breaking these stereotypes and leading the way in their fields. Here’s a look at some of those leading ladies.

Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Joshi, born in 1865, was married off at the age of nine to a man 20 years older than her. Her husband was supportive of her education, and she became the first Indian woman to get a Western medical degree.

She even has a crater on Venus named after her.

Dr Indira Hinduja (left). (Photo courtesy: Dr Indira Hinduja)
Dr Indira Hinduja (left). (Photo courtesy: Dr Indira Hinduja)

Indira Hinduja

Dr. Hinduja is an infertility specialist who delivered India’s first test-tube baby. She also pioneered the gamete intrafallopian transfer, a procedure in which a woman’s eggs are taken from her ovaries and placed directly in the fallopian tube.

Decades later, the test-tube baby delivered by Dr. Hinduja has had her own baby.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) women scientists and engineers cheer after India’s Mars orbiter successfully entered the red planet’s orbit. (Photo: Reuters)
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) women scientists and engineers cheer after India’s Mars orbiter successfully entered the red planet’s orbit. (Photo: Reuters)

The ISRO Ladies

Minal Sampath. Nandini Harinath. Tessy Thomas. These are just some of the women behind India’s first Mars Orbiter Spacecraft launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

There are thousands of women in science pushing through the glass ceiling every day. Their names may not be known, but they are working towards fighting cancer, making crops more drought-resistant and sending objects into space, and paving the way for generations of scientists to come.

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